Photographers, You Don't Need a Logo

Photographers, You Don't Need a Logo

The logo. That simple stylized image that is supposed to help people to recognize you. It's one of the first marketing moves you do when you see yourself as a not-just-a-camera-owner-anymore. But why do you do it?

No, I'm not talking about whether you should watermark your photographs or not. I'm talking about creating a logo which is an image representing your brand. Designing of a logo may cost you lots of time and money. You then ask people if they like your logo. You put it here or there on your photographs. You place it on your website. You change its placement. You refine it. It's lots of investment about the logo.

As I started my business, I also decided I needed a logo. I asked a designer to create one for me. I thought this logo will position my business better. Shortly after that I stopped using the logo.

It's a Business, It Needs a Logo, They Say

It is true that a business usually needs a logo. Do you know the logo of at least three famous motivational speakers? It's a business too. You don't remember their logos? They may not have any. But do you know their names?

It's Easier For People to Recognize Me By the Logo

Do you know the logo of Steven Spielberg? No? What about Annie Leibovitz' logo? Wait, she doesn't even have a website. That's why she doesn't have a logo, you may say.

The Photographs Are Products And They Need a Logo

Cars have logos. Today many cars look similar and we can differentiate them by their logo. We may not know who the car brand boss is, but we will recognize their logo. It's the same with pictures, they say. They are also products and we need to make a logo of us, so when people see it they know it's us. But how many people are behind a car and how many people are behind your photographs? Think about a classic Porsche. Do you need a logo when you see it? But many cars nowadays look very similar. You need to recognize them somehow. Are your pictures similar to others so that you desperately need a logo? Do you want people to remember you as "Oh, the photographer with that logo," or "Oh, the photographer with that style."

The Composer

The Composer

Logos Have A Long History

There were logos back through the centuries. Kings and rulers, famous and infamous, had their logos on their flags, scepters, crowns, seals, etc. Do you remember the logos of famous music composers? But you may recognize their style. When you listen to some type of music, you may say: This sounds like Bach. Do you remember Bach's logo or Bach's signature? Me neither. Although their style may be imitated, people always refer to the original.

Where Do You Display That Logo?

I haven't seen a photographer who is one of the official sponsor of the Oscars, or Formula 1, or a famous football team. Do you need to have a booth with your logo at a photography show? Maybe you have packaging you sell your images with. That's what I used my logo for back in the day. I don't use it anymore. Yes, I still have packaging but I don't use the logo anymore.

Who Needs a Logo?

If you are positioning yourself as a brand that is represented by a company of people, and you are known by the brand name, then you may think of having a logo. Corporations need a logo as many times the CEO may change or they don't want to use their own name for their products and services. Large production companies need a logo. But for an individual photographer, you don't need to hide behind a logo or a brand name saying "we" (and most of the time you are all by yourself).

What You Actually Need As a Photographer

For individual artists there's no sense of layering your name with one more level of abstraction which is а brand name, or a logo. If you are working as an artist, your name is more than enough. You don't need a logo. You need a body of work attached to your name. Don't spend your time and money on logos. You need a good portfolio. It is easier to join and leave a production company when you already have a name, rather than the opposite — to try to build a name reputation once you've been hiding behind a brand name and a logo for a long time. Your parents already took care of your business name. Use it instead and work on your portfolio, not on your logo design.

You don't need a logo. You have your name. Do people know it?

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Sergey Fat's picture

This is a controversial statement, but in general the correct. I'm always attach the small translucent signature to my photos, because photo is my hobby, I shoot for free and always need new models to advance my skills. Many times girls find my social accounts for signature. I think the wrong logo when it's huge, takes half of photo and eye-catching :)

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The article itself doesn't emphasize on the watermarking issue but on the way a photographer displays him/herself in the world, brand name, "we", logo, while being just an individual, not a corporation.

Justin Berrington's picture

I've definitely done the logo thing and I can't recall a time when anyone saw it on my business card and said, "Great logo! You must take amazing photos."

Interesting angle

Long excuse... And then these huge "(c) 2016 Alexander Petrenko Photography" across all photos...

Andress Kools's picture

Doesn't that kind of prove his point? That one doesn't need a logo, but people need to recognize ones name?

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Yep. You can search by name. You can hardly search by logo.

There is no need to search my logo, there is site address there. And it is shorter than (c) 2016 Alexander Petrenko Photography :)

Everything you wrote is applicable to one man show businesses. When you start to involve replacement photographers, video contractors then you need something more generic...

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

It's been stated in the article from the very beginning that if you are a company you may need a logo. Read the "Who Needs a Logo" part.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I don't really care if it's necessary or not. I created mine as when I was studying BS Architecture back then. We were required to design and make one for ourselves.
After shifting my interest to photography, I still use it - and I love it. It's ME.

Randy Smith's picture

I don't think a logo is all that important. But i do think a unique business card is. I get lots of compliments on mine. It's simple, but people always make a positive comment on it, which is good marketing.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

If it works, it works.

My business card has a grid of few images from my portfolio so people get an idea what I do before throwing it away. Many people don't go to your website unless they're interested in it. That's why I printed not a logo but a few images on it. If they like them, they may see my whole portfolio.

