Build Your Brand: How you market your photography is arguably as important as your skills as a photographer in shaping your success. Read on for expert advice about branding your business and essential marketing tools.
Despite The Idioms: ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, most of us still prejudge the quality of a product on how professional it looks. It’s the same with photography: in a market that’s bursting with excellent photographers – amateurs and professionals alike – it’s difficult for consumers to know where to spend their money for quality and value. So before they even look at your work, rightly or wrongly, they’ll judge you on your brand and it has to effectively communicate what your all about. “As a photographer, getting the brand right has got to be the most important thing, after knowing how to take a half-decent shot.” says Nige Burton, managing director of Freebird New Media, which specialises in brands for photographers. “Photography is one of the rare trades these days that can make a really good business, despite the economic climate, if the formula (for branding and marketing) is followed correctly. “Everything that a photographer puts out about their business should be of the highest quality to reflect their service and images. If you give out a cheap, tacky business card, people think: cheap, tacky pictures. It’s better to have few. great promotional products than lots of average ones” says Burton. Regardless of what level of photographer you are. no element of your business should appear ‘amateurish’. It must all look professional, slick and from the same camp.
Build Your Brand
Invest in business cards made from a heavy stock – they’re not very expensive – and a well-designed logo with company colours that feature across all your promotional material. You don’t have to spend a fortune, you just need to make it look as if you have. With word of mouth generating the most amount of business, it’s not unusual for your website to be a client’s first point of contact with your work. It therefore needs to represent you and the image quality they can expect from hiring you. Again, you do not have to spend much on a website, just follow these few pointers. Make sure you have a strong homepage that displays your best images to hook them in. that it runs efficiently and is easy to navigate. If someone has to wait for a website to load and isn’t wowed’ by a striking image from the outset, they’ll get bored and move on before you’ve even had a chance to show them what you can offer. You have about three seconds before a viewer decides whether they’re going to look any further in to your website or move on. according to Burton. That’s not a lot of time to make a good first impression, so make it count. “A good website allows potential clients to react to your images. The website should be doing its job in the background, allowing the imagery to speak for itself.” It shouldn’t be too plain as it won’t enhance the imagery and it shouldn’t be so complicated that it jars the viewer and overwhelms the images You need to find a balance that enables your website to be a platform that encourages people to browse through your images. You should also be very selective about what images you display. Too many photographers try to cram in as many pictures as they can on their website, most of which are average at best. If you use 12 or 14 fantastic images, people will think you take every image like that. When a client visits a website, says Burton, they want to see your images, then they look for your brand to assure them it’s a quality, professional service. If they’re still interested, this is when they’ll move on to read about you. Tell them a little about yourself, but don’t give them information they don’t need like the fact you have a dog called Chipper and like cheese on toast. Keep it strictly business, relating everything back to why they might want to hire you. If you struggle with this side of the website, consider hiring a copywriter to do it for you. Finally, make it easy for them to contact you and make sure the website is search engine-friendly, as it’s your number one marketing tool. “We often get clients who want to charge £1.500 for a wedding but spend £200 on a website, and they cannot do it – it doesn’t work as it doesn’t reflect the quality that’s expected of a photographer charging £1.500. You get what you pay for and while people do need to watch their pennies, it’s important that they get the best brand they can for their budget.
What makes a good brand?
As photography, especially portraiture and weddings, is a bespoke service, a brand should reflect something of the individual photographer’s personality and how they take pictures. It also needs to be designed to target the type of people who make up the broadest part of your market. For instance. 90% of the time, it’s the woman who selects her wedding photographer or family portrait photographer, so you have to pick a branding and logo that appeals to women the same way a car or sports photographer should have a logo that appeals to men. The only generic field of photography is wildlife and landscapes as this is all about the quality of imagery and less about the photographer. A good place to start creating your own brand is to build a mood board comprise images, words and colours that you like and you think represent your style of photography and personality. From there you can ask yourself the difficult questions to help define your company’s identity:
- Who are your customers (i.e. age ranges and ‘type’ of person)?
- What adjectives would you use to describe your company? For example, friendly, professional, innovative, safe, funky, relaxed, efficient etc.
- What makes your business different from your competitors?
- What areas of your business do you want to bring to the foreground?
- What do you want your company colours to be? (For swatches visit: kuler.adobe.com)
- What are you going to call your brand or company?
The worst logos, according to Burton, are those featuring Clip Art “it’s the kind of thing you’d see in newspaper adverts in the late ’80s and early ’90s” Getting your company’s name right is equally, if not more important than the logo design. “We’ve found what works really well is just to have the person’s name with the word photography’ after it. It sounds simple but a lot of photographers tend to come up with really contrived names and we have to force them to think what that’s saying to a potential client. Some names suit a company’s name more than others, for instance you might be called Paul Pratt, and Paul Pratt Photography isn’t the best. But if you use the middle name instead, it becomes a more professional Paul Mark Photography. It’s all about what a name conjures up in the mind of a client. “When choosing fonts for your brand, you have to think about how it will look on screen. It’s not so important with your logo, but with your website, there are a few fonts you should stick to so it’s easy to read, one of which is a strong Sans Serif. With a logo, the biggest mistake I see is people mix too many fonts: there shouldn’t be more than two really Sometimes people have four words with four fonts and it jars. It’s a case of stepping back from the logo and asking yourself, like you would with a picture, is it balanced right, is it pleasing? For colours, you should avoid bright yellows and reds. There’s quite a bit of colour psychology that goes in to picking a brand’s colours, and while yellow and red are bright and vibrant to get your attention, they soon make you feel uncomfortable and you don’t look at it for long. If you want to create a lasting brand, one that encourages people to look at it for a while, then use a strong colour but tone it down by adding muted colours to set it off. rather than two strong colours that can jar against each other.” While you can create your own logo and brand, don’t underestimate its power of persuasion so make sure it reflects your worth. If you really want to grow your photography business, think seriously about investing in a professional brand as it will pay dividends in the long run. If you want feedback on your own logo design or website, you can contact Freebird for their opinion and advice, or another design company, but you may need to pay a small fee for the service.
