The Evolution of a Brand with Vanessa Joy
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When I got started photography, I had no idea there were different styles. I thought this picture was pretty and that picture wasn’t. In a way, that’s how consumers view photography. They don’t know the difference between good and great photography. They usually just know the difference between “good” and “bad,” what they like and what they don’t.
One aspect of photography that has come into play in recent years is much more prevalent to photographers than it used to be. In fact, it’s now a crucial element for all businesses, big and small. It’s the brand.
While most consumers don’t know the difference between good and great photography when looking at a single image, they now instinctively know it when looking at a collection of images. Thanks to social media outlets like Instagram and Pinterest, most consumers have been passively trained to appreciate a good, consistent brand image—and recognize a bad one.
What does that mean for photographers? It means we need to step it up a notch. I could talk to you about how to create consistent work across the board, as I did in the lighting edition of Shutter in August. But branding is much deeper than that. It’s about more than how the photography is presented.
Growing Your Brand With Your Photography Skill
Photography as an art form, and now also a digital platform, is continually evolving. With changing technology and photographers’ need to keep growing their skillset, it’s only natural that your brand move forward as well.
Your photography should keep getting better as you advance in this field. One thing I like saying to couples who come in and mention my work on a wedding from years ago is, “I’m so glad you like those images. I’m even better now!” They get a kick out of it, but it’s the truth—and it’s one of the reasons I charge quite a bit more than I did a few years ago.
As your images improve, your imagery and editing will become more intentional. When choosing what images to show in your portfolio (printed or online), showcase images that slowly show your growth. Avoid abrupt changes. If you’re learning off-camera flash, pop in a picture or two with it, but don’t let it become your entire body of work overnight.
This brings me to my next point.
Avoid Brand Confusion
Ten years ago, photographers didn’t have to worry about brand confusion like we do today. Consumers are better trained to see brands. Our brands are available at all times with a few clicks of a mouse or a couple taps on a phone. Brand confusion is subliminally recognized by most consumers, and something we want to avoid as business owners.
Brand confusion occurs when an out-of-norm product, post or experience happens. For example, if you’re a “light and airy” photographer and you post a heavily shadowed image on your Instagram, that goes against your brand norm. It also happens if you like to redesign your logo or website every six months. These things can cause brand confusion and ultimately lead to a lack of trust in your brand from prospective clients.
To avoid brand confusion, try these three steps:
- Decide on a consistent lighting and editing style, and only post images that are in line with that style.
- Make any public changes to your business slowly rather than abruptly.
- Keep your brand an extension of who you are to maintain a natural consistency.
Create an Attractive Personality
I was recently ridiculed for a Shutter video by someone who claimed that pretty people with good personalities go further in life because it’s easier for them. While the “pretty” part made me want to smack the commenter’s pretty little face with my pretty little hand, the second part of his statement is actually true.
If you’re a photographer, you deal with people. People hire you, give you money and then get in front of your camera, which is a vulnerable place to be. Having a personality that makes all of those things easier for your clients is a plus, and a part of your brand.
If you met a bubbly photographer who dressed in light colors and smiled a lot, what would you guess their imagery looked like? Dark and moody? Probably not.
Think of Steve Jobs. He lived and breathed the Apple brand. Apple, a sleek and chic company that embraced black, white and silver as its main colors, was complemented by Jobs, who wore black every single day. On the other hand, Google, a company that loves colors and changes its logo daily, is known for an innovative, creative work environment that can be a bit off-the-wall at times. (Hey, I’m all for nap spaces at work!)
The term attractive personality comes from the book DotCom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online, by Russell Brunson. He talks about identifying your personality strengths to use in business. The book has little to do with photography, but it’s worth a read for how he talks about finding and creating your personality. Your brand has every bit to do with your personality. It’s part of what makes you relatable to your clients. And here’s the best part: You can learn to create a personality.
The reason that guy’s YouTube comment irked me so much is because he was picking on me for something he thought I was just born with. I was homeschooled for nine years growing up, and didn’t learn social norms until way later in life. To this day, I’m not a natural social butterfly at all. I’d rather Netflix and chill any night of the week rather than go out and have forced conversations.
We aren’t born with a personality. We develop one. To do well in my field, I knew I had to come out of my shell and create a personality, so I did. Check out this video to see how I practice it in one of the weirdest of places.