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?
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.
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.