You’ve probably heard that your photography business needs a brand. But what is “a brand,” anyway? To keep it simple: a brand is how people identify your business. From written voice to color selection to font, your brand is a series of shortcuts people use to know that, oh hey, it’s you. Like curly Coke font, the bright white Apple boxes, or the friendly staff at Trader Joe’s, brands use various tools to stand apart from the crowd. But how does branding for photographers work? The toolbox is the same, but the way you use the tools is different!
To build a brand, you’ll need:
- Core beliefs: your “why”
- A written voice that’s unique to you
- Memorable, unique value propositions
- Design that compliments your voice and works in harmony
- A consistent presence across platforms
We’re going to dive into each of these concepts. Chances are, you already have many of these elements at work without thinking twice! But branding is absolutely critical to your photography business being recognizable and identifiable by potential clients, so let’s get right to it.
Establish Your Core Beliefs and Find Your Why
Discovering your core beliefs and establishing your “why” are essential first steps in branding for photographers, and they will go far to help you on the next two components: finding your voice and defining your value propositions. This may require some soul deep-diving, so get out ya journal and strap in.
Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll be getting close to finding your true “why.”
- What do I want clients to feel after they’ve worked with me?
- Why did I start this business in the first place? What drew me to my craft?
- What gets me out of bed in the morning? (No, coffee is not an answer here. Think deeper.)
- Why do I do the kind of photography I do in the style I use for the clients I serve?
- What’s something my ideal clients say that makes me light up and say, “that’s my ideal client!”
Finding your why could take a long time. It also might change with time—and that’s totally okay! Your photography business “why” doesn’t have to be set in stone for all of eternity. It can change as your business does.
So now you’ve found your why in your photography business. What next? Write it on a sticky note and post it on your desk. Make it your desktop home screen. Set a weekly reminder on your phone. Use this to guide your business decisions, craft your marketing content, and help you stay motivated when the desire to push forward is flagging! Then, make sure this “why” is reflected in everything you do as a business owner!
Find Your Voice
If you’re not a seasoned writer, a written voice can be difficult to pin down. Heck, it’s even difficult for writers to find! But when branding for photographers, it’s a must-do. So, here are a few ways to work on your written voice:
Make a voice chart. Championed by brand voice aficionados Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee, the voice chart is a great way to hone in your voice. Make a list of words you want to define your brand voice, but add a “but not” to the end to show a constraint. The “this but not that” list might look like this, from the book Nicely Said:
- Fun but not childish
- Clever but not silly
- Confident but not cocky
- Expert but not bossy
Refer back to this chart as a guide for every time you create new content. The more you use it, the more naturally your writing voice will come to you without having to flip back to it. And don’t force the voice too hard—readers can tell if content is written in an overly-curated style. Write naturally and smoothly. Your voice will come in time.
Read content out loud after you’ve written it. As a photography business owner, having a brand voice that lines preeetty close to your real-life speaking voice is a good way to make writing on-brand content even easier. Writing content will be like talking to a friend. And the easier it is to hone in your voice, the more likely you are to beat a nasty case of burnout. When writing, stop and ask yourself: would you say this out loud? If not, how can you adjust it to sound more natural? You’re on your way to finding your voice!
Read widely, in your field and outside it. The best way to develop your own voice is to read how other people do it. Read other photographers’ websites. Check out their blogs. Pick up some books, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading widely and often is the best thing you can do for your written content. It’s also a great way to find the things EVERYONE is doing and saying so you can avoid them.
Identify Your Unique Value Propositions
As a photographer, one of your value props is definitely, “to have a gallery of gorgeous photos.” And that’s great! That’s what you do for a living, after all! But you need a few more value propositions to help your business stand apart from competitors.
- Some examples of photography-brand-building value propositions:
- Highly organized, fixes problems before they happen
- Relaxed, go with the flow attitude
- Timeline creation
- Vision execution
- Adept at managing large families and keeping small children happy
- Extra focus on heirloom and album creation
- An extra helping hand, like a bonus bridesmaid
- Knows all the secret local spots for elopements
- Building confidence in self-conscious clients
- Luxury, high-end service
- On-demand: text me and I’ll be back in touch ASAP
People book you for more than just the photos, and you offer more than just the photos, too! So be sure to identify at least three value propositions that line up clearly with your brand. People will begin to recognize them as you continue creating content.
Craft Your Brand Design
I recommend working with a designer to do this—your website will thank you for it. Finding a unique color scheme, a versatile yet true-to-you font pairing, and a logo are really, really hard. But it’s especially essential when branding for photographers because you work in an aesthetic medium! So, clients want to see something beautiful when they interact with you! Work with a professional designer, do your own research on color psychology and font pairings, and start plowing forward!
Here are some tips on designing the visual side of your site:
- Create multiple iterations and sizes of your logo. This will allow you to seamlessly use it across platforms.
- Find a color scheme that is unique to you—don’t follow the crowd…I’m looking at you, blush and white. Pinterest is full of tons of great color scheme inspiration.
- When picking fonts, make your life easier by choosing one that is available across most platforms. Downloading font packages gets pretty annoying.
- Choosing a simple body font and a more dramatic heading font is a good move. Most designers tell you to limit your site to two fonts. And remember—you can use many variations of those fonts, such as scales of bold and italics.
- Don’t feel like you’re choosing your design fate for the rest of eternity—your design can and should change as you do!
Cultivate a Consistent Presence
The next step in great branding for photographers is to keep a consistent presence across platforms, including your website, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and wherever else you might interact with potential clients as a business. The last thing you want is for clients to be confused when they explore your different platforms. One might be super professional and scream to the client, “this is for you!” while another might be less polished and full of conflicting messaging. Pick your platforms and stick to them diligently—clients will likely visit a variety of your platforms before deciding if something is right for them.
There’s an old rule in marketing that someone has to see your business’s marketing content seven times before they’re willing to book. That might mean one Instagram post, one pin, one blog post, another Instagram post, two more pins, and then a final perusal of your website…and THEN they’re hooked. Whew! It takes a while to build brand trust. If your presence is disjointed across these platforms, it might take even longer.
Branding for photographers is important, so don’t put it off!
Crafting a recognizable and true-to-you brand is, like most important things, hard. So get going on branding early and often. Adjust your why and your value propositions as you grow and change as a business owner. Don’t be afraid to try something that goes against the crowd. Make your voice heard in a crowded industry by showcasing your unbeatable brand, and watch bookings roll in!