Why Vanity Is an Important Part of Your Branding

Why Vanity Is an Important Part of Your Branding

When we think what defines our brand as photographers, we think of our logo, website, and even the style of imagery we create. But, everything that is related and connected to us and our company is a representation of our brand — from the way we answer our emails, interact with our clients, down to the pants we wear, the bag we carry our gear in, and the overall way we present ourselves to the world. Every detail reflects back on our company and in the end reflects back on our bottom line.

For those of you who don't know me, I am a New Orleans-based wedding photographer but I am also a full-time educator with a background in both fine arts and branding. I teach courses every day on photography, design, and branding. I've written many articles on Fstoppers that focus on the important steps and aspects of designing a brand and developing a brand. I myself have applied many of these strategies to my fine art-centered wedding photography brand, but I wanted to step back and look at the less common things discussed when it comes to branding and marketing. As photographers, we are service providers who often meet our clients on their "turf" and spend hours — long hours — around these clients in high-stress situations. It's key that we continue to perpetuate our brand and market ourselves even when we are tired and stressed out.

So what are some of the things we can do to present ourselves better?

Gear

The gear we walk around with is a reflection on our perceived image. So invest in nice, anesthetically-pleasing gear: straps, bags, etc. Here's an example:

I’ve personally always used a double camera strap but it was about a year ago that I considered switching to the Money Maker Strap, but not because it functions better or is more comfortable than what I was previously using. My Black Rapid strap was and is amazing, functioning perfectly and is amazingly comfortable, so the decision was whether or not to drop 300 to 400 bucks simply for something that looked cooler and would be less comfortable.

Well, the decision was easy. Is it worth $300 so that every time I am out shooting and around clients and prospective clients I might leave a stronger impression, because I look sharper, cooler, and more professional? Yes, easily.

Not once did I receive a comment from a non-photographer on my previous gear, but even within the first few weeks of using the leather straps I had multiple comments on them at weddings and almost every wedding I shoot I catch someone starring at the straps and it turns into a conversation. The point is that how you present yourself matters, 100 percent. Maybe you're not a dual camera shooter or even a camera strap person at all, but you can still look to upgrade your camera bag. I personally have a Think Tank Roller, but I also own and love my Lowepro Flipside Backpack in bright orange (but I wouldn't rock that at weddings, purely because I want clients to perceive me a certain way).

Attire and Attitude

I don’t believe in the rule that photographers should dress in all black and try to not be seen. We are a walking marketing tool and a representation of our brand, so I believe that we should dress and present ourselves accordingly. This goes down to the clothing we wear, how well we are groomed, and how we interact with others.

Spend a little more than you would normally do so on the clothing you're going to wear on wedding day. I will just as easily wear my shoes past the point where the soles are flopping off, but when it's time to be in front of a crowd of potential clients (aka wedding guests) we need to think of what they are seeing. Think of what you wear on wedding day as a business expense, just like that expensive ad you purchased and the bridal shows you attend: it's that important.

How we speak to others and how we interact with people around us is also integral. Let’s say for instance you are out shooting a wedding, remember eyes are always on you and while it is of course important to interact with our bride and groom because they are our clients, it is also important how we interact with the guests and — believe it or not — how we interact with anyone we pass on the street or at the hotel. Opening the door for someone who isn’t a guest and whom you don’t know may get the attention of someone at the wedding and they may make a comment to someone about how professional and polite you are and that may in turn lead to a booking; maybe not directly but indirectly. And even if it doesn’t (which most of the time it won’t) lead to a booking, it goes down to constantly and consistently perpetuating our brands and our brand image (and just being a nice person). Trust me, I know it’s not always easy when things get hectic and you're stressed out and hungry, but it can go a long way.

Nutrition

Look good, feel good, do good. Being successful is an all around approach. Eating the right way, exercising, and decompressing are not just great for your mental state, creative energy, and sustained motivation. Living right will allow you to feel good and it may also allow you to look good. Having slick gear, dressing well, looking fit, and having the conditioning to stay at 100 percent on long days all play into your brand. Take every advantage you can to present yourself to the world and your clients in the highest light (no pun intended). Some may see you spending money on nice clothes, a flashy camera strap, a nice haircut, or a gym membership as vein but in reality you are investing into your most important marketing asset: yourself.

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18 Comments

I agree except for the equipment, I could careless if my equipment doesn't wow clients. Here is my list: I have a bottle opener, laptop, GPS, one carefully folded single napkin, Corel Photo Paint, three euros, 4 dollars and one pound. Also used is Adobe paraphernalia, passports, an expired gift certificate for one slice of cheese, two pairs of shoes, lens cleaner, Second Aid Kit, a camera bag secretly disguised as a truck and Canon cameras of various shapes.

Scott Free's picture

Thank you sir, this was gold.

Réjean Brandt's picture

You could care less, or couldn't care less? :P

I could careless, that leaves me an option. I like options, they are the menu of the soul.

Justin Haugen's picture

I wear a shirt&tie and moneymaker on a 100 degree wedding day because for a little misery, I can leave a good impression. Good points in this article. May not resonate with everyone, but that's okay.

Brendan Baker's picture

If you have to "wow" your clients by using specific gear (straps, cameras, bag) then you're missing the whole point. Your images should speak for themselves. The client could care less with what you shoot with.

Lance Nicoll's picture

Brendan I certainly understand that view point and certainly if you look great but your images are crap then your won't do well. But I can't tell you how many times I've had guests at wedding tell me how great of a photographer I am before they've seen any of my work simply because I've left a good impression and they are making an assumption. So maybe less about "wowing" your clients and leaving a rememberable impression on prospective clients. So much of branding is be memorable, easy and quick recall is essential at the design and ad level, that principle can be applied here as well.

Justin Haugen's picture

If your photos are the climax, your appearance is the foreplay.

Brandon Chau's picture

I wear my Yeezy's to let my clients know I'm informed of current trends

Sal Sued's picture

Lmfaoo

Rob Mynard's picture

So assless chaps would be a big no-no at a formal wedding yeah? I wish someone had told me that before I spent all my money...

Depends on the type of wedding, I guess.

Jason Ranalli's picture

I absolutely hate trendy looking gear but the truth is you're absolutely dead-on with this article...dead-on.

With photographers all over the place these days and talented ones at that one needs to realize the power of branding and how these minor(and sometimes silly things such as a flashy piece of gear) items can change a clients perception of your value in your favor. Of course your work has to stand on it's own as well...but that's assumed.

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

I agree 100%! Nice article! For a photographer, branding is everything. If you have the attention before even having been watched your portfolio - of course it must be good! -, people, when checking your work is already having a positive impression, so if they see your work, the starting state is already a half win. :-)

Jan Christian Zimara's picture

I completely agree with you!

Korbin Bielski's picture

I agree!

jon snow's picture

I agree about camera gear. I shoot mostly with my canon 100d mini dslr for clients and then pull out my old canon 1 ds mark 1 for a couple of shots. Most clients see a profi camera and think its the business but the end results should be the images.

The leather strap "proposal" is interesting, and I think it would have some value if you could leverage it in your marketing. Certainly, being able to connect yourself to a market with a simple to remember idiom is gold -- "who's your photographer? Cool, the leather strap guy!" But I don't think you can count on this taking hold organically -- a conscious effort must be made across your marketing platforms to reinforce it. If your website, logo, watermark, mailers, business cards all build on it, you might have differentiation gold. Otherwise, it's a strap that makes you feel better about what you are doing. Still valuable, but perhaps not maximized.