Photographers Branding Series : Style

There is a lot of talk in the photography world and the business world about branding.  No we are not talking about what they do to cows, we are talking about the identity of your company!  This can encompass many things but to give you a start it can involve colors, logos, style or an overall look.  It can be what your website and marketing materials look like and for photographers it can be the look of your images.  Everyone has their own style and your brand should come from that!  Your brand should reflect you.

So what happens when you are just starting out and you aren’t sure who you are artistically let alone what your brand might be.  You probably spend a lot of time on other photographers websites beating yourself up because you think they are awesome and you suck.  I can promise you we have all been there and done that.  You might be surprised to learn that even the photographers that you admire look at someone elses work and think they suck sometimes.  The other problem with spending too much time on someone elses website is that you might start to copy them without meaning to.  Now there are some that will blatantly rip off others work but I believe the majority of people aren’t doing it intentionally.  You just like elements of their work and you try to recreate it.  The problem is that you are recreating them you are not discovering yourself.    So I want you to take a break from looking at everyone else and concentrate on yourself.  I felt so much better about myself  and my work when I stopped looking at everyone else and that opened me up to start discovering who I was and what my style is.

People can be similar just like businesses can be similar but no two will be exactly the same.  What you have to figure out is what is truly you!  To demonstrate my point I thought I would share with you my journey through branding.  I’ll share some tips I’ve learned along the way and hopefully show you that it’s okay for your brand to evolve but try not to reinvent yourself every year.  You want people to recognize you in your business and just as you grow so should your business.

I talked about creating a style pin board last week and I want to talk more about what those pin boards can do for your business.  We talked about creating a pin board of photos that you are drawn to and narrowing in on what you love.  If you haven’t created a pin board yet of images you love then stop reading and go do it!  The rest of this post will make so much more sense if you have a board to look at and evaluate.  Think of this as more of an exercise then just a blog post!

So you have your board, so what’s on it?  If all you pinned were photos of babies are you photographing babies?  If you aren’t then why not?  If that is what you are drawn to and love why aren’t you photographing them?  There is a great book by Dane Sanders called Fast Track Photographer and in it he talks about narrowing your focus, instead of specializing” in babies, maternity, seniors, weddings, families, pets, landscape AND architecture figure out which one you really love.  I’m guilty of specializing in everything under the sun when I started but that really goes against what specialize means.  I realized after reading his book and seeing him at Imaging USA that I couldn’t effectively market myself and grow my craft when I was all over the place.  So I took a hard look at what I like to shoot and what I didn’t and I dropped 3/4 of my “specialties”.  My focus landed on weddings because those were the images I was most drawn to and when I’m shooting them I’m happiest.  So look at your board and is there a common thread, do most of the images consist of one specialty?  Maybe it is an even split between two, that’s fine!  If they are all over the place then pay attention as you are shooting those sessions and see how you feel before, during and after the shoot.  If you are dreading a certain type of session or find yourself miserable during one then maybe you need to think about dropping it.  I’m not saying that if a client came along requesting that type of session that you have to turn them away but you are not advertising towards them anymore.  I dropped newborns from my website over a year ago and I still get requests from people to do newborn sessions and depending on who it is I might do it or I might refer it out to someone who is awesome at that because I am not.  Okay so hopefully you’ve got a better idea of what you love to photograph and what you don’t.

Now let’s look at the style of the photographs, are they vintage or black and white or bright and crisp?  Do they have lots of texture to them and create a moody vibe?  Are they bright, colorful and full of laughter?  What style are you most drawn to?  I personally love bright, clean and crisp images.  I like my colors to have a little pop and my light to be soft and glowy.  This is what I’m drawn to and this is what I want to create.  Your style is probably different from mine and that is great!  That is what makes us artists and makes us unique!  If you love one style but are processing in another style I have to ask why?  You sell what you show so if you love vintage but are only showing urban gritty images then how does anyone know that you want to shoot more vintage?  Wouldn’t you be happier in your business if you were shooting what you love and processing them in the way that you love?  I know I’m a lot happier!  Here is a money saving secret for you, when looking at purchasing templates, actions, presets or textures stop and ask yourself does this fit with my style?  I personally never need to buy textures because I never use them.  I probably have bought them in the past though before I figured out my style.  Templates are great when they fit your brand and they only need minor tweaking to blend with your style, if you need to overhaul them then you might want to keep looking for something that fits better.

Now create a pin board of your own work, your favorite photos.  How do they fit with your new ideas on your style?  Hopefully this helped and you aren’t ready to throw your computer across the room because you are still lost on your style.  It takes time to figure out your style but it seems that it is the first thing everyone tells you to work on when you get started.  I remember thinking I wouldn’t know my style if it came up and slapped me in the face!  It took a few years of looking at what I loved in others work and shooting a ton and seeing what I liked about my own work.  Now that I have figured out my style it has helped me make better purchasing decisions for my business and when I want to make changes to my website I think does this fit with my style.

Your photography style will guide you through your website style and marketing style.  Your website and marketing should complement your photos and vice versa.  Eventually it will be a cohesive style that encompasses everything about your business!  Remember don’t beat yourself up if you have no idea what you style is, I have another tip that might help.  Take 5-10 of your favorite photos and ask a friend, relative or another photographer to look at them and write down 2-3 words that describe the images.  Sometimes others can see what you can’t or they can put it into words better then you can.

Hopefully this starts the wheels turning and take your time.  It took me years to figure out what my style is and two years from now I’ll probably have refined it even more!  Check back next week as we talk more about branding and I tell you about my journey through creating a website!  Think pink and brown and scripty font, yep that is where I started!!!

Of course a post is nothing without a photo of what I consider my style bright colors, pretty light and an overall crispness to the image!

jill paul engaged pohick bay 138


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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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