Jon Wolding's picture

"so people get an idea what I do before throwing it away."

I have stacks of others' business cards on my desk... the stacks slowly migrate from one pile to another: "new person - can't forget them!" to "oh right, that person" to "why do I have this? keep it just in case" and finally to the trash can.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Unfortunatlly people don't respect paper anymore and that's why I print a preview of my work right before paper gets disrespected big time... and at least there's no "why do I have this" (John Smith, +XXXXXXXXX + a strange logo)

Jonathan Reid's picture

Well thought out and articulated article. You've managed to change my mind on this.

Andrew Richardson's picture

But without this totally original aperture graphic, how will people know I'm a photographer??

Annie is Annie. She doesn't need a logo.

I agree with your points made, particularly that all cars look alike. Now there are some iconic cars, the Corvette, Mustang, and Camaro; retro-styled cars, like Fiat and the VW Beetle are also recognizable by their shape. But the retro style is dying off with the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR no longer in production.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's why car brands more desperately need a logo as they abandoned their identity.

Annie doesn't need it because she has a style that is recognizable even though the picture may not be our favorite.

There are photographers who became famous by photographing their grandmother in funny situations. That's been their signature and identity. No logo required.

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

I use my name because I'm a bomb ass bitch.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I think it is kind of a cyclical design taste change...Years ago many photographers did have logos. Lately most have a logotype, a creative stylizing of their name, it could be something distinctive with embellishments or just a certain font that's used throughout the branding.
Maybe because logos can look very cheesy or dated when poorly designed, folks like me who in the past spent way too much on a crappy logo feel it's better to keep it simple.
Eventually people will start getting logos again just to look different from the herd.

I think you said that our work should be so distinctive that it stands out on its own. For most it doesn't. Mine didnt for a very long time. Commercial photographers in the same genre usually have a very similar look, the look that sells. Add to that, many photographers spend a lot of time going to workshops or buying classes to learn the same secret style, and looking at other photographer's websites and emulating their look or style any original idea we might have had is very diluted by the tsunami of images made by other people.
I think that fine art photographers take more risks and have more of an original look but might be mistaken.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's why I wrote something about the artists in the centuries. Almost all of them used just their names as a signature. The same was for film photographers who signed the photographs sometimes or didn't at all.

Placing a logo over the pictures is something digital photographers started to do as an analogue of bigger companies while they are just individuals.

Tomash Masojc's picture

Yes....we don't need logo, but we need a lot of letters with our name and surname....and seems that some people use (C) still.... :))

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

And this is better for marketing as someone can easily search by the name rather than describing the logo to the search engine.

John Pyle's picture

The bigger the logo the __________ the photographer. Fill in the blank. Always true.

I am still in the logo phase, lol. I rarely use it as a watermark. On social media, it is probably easier to spot my logo rather than read my name or look at a head-shot of my smiling face, etc... I do agree that it isn't needed.--Chris "AoxoA" Hooper, photographer in Austin, TX.

Geoffrey Badner's picture

These are all interesting opinions, and you're certainly welcome to them, but perhaps you should consider asking the end customer how they evaluate a photographer when choosing to hire. Discuss with them the value of a logo in the constellation of branding elements.

I say this because I've been told no less than 5 times in the last year by clients, art buyers and other people that would or have actually hired me that they really liked by logo/branding and that it was an aspect of their decision to hire me.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Branding is something that doesn't have anything to do with the logo but with the overall look of your brand. It may have a logo, it may not (or the logo could be simply you name). Yes, I agree how your brand looks (whether it's your website, blog, printed portfolio, business cards, etc.) is very important but it doesn't necessarily need a logo. It just has to look appealing to clients.

Geoffrey Badner's picture

Though i did read your article, I guess I was misled by the title.

David Read's picture

I'm sorry Tihomir but this is just completely wrong. I have 18+ years in the design industry and I can tell you that your logo is the foundation of your branding. Even if you're just using your name, if it's a consistent look and style throughout you work then it's still a logo. A logo doesn't need a graphic, some of the best and most effective logos are the most basic ones, usually just a custom typeface and the name of the company or individual.

And what about all the correspondence with your clients? Don't you think it looks a little more professional if you have a logo on all of your invoices, emails, business cards, your website etc.

Amature or enthusiast photographers don't need a logo, but professional photogs most certainly do if they want their business to make an impression on their clients.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

David, I understand completely what you say. In general if you are a logo designer, people expect from you to have a great logo. For a photographer, people expect to have great pictures.

With photographers the logo is not that important for the clients. From our perspective, the logo is really vital. It was vital for me back in the day. But after hearing from clients that they don't care and the only thing they care is pesonality and pictures, I saw the matter with different eyes.

I know art directors who've worked with big companies and lots of photographers and they never remembered the logo of any photographer. I work with businesses primarily and nobody cares about my lack of logo.

I used to care about a logo. I don't anymore. I found that the people who care about the logo are the visual artists, not the clients. That's why I chose this direction — focusing on the craft than the logo. A logo won't hurt, but the lack of it won't hurt either. That's what clients say.

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