Hello hello! testing 1…2…3…4 haha I’m back for another segment of “What’s What Wednesdays”. If you’re just tuning in, this is just a new thing I’m doing to help my friends out there who are just starting on their photography journey. When I started my business a year and a half ago, I SCRUBBED the internet for resources to educate myself, so I hope that these segments make the journey a little sweeter for someone else. If you’re not a photographer… this won’t really interest you, but stay tuned… one of my favorite weddings so far in my career is being blogged within the week. EEK!
Are y’all ready for a little preachin’? Haha, I’m not going to go all Bishop Jakes on you, but I do feel almost spiritual in my conviction about branding. Let me put it frankly… it DOES NOT matter how beautiful your work is if it is not framed by a pleasing, authentic brand. I would dare say, a photographer with good work and a great brand will get hired 10x more than a photographer with great work and a dated, confusing brand.
To give a little background before I give you my RULES of building a brand, I will tell you my journey:
AUGUST, 2010- Portfolio Building
My journey begins. At this place in the game, I was doing practice sessions for free or just gas money to practice my skills and build my portfolio. Even though I technically did not have a career yet, I was laying the foundation. Part of that foundation was my very first brand. After some soul searching about why I was becoming a photographer I decided my tagline was “live your fairytale”. I also knew I loved peonies and I wanted something bright and fresh. From that sprung a wordpress blog site, a logo inspired by a rubber stamp in pinks and greens and a place to post my photos and gain some clients. The rest started to fall into place.
One of my VERY FIRST sessions!!
Winter/Spring 2011- Finding Myself
During this part of my journey, I had officially gone into business, started charging for my work, was booking weddings at a steady rate, and still learning ferociously. Through this part of the journey, I was soaking knowledge in at such a rapid place and really developing an idea of what I wanted MY photos to say… I wasn’t there yet, but knew along with my growth, my brand had to change to reflect what I REALLY wanted to say. This was a PROCESS to say the least. This is the part where I think I had a little bit of a mid-life photography crisis. If I could do it over again, I might have prolonged the “Portfolio Building Stage” because learning and growing and changing while you have clients counting on you, really turns up the heat. Let’s just say I wasn’t getting too much sleep…
Winter 2011- Clarity
In 2011, I shot 16 weddings. Hey, maybe for you that wouldn’t be a lot, but for me being in my first year in the business, I was completely overwhelmed, all the while being completely joyful and grateful. Because wedding season came upon me so ferociously, when it ended in the winter of 2011, I felt like I finally had time to clear my thoughts. When this happened I found that I had been given the most wonderful gift… I finally knew exactly who I was as a photographer. This is not to say I won’t continue to evolve and learn (I hope to be doing that for as long as I can put a camera in my hand). It’s just I had experience under my belt, some of the technical aspects of the business came more naturally to me at this point, and most of all as an artist I started to feel like my work portrayed what was in my heart the whole time. Talk about breathing a sigh of relief. I sat down and got serious about creating a brand that I could live with for years to come. A brand that was such an extension of me that I feel as if it is a PART of me… I will detail this process below, plus some resources that helped me along the way!
I’M FINALLY HAPPY WITH MY BRAND!!
Well, maybe not THE RULES, but my rules:) These are some philosophies and processes that helped me define myself.
1. KNOW THYSELF
This is definitely the most important rule of branding. How can you express yourself or be hired by clients that are like minded to you if you don’t know who you are? The best compliment I EVER received from a client was when one of my brides, Jessica, told me that the reason they hired me is because I was the only photographer they met with that everything from my site to my photos to the way I dressed made sense. I almost fainted. That is my goal, to portray who I am throughout everything I do. As a side note, Jessica and her fiancé are my IDEAL clients and I feel lucky with all of my couples… but it might not be this way if I had misrepresented myself in my brand.
What does know thyself mean to me? When I went to complete my brand I asked myself silly questions:
- What are your favorite clothes? (J. Crew, White House Black Market, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, anything with ruffles and lace!)
- What is your favorite flower? (for me it’s lavender)
- What do you want your work to look like? (for me that is pastel, romantic, feminine, fairytale like)
- What words would you use to describe your personality?
- What does my house look like?
- Etc, Etc, Etc…
These were all things I wanted to come across in my brand. My goal is not to be hired by everyone, but to be hired by those that will feel touched and moved by my work.
2. MAKE AN INSPIRATION BOARD
This should include many things from the answers above and just things that make you happy in general. When I went to make my brand I put together photos that inspired me of the things I loved and even chose colors from these with my dropper tool in Photoshop to be the colors of my brand. Pinterest is great for this.
3. DON’T CHIMP OUT
I don’t even think that is a word or real saying, but by “don’t chimp out” I’m meaning be a PERFECTIONIST. When it comes to the details of your design, search obsessively for the correct font, the perfect placement, the most pleasing details down to the smallest degree. There are so many resources out there that are free or inexpensive. For example, when I was recently helping a friend design her new logo, we really wanted something whimsical along with the more plain design of the logo box. We found this rooster as a photoshop brush for only $9… but I think it added A LOT of punch.
There are many free fonts, photoshop brushes, and inexpensive design elements on Etsy.com and all over the internet. If you don’t think you can give this kind of attention to detail, or don’t have the experience to do so (I was lucky, I worked in graphic and web design during and after college so had some good skills) HIRE SOMEONE! Here are some of my favorite designers:
4. BE UP TO DATE
This is a huge one. If your website has old information or especially old technology (ahem FLASH) it’s going to hurt you. In a BIG way. Trust me, I know it’s hard to keep a site up to date, and we all fall down on the job sometimes, but it’s essential. And for goodness sake, if you have a flash site, update it to an HTML site.
If you don’t know how to create your own HTML site or blog, here are some great resources to do it for you (they’re both customizable):
Pro Photo Blogs (I use them)
CMD Sites (a site I used while building my HTML site)
5. BE FRESH
If you’re truly following the number one rule, you won’t have to worry about this, but be FRESH. Don’t ever copy someone’s designs. I know I’ve had local photographers copy my design elements before, and I was once accused by another photographer of having a watermark that resembled hers. Even thought I didn’t try to copy her watermark, I promptly and gladly changed my watermark because I truly want to be an individual in this business. By saying that, I’m certainly not trying to be mean or ugly to the people that have copied others. I’m trying to do you a favor… to make money in this highly competitive business you MUST MUST MUST have your own voice. I want us all to succeed. If you don’t believe me now, you will someday if you ever try it. Be yourself, because yourself is pretty awesome!
Well peeps, that’s all for today. Much love, and as always, post any questions or comments below. CIAO!