A guest article by photographer Russell Smith about the importance of branding your photography business.
As photographers we spend our energy on developing a visual brand for our clients. But how much time have you spent working on your own branding?
From my first days at the Red & Yellow School of Advertising, the importance of branding was drummed into us. Branding is what lives and breathes around a product, it makes Nike more than a running shoe and Apple more than a tech company. Products are manufactured, brands sell! It creates a perception of your product or service that becomes your clients’ reality. First impressions when prospective clients look at your site or you hand them your card start creating an idea in their heads as to who you are and your level of professionalism, based to a large extent by your branding. Advertising and Commercial clients that are using our photography to create visual branding for their clients will appreciate this too.
Your brand is an extension of your work and therefore I can recommend that before you head down the path of figuring out your brand and brand identity, you spend some time working out your style, what you like to shoot, how you like to shoot and what you would like to shoot! What is your business plan and how do you want the market to perceive you? It is important that you know your product so you can build an effective brand around it. So what I am saying is that it may take a little while for you to understand who and what you are before you can properly get a grip of how you want to portray your brand.
You need the goods to back it up! Don’t get me wrong, you have to have a solid body of work otherwise no matter how smart you come across, you won’t necessarily land the the job! You also have to have the personality and service to go with your professional brand! If you look hot on your site and yet you come across with little or no personality, without the faintest clue how to service your client then you will have one chance max and hasta la vista!
Russell Smith Photography branding: Old vs. New.
So now you want to build an identity and brand for yourself. My suggestion, unless you have a strong history in graphic design, is to get a professional or someone else to do the design for you. I started with my own design. I always liked my images on a black background from my prints in my portfolio book and thought red was strong and eye catching and a good combination with the monotone black, white and greys. But I started growing tired of it and realized that I needed to get someone removed from my own vision of myself to do the design.
I do understand that this costs money and if you want to do it well you must prepare yourself to spend good money. To give you an idea it can cost anywhere between R20 000 and R45 000 to get a good CI and site with blog designed and running. There are more affordable options like Withtank where you can build your site yourself with customized skins and plugins. They can be really unique and effective but you will have to fit into predesigned templates. I would suggest that this is a good option if you need to build your portfolio (and wallet) but need to have a web presence. When you feel the time is right however then spend the dosh on good people to help build your brand.
For my new identity, business cards and web site design, I worked with talented designer, Brian Bainbridge. My brief to him was to keep the colours associated with my brand and to keep it simple. I wanted something friendly but professional.
The site that he designed for me was to return to html from flash previously used on my old site. This was for a few reasons, mainly to simplyfy, to content manage myself and thus keeping it easier to maintain going forward and that ipads don’t work with flash sites. Marschant Escórcio was my whizz man making it all happen from the back end! My beautiful blog, you are hopefully reading, was designed by Anita Kingsley.
The site was also to become more about the images. A canvas where they could live and change, big and proud, horizontal and vertical with easy navigation and allowing the viewer access to go anywhere at any time.
Just a word of caution when shopping for professionals to work with, web site design is not an exact science and as far as possible try and get an accurate understanding as to what you will be getting for your money. Even though it will be well spent, there are guys who will do very little for a hell of a lot and you need clear communication. I have been bitten in the past!
Branding goes far beyond looking good on line and handing out cool business cards. It goes with out saying but your name is made up of so many things and it is up to you to maintain your quality of work, the professionalism that you portray in meetings with clients, on and after the shoot. In these times you need to deliver the package and that is for another post.