Branding and Logo Design for Photographers: Part 2

Branding and Logo Design for Photographers: Part 2

In Branding and Logo Design for Photographers Part 1, we looked at the initial steps of self-analyzing, market research, and competitive analysis. Now we move into the designing of our photography brand logo with possibly the most important step: identify and separate. The happy medium of fitting in with your genre enough to connect while contrasting from your field enough to stand out is a tenuous balance. Following these steps will help photographers and non-photographers build a strong competitive brand.

Identify and Separate

While the meaning of identify and separate is quite literal, it's one of the most challenging and essential parts of building a successful brand. 

  1. Identify - Identify with the genre, meaning your logo should feel like it belongs. When someone sees your logo, it should immediately connect to the intended field or genre. Also, when your logo is lined up with others in the same genre it should feel at home.
  2. Separate - In contrast to identifying, your logo should stand out. So again, when your logo is lined up with with others in the same genre, does it stand out? I know I am contradicting myself, but that is the challenge. Identify enough so you feel like you belong, so that clients feel safe, but contrast and separate yourself so you don't get lost in the crowd.

As you go about building your brand and following the steps in Part 1 of this article, you will most likely have determined the things that make your company and service stand out. My wedding photography brand targets a higher-end client who cares and respects photography, but so are my direct competitors. So I have non-visually connected with my competitors in that way, offering similar services and building a brand on similar principles. But my brand and style of imagery is more about an elegant and classic look. I focus highly on storytelling and building a narrative. I also edit in a particular way and include much more black and white images then my competitors. This is just touching the surface and meant as an example, but the point is when a bride sees my work I want her to feel like Nicoll's Wedding Photography is on par and fits in with the other high-end wedding photographers, but also stands out so that it is remembered. Your work and your brand can be amazing, but if it's just like 10 other photographers in your area, it wont be remembered and you're basically rolling the dice that you will get picked 1 out of every 10 times. But if you stand out, then you give a client a reason to remember you and hire you. You will also have the added advantage of working more often with clients who want the type of images you shoot.

In the coffee and fast food examples above, we get a visual depiction of this concept of identify and separate. You can quickly look at the four coffee brand logos here and see how they all "feel" like they belong. The graphic style, typographic choices, and color palette all set a similar mood. It's Caribou and Starbucks that stick out the most. Starbucks gives off a much bolder presence then the others, and Caribou with its color departure and script-style font gives of a more modern feel.

I intentionally chose the newer Taco Bell logo for the fast food example. These logos all fit together and speak to the visual language of this genre. It's the Taco Bell logo, however, that jumps out with its starkly different color palette. The illustrative graphic style and bold font keep Taco Bell connected with the genre, while the purple color palette (drastically different from the traditional red and orange of this genre) make it stand out. I also want to note that most of these examples are relatively new revamps of previous or original logo designs. The brand that has changed the least over the years is of course the more dominant McDonald's.

Legibility and Usability

In general, the main components of a logo are the logo mark and the logo text. When designing your mark and choosing a typeface you should consider legibility and usability. Legibility is fairly straightforward. Is it legible? Can you read it? When referencing the logo type, we need to make sure that clients read the text and can read it at various sizes. Oftentimes I see typefaces selected that work great when they are large on the top of a website, but don't hold up when they are shrunk down onto a business card. Consider how you may use your logo; A business card, letterhead, web banner, signage... If practical, print it out at these sizes and ask others if they have any problems reading your logo text. This also applies to your mark. Can people still tell what it is at different sizes? This is usually only an issue at smaller sizes, so print out your logo mark at a business card size and see if it holds up.

Usability is slightly different. Consider the various media you may use to display your logo; web, small format print, large format print, screen printed, stitched, etc. Can your logo be recreated in the media where you would potentially like to use it? If your logo depends in large on color or visual texture, then it may not translate when converted to one color for stitching on a shirt or it may not work when screen printed. Also, certain media may ruin your logo if it has very small and detailed areas. These overly-detailed areas would also risk your legibility.

Building the Brand

Building a brand is something that takes years. The steps to building a strong brand that sticks in people's minds and identifies visually to your core principles and mission is not as formulaic and designing a logo. This takes years of careful planning, marketing, and also patience. The advice I want to give here is to be consistent. You're not Nike, you can't just put a check on a box and people immediately know that it's your brand. In fact, it was years before even Nike separated its logo mark from its logo text. When you brand your collateral or put your logo on anything, keep it the same. You may have a full color version, a one color version, and a black and white version, and that's great. But don't do a Christmas themed logo, or special edition logo, or anything like that, especially if you are a new and relatively small brand. 

Also stick to your core values. This doesn't mean you, but your brand. What is your brand built on? Again, going back to Part 1 and thinking of your brand as a person, that person needs to present itself to the world the same way and be consistent to become more trustworthy and memorable.

Be patient. As the photographer and designer of your brand, you have seen your logo for more years and more times than anyone else. That means that you are the first person to get sick of it. I once heard someone say that right around the time that you are sick of your ad is when people are actually seeing it for the first time. This might be an exaggeration, but when it comes to your logo, especially in wedding photography, I think it holds up. You may have been starring at the same logo for years, but the newly-engaged bride is probably coming across it for the first time.

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Logo design is one area I'd highly suggest hiring someone else to do it. You may have an "Eye for design" through photography but let's be honest, are you going to shoot the photos at your own wedding? Your logo has to match your branding and it goes on all your promotional material. Once more, it goes on EVERYTHING. It should be striking, memorable and above all, your own brand. How many times have you seen the aperture blades or a small SLR shape in someone's logo? How would a potential client remember your brand if it looks like everyone else? Hire someone you enjoy working with, who gets you and what your photography is about from an objective standpoint and get it done well.

Lance Nicoll's picture

Philip, thanks for sharing that great resource. I'm glad you liked the article and thanks for reading.

Simple Logo's picture

Of course being in the logo design trade I would recommend going to a professional logo designer for your mark ;-p If you do design your own, pay attention to the good advice in this article. Yes, keep it simple, remember that you don't have to tell your whole story in your logo, just make it pleasing, use colors that you really like.