You know that saying…“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” With this statement in mind, I ask you…How do we see you? Do you present what you do as an occupation in a clean and organized manner or do you go to school with stains on your shirt? As a photographer, artist or designer what is your philosophy on how you show your skills to the world? This is where we begin to think about defining your photography brand.
Let’s begin by defining the word brand, so there will be no question about how this concept works.
brand | brand |
1 a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name: a new brand of detergent.
• a brand name: the company will market computer software under its own brand.
• a particular identity or image regarded as an asset: you can still invent your own career, be your own brand | the Michael Jordan brand certainly hasn’t hurt them.
• a particular type or kind of something: his incisive brand of intelligence.
Now let’s look at a couple of examples:
Lady GaGa is a musical performer. What do you think her brand is if we look through the above definition? She is a musical performer, but that is not her brand. Her brand is sexy. Lady GaGa’s brand is beauty. She is ever changing her brand as well. We never know what she will look like or have on in the form of fashion at her next public appearance. We have come to expect the unexpected from her.
How about Apple, Inc.? Apple may be the most successful company when it comes to branding. What once started as a rainbow apple inlaid on an off creme colored computer has become the epitome of simple, modern, and quite frankly bold. They have more branding opportunities than anyone out there – Mac, Macbook, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and even Apple Music. All of these things that many have come to love are all part of the Apple brand. It doesn’t stop there though. They have software branded to them, and even their photography (devices and the scenics that they license) all look and feel “Apple”.
Defining Your Photography Brand
Anyone that has a mission typically has a brand, even if they don’t know it yet. The question then becomes, “How can we as photographers brand ourselves to the viewing public?”
As photographers we are kind of lucky. Our style of photography becomes part of our brand. The way we process our images becomes part of our brand. And then finally, how we present what we do to the world becomes part of our brand. Some photographers succeed ten-fold here just like Apple, while others fail miserably.
Have you even gone to the website of a photographer whom you have admired, only to think their website was the most disorganized train wreck you have ever seen? We are talking absolutely amazing work coupled with the absolute worst presentation EVER! That is not part of a successful photography brand. Or, how about the opposite?
A photographer who has good work, though not amazing work, but is organized and has a simple and clean means of communicating what he is all about? Do you come away with a better feeling? I most certainly do.
So as a photographer what should you attempt to conquer in regards to your own brand?
Where to Start
First and foremost, you begin by creating a unified vision and appearance for what you do. Then you need to figure out where to put the money with a limited budget. Unless you have all the money in the world, which is great because then you can focus on other areas of branding for your company.
We recommend beginning with your website though. Why? Because your website offers your company up to potentially a good chunk of the planet. It will be the marketing tool that costs you the least to begin with, and it will allow you to continually grow your mantra from now until hopefully the day you die.
Beyond your website though, comes addition marketing opportunities to highlight your photography brand. Think about how all of the collateral advertising material – logo, business cards, letterhead, t-shirts, stickers and even what you photograph become how your “brand” starts to take shape in front of the eyes of the world. And don’t forget the potential for video now too.
While branding has typically been the purview of the big boys (think the bullseye for Target for example), as creative individuals we can bring that same level of choice home. You won’t need rooms full of marketing professionals at your beck and call, but you will need to seriously examine each and every choice you make while creating your promotion materials and thoroughly understand how they work as a whole.
Photography Brand Unification
Branding is more than adding a logo to your marketing mission. Logos can be a great marketing tool (again, you know exactly what store is represented by a bullseye logo), but it shouldn’t be the end all and be all of your unification process. Next time you head to a Target store, take a look at how often and where that logo is placed, but mostly think about the amount of RED you’ll see in the store. Color choice is just as important as a logo and its placement. Target is a great example of a clean, simple logo used effectively to remind the consumer of a place to purchase goods.
Photography Brand Choices
In order to allow your photography to be presented at its best, we will discuss some specific and entry level choices that can go a long way towards separating yourself from the pack. A way of creating a unique look for your artwork to be seen and promoted at its best.
