Photographers Branding Series : Colors

Continuing with my series on branding!  Remember that I am not a graphic designer but I couldn’t afford one either so I had to figure it all out on my own.  This series it to tell you what I did right and what I did wrong and some things I wish I knew.  The most important thing to remember is that it takes time and it is an evolving process.  What we love today may not be what we love tomorrow!  I’m reminded of a certain pair of blue eyeglasses I sported in third grade, I thought I was too cool for words!  Um those would be the same glasses my husband still makes fun of me for after seeing just one photo of me in them.  So what I thought was cool in 3rd grade I don’t find so cool now.  I still think I rocked those glasses in 3rd grade!  We aren’t going to talk about the poodle hair I had going on, that is a sin I shall never speak of!!!

So let’s dig in on visually branding yourself, some companies are branded on customer service or a cool product but we are going to talk about what you might look like on the web to a potential client.  To narrow in even more we will cover colors today.

Four years ago when I hung out my shingle as a photographer I had zero money for a designer and I had no idea what branding even was.  So I bought a template website and used the colors from my wedding as my brand colors.  Looking back now I have no idea why I choose a rose pink and light brown for my wedding when my closet and dresser is full of navy and white but I did.  So my first website had a plain pink background with brown writing and my logo was something I made with Scriptina font. (Insert groan here for the over used Scriptina font!).  It was who I was at the time.  Nothing I did was wrong but I had no idea how to go about finding myself and putting it down on paper.

Tip#1- Look through your closet or better yet your dirty clothes hamper, what colors do you wear?  What colors have you used in your home?  What shades of colors attract you?  Are you soft and pastel or vivid and bright?  If you live in black clothes why would you have a baby pink website?  It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t match you!  I’m not saying if you wear a lot of black then your website should be black too but maybe you are attracted to darker colors, deeper richer tones.  Just think about it and start looking around and take notice of the colors you surround yourself with.

I believe I dropped the brown from my website before the pink, I think I realized brown text was hard to read!  So then I was black and pink and at this point I changed my background color to white and used hot pink as an accent color.  I bought black and white damask bags and pink ribbon to deliver client orders in, I thought I was on track but I wasn’t really happy.  So  I started looking at wedding blogs and searching for a color combination that seemed more me.  I even posted about it in April 2009.  I thought I had stumbled upon a keeper with a sassier pink and a dark teal combo with white of course.  I had a new logo created with my colors and I spent hours updating my website and blog.  I was heading in a better direction, I had put some thought into my colors this time.

Tip#2- Once you have a basic idea of colors you like and a preference for shades of that color start looking online to hone in on the perfect one.  You may find that you need two shades of each of your colors, a dark and a light.  Look at paintings, fabrics, rugs, bedspreads, pillow cases or anything that might have colors or patterns that inspire you.  Remember to use Pinterest to keep an inspiration board of your ideas!  Start a color board and pin photos with the colors you are drawn to.  Wait a week and then go back and see what is common.  You may have the same colors as someone else but the shades reflect you.  I’m sure lots of people like blue and orange but they have their shades and I have mine.  A color scheme is a very small part of branding.  Some people prefer to stay completely neutral and have crisp white websites with grey and black and they look amazing.  Maybe you are drawn to that!  I’m just sharing my journey :).

Shortly after getting my new logo I decided to drop the pink.  Ironic considering I had just paid to have a logo created.  I started looking around my house and I saw cream sofas with teal pillows and pops of orange on the walls in my artwork.  The walls were cream and the curtains were white.  Not a drop of pink to be found.  I realized that my style had changed from that pink and brown girl.  My house better reflected my laid back beach cottage style.  So I took inspiration from my living room and kept the neutral white and picked a blue that reminded me of the ocean and added the pop of orange that mimics my living room!  Now my website is me and I’ve even expanded my wardrobe beyond navy and white and it now includes lighter blues and oranges.  It was a journey and it took some evolving, but my website has been pretty consistent for over two years now and I have no desire to revamp my colors, I think I finally stumbled upon colors that reflect my life!  If you ever have a client meeting at my house or the studio you will see my website colors all over because they match me!

I think in my next edition of For Photographers we will talk about logos.  Again we will cover my journey this time through logos and talk about the places where you can have beautiful logos created without breaking the bank!

Just as a disclaimer if you can afford a graphic designer to put together a look and feel for you then that is awesome!  At some point over the next couple years I would love to have something custom done just for me but until then I get to be my own designer.  I talk to so many new photographers though that were in the same boat as I was with no money and no direction and these posts are aimed at them.  I want them to realize they can create something that is all them and be proud of it!

So I tried to find a photo of my first website and I cannot find one anywhere.  Apparently I really hated it after awhile!  But I did find a gift certificate I did the matched my black, white and hot pink damask phase.  Wow I am so glad I evolved and found colors that are more me!

Gift Certificate

And a look at my current gift certificate!  It goes in a pretty petal fold envelope, check it out here!  You notice that GC is different then the one below.  I’m still evolving on that 😉

bridal show

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    Melissa Arlena is an award winning Richmond and Charlottesville photographer. She recently earned her Master Photographer Certification in the Maternity, Newborn & Family categories from the National Association of Professional Child Photographers. Melissa offers maternity, lifestyle newborn, and family photography in her relaxed, natural, and joyful style.


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