The Top 5 Branding Musts Every Photographer Should Be Following
May 17, 2016
Being able to market, position and brand your business is as much a key to success as anything else. For creatives, though, it’s often the business and marketing side of things that can be the hardest to get a handle on, and the most overwhelming. To ease you through it, let’s look at the top five branding musts to follow when it comes to branding (or re-branding) business.
Detail shots of the bride as she prepares for her wedding begin the editorial process of telling the story. All photos © Lance Nicoll
1. WHEN YOU'RE STARTING FROM SCRATCH, CREATE A BRAND THAT'S SIMILAR TO OTHER PEOPLE'S BRANDS—BUT DIFFERENT.
When you are first creating your brand, research your competitors and attempt to identify with them, but also separate yourself. You want to look at their services, price points, imagery, and the look and feel of their logo and brand. As you gain a scope for your market, you should search for ways to identify with that field as a whole. Make sure that when clients see your logo and branding that they can sense you are part of the group.
At the same time, you want to separate yourself. What makes you different? Why will a client choose you, remember you? Implement those things into your newly created brand. It can be a tenuous balance, but remember to identify with your market and separate yourself from your competitors. This is a universal branding rule that has more to do with the initial development and design of a brand than anything else; it definitely isn’t to say you can’t rebrand your business later.
As I went through my own re-branding a little over a year ago, I collected the logos of those in my direct market and region who I felt I’m competing with both directly and indirectly. I tried to study brands I felt were presenting a similar “fine-art” brand and those that were not, but still considered standards in the market. It was important to understand the scope of the market I was competing in and to make sure that my brand would not only identify with my target client, but would also separate me from that competition so that clients had a visual reason to remember my brand.
Attracting ideal clients starts with building brand images. Styled shoots and editorials provide a controlled environment to create the images you strive to create.
2. BE UNLIKABLE.
Seems counterintuitive, right? Of course we want people or prospective clients to like us. Or do we? No, actually—we want clients to love us. Photography, as with many service-based businesses, is often an emotional purchase. Clients hire us because they love our work. If everyone just likes you, no one loves you. And then no one hires you.
Being loved and being remembered often includes being polarizing or divisive, because you’re making yourself stand out against the pack. Be bold and unapologetic when you state who you are and who should hire you. We often shy away from statements that say what we don’t do or what we’re not about, but if a client wants a photographer that shoots dramatic and dark images and they read on your site that you don’t do bright and airy, they will immediately connect with you. Know who you are and know who you aren’t, and build that into your brand. State it loud and proud.
Beautifully designed invitation suite from the Dandelion Patch, which exemplify brand cohesion.
3. MAKE YOUR BRAND COHESIVE AND CONSISTENT IN EVERY WAY.
Remember, we are a service industry. Clients can’t see exactly what they are going to get when they hire us; they can only get an idea based on what they’ve seen you do for other clients. Know what your style is and stick to it, and implement it over and over again so clients know exactly what to expect. The more consistent your work is, the more at ease clients will be and the more likely they will be to hire you. They shouldn’t wonder, “Will my images look like the work my photographer did in April that were bright and cheery, or like the ones in May that were dark and emotional?” The more doubts and questions we can cut off, the better. Consistency builds trust.
And don’t forget to keep the work coming. You should be posting new work to your blog and on your social media accounts on a regular basis. This shows clients that not only are you producing the type of images they want, but you’re producing those type of images all the time.
If you think you’re regenerating too much, consider the common saying in advertising and marketing: once you as a creator are getting tired of something, other people are just beginning to love it. There are certain shots I love and others I feel are standards for most weddings. One shot that I find to be a bit cliché is of the bride and bridesmaid holding the bouquet, but I make sure to shoot it every weekend and to share it online. I keep consistent, and it’s a shot that usually does very well on social media.
The aesthetic of this December wedding is captured through the simple and clean detail shot.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE, BUT MEMORABLE.
This one ties in very much with number 3. As a matter of fact, if you are cohesive and consistent, you will also be very memorable. There is a ton of competition out there and in order to get hired, being remembered is instrumental. One of the fastest ways to being forgettable is by offering too much. If you offer five different types of photography, clients will have a harder time remembering you. By doing one service really well, you can be remembered as “the ________ guy” or “the woman who shoots _______.”
I regularly get asked whether I shoot family portraits, corporate events, headshots, and on and on. And my answer is yes—I get jobs of different sorts all the time—but here’s the key: I don’t advertise them. I don’t add a separate section on my website. I want to be memorable and identified as the fine-art wedding photographer. Nothing more. The less I offer, the easier I am to pin down.
Bridal editorials can build your brand—not only from a look and feel standpoint, but also as a way to connect with vendors outside of your current market and in your target markets.
5. OK, IT'S TIME FOR THE OBVIOUS ONE: BE GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO!
It doesn’t matter how divisive, consistent or memorable your brand is; if the product is bad, you won’t succeed. This goes without saying, but sometimes we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if the product or service that we’re offering is truly a good product. Always seek ways to make your product stronger and make the experience the client has with your product better. Be confident enough to be humble and attend workshops, even when you think you’re above them. Study the work of your contemporaries and set time aside for personal projects. Don’t be shattered or afraid of critique—seek it and embrace it as the best source of growth.