Actual Photography Brand
Your photos are the starting point to your brand. Quite frankly, we cannot emphasize this enough. Throw away your unacceptable images. You know the ones…the bird taking flight that is not in focus, Sasquatch in the middle of the road at high noon (well maybe keep this one and cash-in on proof of life), or the sunset that never really panned out. Those types of shots should never represent a photographer’s brand. In other words, throw out your b-roll. Don’t post the b-roll to Instagram, don’t put it on your personal page on Facebook. THROW IT OUT!
Think of it in this way. Apple doesn’t promote their iPhone that doesn’t work do they? In fact the original iPhone solved so many handheld device issues that it became synonymous with the device.
That is how you need to think about your images. They need to be the cornerstone of your brand. Flat out, if they suck, you will be perceived as sucking. Even if you don’t. The image selection process is key here and if you cannot do it, hire someone who can.
Don’t Forget Subjects
You also need to think about what you photograph for your photography brand. DO NOT be a generalist! Well at least DO NOT promote this concept. Promote one or two specific subjects that you photograph and photograph them beyond well. And only promote more than one subject if they are closely related. Be a steward of your subject matter. Go beyond what you have seen and then keep going. Shoot the proverbially shit out of those couple of key subjects.
This will make you an ambassador to your photography brand.
Do you know what my focus is because of what you see on this website and my portfolio website? There are other subjects that I photograph, but unless you are in specific need of those other subjects you will only know me for Outdoor Adventure Photography.
Photography Brand Color
Color choice is critical in the branding process. Selecting colors that work together is key, and keeping that number to a minimum is critical to a clean and easily navigated website. Color extends to every non-photographic element on your website – header colors, background colors, text colors, etc. all need to have a specific color choice made for them.
DO NOT go for the rainbow of colors for your website brand. Think only black or white for your background, with a single highlight color for links, buttons, and accents. Though a case can be made for a middle-toned grey background for some photographers. Photographers with a portfolio consisting of nothing but black and white images, a splash of color might be just the thing to highlight that style of photography. Consider higher contrast colors to make your text legible and to help your images to pop off the screen.
Photography Brand Font
Consider the number of monitors, screens and even televisions where your website might be viewed. Clarity of your text and the precision of your photos is the hook upon which your website is hung. Clean and simple fonts provide the best options for your reader, much like the highest resolution photograph provides the best viewing experience for your viewers. Fonts that flow (i.e. cursive) or curvy choices aren’t necessarily the best. Think simple, clean, and modern. Easy to read fonts make the most sense to allow your reader to easily read your blog, stories or photo captions, thus assuring an enjoyable experience as they tour your site.
Coordinating and unifying these two choices will provide you a great base upon which to showcase your art, and to establish your “look”. It will also give the visitors to your website a clean, simple and modern interface, which will allow your stories and photos to be the takeaway from a visitor’s time on your website.
Photography Brand Logo
Think of a logo like a branding iron. You are going to use this singular piece of artwork to burn a vision into anyone’s head who interacts with you. Though many photographers stop at choosing a font for their brand, logo adds just a bit more to the vision. Some photographers use their initials in a graphic way. While other choose something completely different like Asian characters that have meaning towards how they photograph. Again looking towards Apple, well I think you get the idea behind the logo. If you cannot come up with a logo that you feel best represents you, then hire a graphic designer. Just make sure your logo has meaning connected with what you do. I always say that if you can justify your design or photographs to others, then it is inevitably going to be understood by a viewer somewhere at some point.
We are highlighting just a few of the elements to building a great brand here. Your brand is something that you build upon every day you are in business. This basic ground work will definitely change as you creatively progress in the future. Remember where Apple began – rainbow apple logo and tan colored boxes. Now look at them – silver, gold, jet black, rose anodized devices machined to the tightest tolerances using, some of the highest technical manufacturing processes available.
Imagine where you can go as a photographer if you have the right people and technology behind you. Put the focus on your content in a way that excites your potential client base and you will have more work than you know what to do with.
Then – Now | A Limited-Edition Fine Art Photography Book
This large-format landscape book is 13 inches wide by 11 inches tall, and includes 116 photos in 138 pages. It also includes four narratives chronicling the first decade of Jay’s career and his journey towards becoming one of today’s top creative story-telling professional photographers. Limited-edition print run of only 66 copies.