4 Most Common Branding Mistakes Made by Professional Photographers with Justen Hong
Defining photographic style is the most important aspect of a photographer’s brand. It is more important than the logo and everything else. Here’s why. If I do a search for local wedding photographers, I will find a bunch of really good photographers who do not have a defined style. I could pull images from all their galleries and put them into one, and you would not be able to tell they were from a bunch of different photographers. If I’m a potential client looking for a photographer and I can’t tell the difference between your photography and someone else’s, your work becomes a commodity.
And when a consumer determines that two products are the same, the factor that decides who they select boils down to price. On the flip side, if during that same search I find a photographer who has a style that looks different from all the rest and I totally love it, that’s what I’ll choose. When consumers really want something, they’ll pay a premium price to get it.
Here are a couple examples from some photographers who write for this magazine. Without even looking at their work, I can define their styles. Salvatore Cincotta’s signature shots incorporate architecture or stunning scenery. His images are highly dramatic and artistic. Michael Anthony’s signature shots play with light in a magical way. What he does with lighting is mind-blowing. Vanessa Joy’s signature shots are feminine and airy, with soft pastels. How do you describe your imagery and brand?
A Hodgepodge of Marketing Materials
I review photographers’ brands all the time, and one of the most common mistakes I find is that their branding materials are all over the place: noncomplementary colors, different themes or templates, different fonts, a complete mess. One of the worst offenses is using multiple mismatched logos throughout a brand. You’re doing your brand a huge disservice by not having a consistent look and feel.
If you were to place all your branding and marketing materials on a floor and spread them out, there should be a uniform look to everything. So if your website doesn’t complement your business card and your packaging and deliverables do not work with your promotional pieces, your brand is disjointed. This dilutes your brand value, making it less memorable.
Their Branding Does Not Match Their Style
Another issue I see on a regular basis is branding that doesn’t match the style of the photographer or their work. An example that comes to mind is a boudoir and wedding photographer I recently saw whose work is top notch. His imagery has a romantic feel, but his logo is this really masculine, heavy, ultramodern monogram that looks like an aggressive sports logo. The watermark on his photos looks like an accident.
Not Properly Promoting Their Blog Post
This is more of a marketing issue, but a huge pet peeve of mine. If a photographer’s blog post showcasing a wedding has no likes or shares, what is going on? Are you trying to tell me the bride and groom didn’t like or share their own wedding photos?
Not properly promoting your blog post is hurting your brand, marketing efforts and search engine rankings. Promoting blog posts should be a part of your regular workflow.
Here is the best way to do it: Before you upload and share your clients’ photos on Facebook or another platform, do a blog post on your website. Showcase the best photos, spend a little time writing a couple paragraphs about the couple, the venues, other vendors, etc. Then promote that post via your social media accounts and share it with your couple. They in turn will share the post with their friends and family. The next thing you know, you are driving traffic to your site and getting tons of likes and shares, which will help with your SEO social signals.
Everything Your Client Sees Reflects on Your Brand
There was recently a discussion on the ShutterFest Facebook page about whether the type of car you drive affects your brand. Some argued that you need a luxury car, while others argued that it didn’t matter at all. The fact is, you don’t need to drive a luxury car unless you have a luxury brand. What’s most important is that your car matches your brand.
If you’re a rustic wedding photographer who shoots weddings in nature, driving something like a Jeep would totally match your brand. If you are a baby photographer with a fun brand, a VW Bug would complement it. If you’re a family photographer and a mother of five, a minivan would be appropriate. But to say it doesn’t matter is 100 percent wrong (unless your clients never see it). If you have a high-end luxury brand, charge $10,000 per wedding and roll up in a rusted-out Yugo to your first client meeting, your brand will be negatively impacted.
Everything your client comes in contact with affects their perception of your brand: the quality of paper you use, how you speak on the phone, the tone of your emails, how you present your work, your pricing. Everything. Even how you dress. Some of the top female photographers even have special outfits they wear with their brand colors.