Shifting Focus: Is It Time To Quit Photography?
By Kyle Wilson
Building a brand identity as a photographer isn’t just a marketing strategy; it is a means of defining your services and specialties, the audience you serve, and what is important to you, in a way that makes a lasting impression on potential clients. It’s the path to being booked full-time with shoots that align with your unique style.
Let’s look at how you can build a brand identity for your photography business to connect with clients you want to work with.
Defining your goals is the first step to building your brand identity as a photographer. Are you trying to make a living from photography and pay the bills? Or is your primary purpose creating art and pursuing your creative vision?
If reliable income is your aim, look to what’s trending. Following trends might lack originality, but it will be a simpler path to paying the bills because it’s what people are demanding. Look to successful photographers you admire and see what you can learn from them. Study their branding, website design, portfolios, and marketing materials as inspiration you can emulate. Find out who they use for logo design and brand assets. Replicate their proven successful strategies as you establish yourself.
While you look to photographers you admire as a template to build upon, don't let someone else's work be the sum of your content. You'll want to differentiate yourself, but examining brands you admire can give you a place to start from (and earn cash) while you define your own visual identity and style. Analyze what worked for others and consider how you could adopt similar strategies while being unique.
On the other hand, if self-expression and creating meaningful art is your purpose, you'll need to follow your inner voice and zig where others zag. Pursue your unique perspective and develop an authentic style true to your ideals.
This carries the risk and uncertainty of whether your work will resonate with an audience. Will anyone pay for it so you can earn a living? It’s worth your while to pay attention to trends and educate yourself on what styles and techniques resonate in the current market. Finding the balance between expressing your artistic self while understanding commercial viability will help you create work that sells while experimenting with your own vision.
It’s about staying true to your creative spirit while keeping an open mind to market realities. Achieving both artistic fulfillment and business success is possible.
As you build your brand, putting your interests and values front and center will help you connect with clients who will trust you because they love your work.
Consider what drew you to photography in the first place - was it the creativity, the storytelling, the connection with people? Highlight your motivations through both your portfolio images and your written brand messaging. If you're passionate about the environment, highlight your eco-conscious brand values. If you love romance, convey why you love it.
Your brand messaging should also communicate what you value in your business - things like creative fulfillment, positive client relationships, work/life balance, or community impact. Be transparent about what's important so you attract like-minded clients.
By voicing who you are as a photographer, your distinct passions and principles will shine through in your brand identity. You'll attract clients who appreciate both your photographic vision and what your brand stands for.
Carefully review your portfolio and be selective about the photos you include. Showcase the work that aligns with your vision of your brand identity. Ask yourself:
“Curate your existing body of work to determine what you want your future body of work to look like.”
Curating your portfolio involves being honest about what you feel best about and want to continue creating. It also means archiving or removing any photos that don't fit the look you want associated with your brand. This process helps reinforce your brand identity. For example, if you hate shooting boring tablescapes and place settings at weddings, don't show those images in your portfolio. You can guide clients to understand your unique style without showing every possible photo.
By being selective and framing expectations, you ensure that your work consistently reflects your skills, style and artistic brand identity. Don't feel pressure to be everything to everyone. Focus on developing a cohesive portfolio showcasing your best work in your area of specialty. Your brand identity will be obvious and the right clients will then seek you out for the projects you love to shoot.
As a photographer, you may not have the skills or time to create all aspects of your brand yourself. That's where outsourcing can help. Don't be afraid to get assistance with other elements of your photography business like your logo design and website (find tips on what you should and should not outsource here). There are experts out there who can ensure your brand is clearly represented and communicates who you are to your potential clients. Rather than settling for cookie-cutter DIY solutions, get something distinctive and memorable.
Take the time to research different providers, ask for examples of their work, and clearly communicate your brand direction. Make sure you see other logos and designs they've done that fit the style you're after. Work with them to incorporate your preferences and achieve the visual identity you want.
Let’s address the elephant in the room - money. You finally find the right person you are confident will work best for you, but you don’t have the cash to put up right now. You’ve put all the thought and planning in, so a pro tip at this stage is to work on the parts of your style and brand you can change now to start shaping your brand - while saving up for your big brand debut.
Not every shoot is going to be to your brand’s specifications. But as you work on establishing your brand, hopefully year on year you will book more shoots that align with your brand, and eventually you’ll be booked out with jobs you love.
To wrap up, when building your brand identity as a photographer:
By working through these steps, you can build an authentic photography brand that attracts meaningful work and client relationships. With clear goals and self-knowledge to guide you, you can craft a distinctive brand identity that serves you well into the future.