Getting people talking about your photography the easiest, cheapest and most efficient way of promoting your business. We give you some advice on the best ways of getting your business noticed.
While Branding gives you a foothold in the market, a solid marketing strategy will give your photography business a leg up. The best way of making marketing work for you is to have lots of fingers in lots of pies and. if you’re serious about developing your photography business, create a year’s marketing plan, doing something new each month to expand your contact base and bring in clients. Some of the best photographers are highly self-critical, always striving to do better and are rarely satisfied with their images, which can make it very difficult for them to promote their work. As a result, too many amateurs and enthusiasts undersell their services. The solution is simple: either find ways of building up your confidence, such as winning competitions or getting more on-the-job experience, or get someone else to be your alter ego and push the business for you. We’re not suggesting you hire an agent, but milk your friends and family as they’re likely to be some of your biggest and most loyal fans. Then once you get some clients, provide them personal and professional service and they’ll become your mouthpiece. As most business comes from word of mouth, its time to get people talking…
Get involved and connected with local businesses. Join business networking groups as they can offer an abundance of support and contacts to help develop your business. Offer your photography services to them for free in exchange for them promoting your business. For instance, approach a new restaurant or venue to see if they need images to hang on their walls or offer to do promotional pictures for a child’s clothing store, as long as they recommend your children’s portrait business to their customers. If you’re a wedding or events photographer, try and build relationships with local venues and event decorators. Give them images you’ve taken of their work while at an event and the next time someone asks them to recommend a photographer, your name will be the first to roll off their tongue.
Have an online presence
A website that’s searchable via Google is crucial for giving your business a platform to showcase your work. A blog is a really important part of your website as not only will it make your site more searchable, it’s a place where you can brag about all your latest photography work that may not relate to your main business. You should look to update your blog at least twice a week, even if it’s just a strapline and a couple of images. Don’t underestimate the power of social networking sites either. Set up a company Facebook and Twitter account to keep your followers updated with your latest work and link it to your website and also other businesses from your networking groups for cross promotion.
Get free exposure
Unless you try to get a commission from a magazine, it’s unlikely you’ll get paid to feature your images on their pages. However, don’t let this put you off. Submit your images to a suitable magazine and ask for a credit for instant exposure If you’re a wedding photographer, think about all those brides-to-be and mothers you’re showing your images to. Look at local magazines too, such as Hertfordshire Life if you are based in the UK, to see if there’s any content you can contribute. Having your images published also gives you instant credibility, it’s like winning a competition. There are endless magazines in the market from gardening and travel to hiking and country living, just take a visit to your local newsagent and sift through the shelves. Research the magazine thoroughly and pick the pictures that best suit their content, then submit them to the Features Editor in the form of a contact sheet, with details of who you are and what you want. Once you’ve been published, shout about it: add it to your blog, Twitter and Facebook!
Get your work seen
Displaying your images at trade shows are a brilliant way of having your work seen by new people, but often it requires a hefty outlay in terms of renting a pitch and promotional material, so make sure you invest your time and money in the right one. Do some research about the show that interests you to find out whether the people that attend are the types who might hire you. For instance, if you mainly do portraiture, go to the shows where you know families attend. Provide visitors with some brochures or folded pamphlets that they can take home with them and attract them to your display by offering balloons to children and a prize draw for the adults. To begin with, avoid national shows; they may be bigger and attract more people, but competition is fierce. You’re better off staying local, as this is more likely where your clients will be. Check out country shows and craft fairs too. and try to do a large regional event at least once a year.
Keep in touch
Even though your commission may have ended, it doesn’t mean your relationship with the client has to. If you shoot weddings, for instance, send the couple a custom-made anniversary card and send all your clients company branded Christmas cards. If you’re a social photographer, send your cards out by the latest the end of November, giving time for people to hire you for a portrait shoot before Christmas. Setting up an email newsletter is also an excellent way of keeping your business at the forefront of people’s minds: send them regular updates of your latest work with links to your website and blog.
You are your best marketing tool, so you need to sell yourself just as much as your talents as a photographer. Remember that people buy people, if they like your attitude and feel comfortable around you, chances are they’ll hire you. Make sure you know your business, be presentable, personable and professional as well as flexible to your clients’ needs. Even if you’re not 100% satisfied with your work, don’t let anyone else know that. Pick only the images you love to put in your portfolio; being proud of the selection will make selling your images much easier. Clients will pick up on your attitude towards your work, so make sure it’s positive. As you market yourself more, you’ll hopefully draw attention to your work but it won’t all be positive. Don’t let feedback knock your confidence or take it too personally, everyone will have an opinion, but do keep an open mind to ways you can improve too.