As I mentioned in the previous branding post, you want to first gain an understanding of what it means to brand a business and why this is so important. It’s about the client experience, the relationship formed while working with you, and how they feel in working with you as both a photographer and person. One of the important pieces of branding is booking the RIGHT clients for you – and branding should highlight and draw in the clients that should be the perfect fit. That’s why the branding process should be well thought out, planned, and done graphically well. To be honest, I think just as positive and awesome branding can be for a business, I think branding done poorly or *wrong* can also really hurt a business. Sending mixed signals or having three different logos can really be confusing to clients. Be consistent in all things branding – the logo, website, blog, packaging, studio, etc. Everything should flow and send a consistent message both seen and felt. Depending on where you are in branding your business, I included steps below that might help in sending consistent messages in both imagery and overall branding a website/blog/logo. As I mentioned in the first post, there are so many awesome resources out there to explore! Here are a few ideas that REALLY helped me from the very beginning:
1. Get a “branding” notebook, jot down ideas/free thoughts/paragraphs/words. I used to jot them down on various pieces of paper or even a note document in my phone. Although it’s good when the thoughts come to you, make sure you transfer these over to your designated “branding notebook” It helps to have everything in one place!
2. Look through your sources of inspiration. Be it pinterest, magazines, or blogs of other photographers. Spend an hour saving images to your desktop, pinning on pinterest, or in a pile (magazine) that REALLY speak to you or stand out. Don’t think too much about it! You shouldn’t have to really reflect on an image, it should strike you right away. After the hour, look at ALL the images – is there a theme that is present? Now look at some of the individual pictures that REALLY spoke to you, write down what it is about the image that stood out. Is it the bokeh? The toning? Are the subjects filling the frame or far away? Is it strong emotional content or more editorial? Are most black and white or color? This should almost be free flowing thought as well, jot these notes down and continue to look for themes in what stands out. If these elements are missing from your own work (and they are what you would like to start shooting), than start practicing! Ask questions, google for answers, look for classes or mentors to help you achieve the style that is in your heart. THIS will really help in branding as this also speaks to the type of photography and client that will want to book you. If your all over the board you might be sending the wrong message. Lets say you want to be more editorial but all of your work so far as been photojournalistic (or vice versa) – start shooting more for the style you want to achieve. I’m sure Jose Villa and Elizabeth Messina didn’t just pick up a film camera and unicorns and magic shot out the first roll they shot/developed. This profession (like any), takes practice practice practice! I think one of the most magical things about photography is that three photographers could be at the same wedding and all get different/drastic results. Just another reason why branding both work and “storefront” is so important
3. Look at your current portfolio and jot down the first five words that come to mind while viewing them. Ask friends and past clients to take a look at your website/blog (your portfolio), and do the same. There SHOULD be a theme (or the same words!) that line up. These can be key words used in the overall branding of your logo, website, etc
4. Start a pinterest “Business/Branding Board” – start pinning images that stand out. Be it packaging, decor, website ideas (organization of website), fonts, colors, ect. Think of it as your opening a real life store (which to photographers, it’s an office or studio). Since you are going to want to brand your storefront similar to your online presence, start pinning using the same mindset. Based on the exercises above, there should have been words that arose in the branding theme. Search google images or pinterest for some of those things. If you love outdoor/barn weddings, google/search for terms that have to do with those things. I think at one point I typed in “lovely fonts”, “lovely outdoor branding”, “eco pretty office”, etc. You would be surprised what popped up! When something stood out, I would pin it! Just like the exercise above, don’t think too much when it comes to pinning. When something stands out I pin it and then go back after some time and look for themes and connections. I jotted these ideas/themes down.
5. If you have a “home” pinterest board, sometimes this will really help with branding as well. Since branding so personal, many people decorate or at least have “dreams to decorate” very much how they would brand their businesses. Since branding should be so much part of us as PEOPLE (not just photographers), I sent my graphic designer my home board as well as my business board. When I look through my “home” board it screams out to me very much the way I want my brand to feel.
6. My graphic designer probably thought I was crazy, but I also sent her music. Since branding is closely tied to “the way a person feels” when looking at your work or walking into your storefront (be it online or in person), when I listened to specific songs it was exactly the way I wanted people to feel when looking at my work and website. If I had the ability to sing (and oh my goodness I don’t), I would sing all the time. I spend 90% of my day listening to music or at least having it on in the background (it’s gotten to the point that silence makes me uncomfortable! ha!) I love the way music and lyrics has such a beautiful ability to match or change a mood. Music and lyrics speaks to my heart and soul, and I wanted my website and branding to do the same, so along a big branding e-mail, I sent my graphic designer music.
7. I also created a document so that my graphic designer could get to know me on a super personal basis. I wanted to share my quirks, my dreams, my fears, and all the little silly things that make me Alicia White! I want my branding to super reflect who I am in hopes that it will attract clients who get along so fantastically well it was “meant to be!” As I was creating the list I literally thought “she is going to think Im CRAZY for sending this”, but I’m glad I did. It made me feel better about the process as it’s information she wouldn’t know unless she spent a lot of time with me. And although I think that would ROCK (and we’d have SO MUCH FUN!), she sadly lives in Portland, Oregon. So just as important it is to look at themes of your work and branding, it’s equally important to focus in on WHO YOU ARE and what makes you DIFFERENT and UNIQUE!! This is SUCH an important part of branding. I’m not one to throw a thousand pictures of myself all over my website, but it’s really important to have a strong online presence and let couples/clients/the world see who you are on a personal level. So much of branding is relating on a personal (emotional) level, so don’t forget that part.
Ravyn and I really collaborated ideas back and forth when it came to a logo. The process wasn’t one that happened overnight, but it was a collaborative effort. It really helps to give your graphic designer actual font/layout ideas as well – it’s easy to brand pretty images of packaging and colors, but fonts and layout are equally as important. It’s insane to me how fonts can change the FEELING of something so incredibly much. Remember to really thank your graphic designer as well – it’s HARD work. I am so thankful for Ravyn for putting up with my word documents and e-mails after each round. I knew in my heart that when the logo was RIGHT, I would just know it. As we got closer to the final round I became more excited and I knew we were headed in the right direction. More on the logo process later, but I wanted to launch/share the NEW logo! YAYYY!!
It feels SO me – and I love the different variations of the logo that Ravyn created for me to use in my branding/packaging as well. It’s so personal as she completely hand drew the floral element and customized the font/lettering until I felt like it was 100% me!!! I couldn’t be any happier and I feel so EXCITED to have a logo that is SOOOO my brand!
Also, the *WINNER* of the Starbucks Card is: Emily Dowzak