Using Consistent Lighting to Brand Your Business with Vanessa Joy
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When I saw the topic for this month’s Shutter, I immediately started thinking of lighting techniques and skills like off-camera flash and using reflectors. I thought about what was most important in the lighting realm these days, and then it dawned on me: Nothing affects your ability to gain and maintain business like learning how to light in a way that defines your brand image.
Ten to 15 years ago, this didn’t matter. I wish I had access to famous photographers’ old websites, because I could show you just how differently photography was portrayed then. But more and more people aren’t even going to your website. They’re checking out your other portfolio: Instagram.
Instagram can be a photographer’s best friend or worst enemy. Thanks to this social platform, users can take a look at our most updated portfolio in a millisecond. We’re judged only by the last six pictures we posted, or, if we’re lucky, by one or two scrolls of the thumb. When potential clients are looking at our images that quickly, displayed on that tiny mobile screen, there’s one thing that will stick out in their minds: “Does this brand look put together?”
Make no mistake, photographers (and all businesses) on Instagram are viewed and evaluated as a whole, not by single images. Consumers are wise to what a good, cohesive, consistent, branded business looks like. They expect it, even if only subconsciously. In addition to looking at how many followers you have to determine if you’re a reputable business, they will look at your images as a collective.
Scared yet? You shouldn’t be. This is your strong suit. If you haven’t honed in on your photography brand image yet, now is the time to start. You have control over lighting like no other businessperson does. There are three easy ways you can start displaying a strong brand using lighting as your guide.
Finding and Creating Consistent Lighting
This is where it starts. Your effort here must be intentional and not haphazard, or you won’t see a good outcome.
I’ve decided that my images are to be bright, vibrant and soft. So, when I’m deciding where to photograph details, the bridal party or the bride and groom, I place them (and any other light that I’m using) fairly consistently in the same kinds of places. If I’m looking for a spot for the bride and groom, I’m looking for a background that is backlit, and I plan on filling in the light in their faces with a reflector or off-camera flash. If I have a more moody style in my imagery, I might look for a contrasting background with light coming more from the right or left.
This isn’t to stifle creativity. Not every picture you take must look exactly the same. Of course I take pictures that are more moody, while other photographers take pictures that are more bright and light. But the overall body of your work should be collectively parallel. Not only for social media branding, but so that you fulfill the expectations you’ve given your clients. After all, if you have nothing but dark and moody pictures on your website, but then half your pictures are light and airy, you probably will have clients wondering what happened to the photographer they thought they hired.
The next step to creating consistently lit photos is in the post-processing. As we know, there are limitless ways to edit, enhance and potentially destroy a photograph. This is where I see most photographers make mistakes. Just scroll down my Instagram feed, and you’ll see my all-over-the-place editing and posting (@vanessajoy).
Thankfully, post-production companies can take up the slack. When you send your work out to be edited by another company, one of their primary goals is to give you consistent editing. This teaches photographers the importance of editing consistency.
This is where decision-making has to take place, either with your editing company or on your own. As much as one photo might look killer, with a vintage edit on it, it just won’t work to have it sitting next to a vibrant, colorfully edited image. Make a decision about what you want your images to portray, and stick to it.
Again, this isn’t to put you into a box of any kind. You can change your editing and lighting style, but these kinds of changes should be done gradually, not daily or whenever the feeling arises.
Choosing Images for Display
The last aspect we’re going to talk about is choosing images for display, especially on Instagram. You may want to show off every photo you’ve taken at a wedding, but you need to carefully choose what you show and when. Here are four insta-branding rules to follow.
- Display only images that are cohesive with your brand image. Look at my Instagram on June 12 of this year. See how strange this photo of an older editing style, even though it’s a good photo, looks next to all of the brighter, more vibrant images around it?
- Do not post a ton of images from one wedding all in a row. This gets boring and doesn’t show that you know how to create consistent imagery over multiple weddings.
- If you want to change up your posting style, post in style blocks, like how I did during Father’s Day week this year, posting only black-and-whites for a little while.
- Choose how you’ll frame photos, and stick to it. I use the whole square box. Some people like putting a border around their images. Others post only vertical images, and others only horizontal. They are all good choices. Just pick one and stick to it so when people look at your profile, it doesn’t look like a jumbled mess.
Another smart move in the Instagram world is to set up your first six pictures perfectly if you have a marketing push coming. For example, if you know that you’re going to have an ad running, or anything that’ll drive traffic to your profile, make sure you’ve set up your profile spectacularly. Remember, most people won’t even give you a scroll—they see only the first six images you’ve posted. So, if you’re making an effort to push people to your Instafeed, make sure those first six pictures are amazing—individually and collectively.
Check out the video to see how I edit and choose my photos consistently and purposefully with branding in mind. Happy lighting!