Ask anyone, branding is a crucial part of any photography business – more so when you’re starting out. From logos to business cards, to websites and photobooks. How do you put together a brand when you start out and what happens when you don’t feel connected to your current/old branding anymore?
LET’S START AT THE BEST PLACE TO START: THE BEGINNING.
Branding, at the core of it, is what makes you stand out from everyone else in the industry. It’s a visual representation of who you are as a person and what you do as an artist/photographer. Not only that, but it’s also a visual representation of the type of market you’re aiming for and what you want potential clients to think of you and your work when they find you on the world wide interwebs.
This is usually why, branding as a concept and its execution is not something to be taken lightly. No pressure, haha!
There are a few things to consider even before you start trawling for the graphic designer of your dreams:
• To start with: invest in commissioning a professional, reputable graphic and web designer! I cannot stress this enough!
Logos, websites, business cards, etc require a lot of technical expertise to execute in a way that yields professional, polished results. Very few photographers have real, solid graphic design knowledge and do not understand why a logo needs to be a transparent PNG-24 file with no interlacing for online use or why 400gsm paper is a better weight for business cards than 120gsm and what the actual ass the difference between crop marks, registration marks and bleeds are.
If I may as well have written the above in Russian, then rather commission a graphic designer to do it for you. They will be able to guide you not only to a beautiful, professional design solution uniquely crafted for you, but they will walk you through all of those things and/or set it all up for you.
• Clichés will be the death of you:
I mean absolutely no shade if you have a logo like this, but you know the ones I’m talking about: the camera/aperture blades logo or the watercolour flower crown/wreath logos with cursive fonts. While I’ve seen beautiful versions of both of those, everybody uses them because they’re either easy or trendy.
Trendy isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s important to not choose something that could become dated within a year. Rebranding is expensive and redoing it every year because of the fickle nature of trends will not only make your pocket significantly lighter each time, it will also have a negative impact on the confidence your clients have in your brand and by extension, yourself as a photographer.
• Trust the process and trust the professional you’ve commissioned!
Don’t rush into something this important – this is easily the most important decision you will make in terms of your business. This is like choosing the right outfit to wear to a meeting, except a hundred times more hardcore.
Chances are, you picked a graphic designer because you just clicked with him/her and you love their work – so put your hard-earned money where your mouth is and let them do their job! Yes, your input is valued and important and crucial, but a brand is not formed overnight and it’s important to leave it to the professional.
I personally get very overwhelmed by a blank canvas when I have to design (much, much more than when I have to draw!) and that alone is enough for me to want to hand it over to someone else, which is partially why I gave up graphic design to pursue photography and illustration.
Work out a realistic timeline with your designer to create your visual identity – and remember to apply to yourself what we always tell our clients: quality does not appear overnight!
• BRAND EQUITY:
Brand equity is a phrase/buzzword you’ve heard people brandish about all willy-nilly, but it’s worth familiarising yourself with it.
According to our good friend Wikipedia, brand equity is a phrase which describes the value of having a well-known brand name, based on the idea that the owner of a well-known brand-name can generate more money from products with that brand name than from products with a less well-known name…
To break it down into simpler terms: this is why the concept of influencers exist – think of famous Instagrammers and Youtubers. For example, this is why Too Faced Cosmetics can made infintely more money in their collaboration with Youtuber Nikkie de Jager from Nikkietutorials on a makeup collection than they would’ve if they had collaborated with a makeup artist working at a beauty counter at Edgars.
What does this mean for you as a photographer? Simple: if you do consistently exceptional work and provide your clients with a good client experience, then clients associate a certain level of work and experience with you and thus, you build your brand equity. This, in turn, will mean that the more your brand equity rises, the more high-end clients would want to work with/associate themselves with you.
In my experience, this is not something that happens overnight – but it’s important to have this in the back of your head with every single project you do and also, how you present yourself professionally through your website and visual identity.
• Your brand will and should evolve and it should represent you!
It’s important to make sure your visual identity is in direct alignment with who you are as a photographer, person and business owner.
Write down qualities about yourself that you value, as well as just things that you like, and take that along to a meeting with your designer: are you a whimsical dreamer with flowers in her hair who bakes cupcakes and reads Jane Austen on spring afternoons or are you a battle-axe who drinks her whiskey neat, reads a lot of comics, history and internet and runs outside every time there’s an aircraft overhead? (Yes, the latter is basically Grethe! 🙂 )
Consider this: if you go on personalities alone – perceived or not and regardless of what they’re famous for – and you had to design a logo/visual identity for Joan of Arc, Mother Theresa, Emily Brontë, Florence Nightingale, Hua Mulan, Amelia Earhart and Lyudmila Pavlichenko, each and every one of those women would have a vastly different logo and overall visual identity. We are all beautiful, unique people and photographers from beautiful and unique backgrounds and heritage – why should our logos all be the same regurgitated camera clip-art?
You’re more than just a photographer – you’re a person – your logo should represent that!
Again: a talented designer is invaluable in helping you recreate who you are in a logo/visual identity!
• Consider your target market:
Make sure your branding suits and appeals to your target market. Who are you working for and who do you want to work for?
Wedding photographers and Mommy-and-Me photographers and Aviation Photographers and Commercial photographers (etc, etc) will all have much different logos and it’s important to research before you commit to something and it’s important to note that it’s just as important to try and future-proof your brand identity.
Consider where you want to be and who you want to be shooting for in five years and design your logo so it can help take you there.
At the end of it all, when all is said and done, your logo should be unique, creative and the perfect representation of yourself and your business. It’s crucially important in the creative industry to be yourself and to not just be a carbon copy of every other photographer in the business and risk being overlooked.
But… always remember: you do you. If that means a logo with a wreath or a camera in it, then go for it, if it’s your most authentic self! 🙂
USEFUL LINKS/FURTHER READING:
MEDIA NOVAK: https://medianovak.com/photography-business-rebranding-tips/
JUNEBUG WEDDINGS: http://junebugweddings.com/wedding-photo-blog/photobug/how-to-successfully-rebrand-and-relocate-your-photography-business-in-18-months/
DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL: https://digital-photography-school.com/ready-branding-your-photography-business-part-1-logos/
MANAGEMENT STUDY GUIDE: http://www.managementstudyguide.com/brand-equity.htm