Many photographers and business people would argue that branding is by far the most important aspect of your business, and in some cases even more important than the quality of your work. Now of course this becomes controversial really quickly, especially with us creatives, but it’s worth considering when it comes to establishing yourself in your market.
As photographers, our clients will hire us mainly because they want to capture something about themselves, a time in their life, that will help them tell their story to the present day public and future generations. Our clients don’t only need us because they can’t do it themselves, they need us because they are too biased for their own good. We possess something that connects with them and makes them trust us to tell their story just how they would want it told.
The same should be for us. We shouldn’t consider ourselves to be the best option for creating our own brand just because we are, inherently, us. We should look to experts in the field of branding and design that we connect with, that can get to the core of who we are and do a better, more polished job of relating us to our target market.
The two areas I suggest you consider hiring professionals for is your website and promo video.
Your brand designer may or may not be the same person that creates your actual website, but it’s important that you don’t go about it on your own. Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD!
When my wife (business partner) and I were recently going through a re-branding process, we worked with Jeffrey Shipley from Tonic Site Shop to solidify and fine-tune our brand. The insight he was able to give us was far beyond what we even realized about ourselves, and helped us to develop a brand and site that is exactly reflecting who we feel we are. Some preconceived notions that we had about what we wanted were gladly thrown out the window after consultation with Jeffrey!
I’ve asked a few established photographers for their opinions on this topic as well, and this is what Mary Marantz from Justin & Mary had to say:
“Our blogsite is often the first impression people have of us, and we have somewhere between 10 seconds and two minutes to make an impression on them. I definitely want someone who can make me look WAY better than I ever could helping me out with that.”
Now, in the attitude of fairness, I also received this response from Lukas Van Dyke from Lukas & Suzy:
“I threw together a website with Showit and we get 20+ new leads a month. I would like to have something really nice and thought out and polished, but since I think there are other things holding us back more than the website, I don't see the need right now. If it comes to a point where I think that's the main thing holding us back I'll be all about hiring professionals to do it right.
We have talked many times about hiring a professional for the site, or a video. But every time it's come up in the past five years, we decide there are other ways that money could help grow our business better. However, I do often wonder if a new fancy site would have grown our business much bigger much faster. (As a side note to be fair I was a web developer from 1999-2000 before I became a computer network administrator before I became a photographer. But the internet was very different in 1999)”
With this being said, Take a close look at your brand and website. Is there room to improve? Do you want to raise your prices?
Contact a few designers and have them do a 5 minute critique of your site or brand and see what you disagree with or agree with. Maybe one of those designers will be great for your re-brand.
As you can read in THIS POST, a promo video can be some of the best marketing money you’ll ever spend. I would highly support this notion, as our promo videos have been the topic of almost every conversation I have with a new potential client. There are many ways you can go about getting your promo video made, but again I would suggest that you hire a professional for this.
I asked a the same photographers if they have a promo video, and what they think it has done for their business. Katelyn James had this to say:
“Yes yes yes! Our promo film is a little out of date but it has done amazing things for our business ever since we first launched it! The biggest difference I noticed was that I stopped having in-person consultations with brides. They were watching me shoot and interact with brides and talk about my love for weddings and that added an extra layer of trust. So instead of having 20 consultations a year, I have about 2.... and that’s awesome! I highly recommend a promo film!”
Mary Marantz also had this to say:
“We DO!! Stillmotion made ours for us four years ago now and it is STILL getting us featured places. We were just in last month's issue of Rangefinder for it as well as a recent article on F-Stoppers! And for clients, it is a two and a half minute way of getting to know us to our very core of what we stand for. We get inquiries daily that will reference something from the video, whether it is our Mini Cooper, my WVU shirt, our golden retriever Cooper, or to ask if we have the "You wash, I'll dry" dish towels yet. I think what was key about our video is that when we made it, there was nothing else like it in the market. So it really stood out and was (there's a theme forming here!) remarkable. Also, it was honest and raw and it went to the heart of who we actually are, not who we thought potential clients would want us to be. In that video, with HUGE help from Stillmotion, we made the choice to be like Popeye rather than Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding. In that movie, Julia Roberts' character is all "pick me, choose me, let me make you happy." Whereas Popeye said, "I am what I am." With our video, we decided once and for all to say: "This is us. This is who we are. Take us or leave us, love us or hate us. Because the people who love us are going to love us without fail. And the people who don't were never going to get it anyway.”
We have personally had two promo films made, one by Innovate Imageworks, and one by Heschle.
Once you've solidified your brand across all media online, it's time to think about your complete package as a brand. Your packaging, letterhead, envelopes, clothing, and any other ways that your clients will come in contact with your brand. It's a long process, but worth every penny!