Branching into Photography: Growing your photography business

December 1st, 2020
DLK Lexar Blog 010

From the first time you picked up a camera or got your first smartphone, you’ve been using your eyes to pay closer attention to the light around you. You’ve watched your photographs become more engaging. You’ve gotten compliments when sharing photography. You’ve had friends and family reach out when they need a photo taken. You’ve asked yourself questions like: How can I move my body for a better composition? How can I direct my subject to get just the right light? What’s the best way to share photos I’ve taken? How can I make people..notice? What do I need? 

You have a vision. I have felt your frustration, friend, and I’m here to help. 

A logo, a portfolio website, and a plan are a good starting point. 

Photography genuinely appeals to you, and you need reliable help navigating the murky waters of the digital photography industry.

You have everything you need to get started, and there are tools out there to help you grow. Your next step is understanding your core values to build an authentic, consistent vision for your brand, taking an inventory of the resources you have to support yourself, growing from that core source of integrity.

Four Growth Aspects of Photography 

No matter where you are in your life cycle, your experiences, your hopes, your inspirations, are all rings around your core. They’re evidence of your growth. Practically speaking, how can you manifest these values visually to develop your brand?

  • The Roots – The first step to establish your brand is picking the right name for your photography business
  • The Trunk– Consistent design supporting the core of your photography brand
  • The Branches – Reinforcing your brand and growing over time
  • The Leaves – Industry immersion of exposure and feedback [Anchor link to the topic]

Your passion is the seed. What does your seed need from here to keep growing into an established business? In a word: consistency. Like anything, your photography business needs time, care, and attention for it to grow. With regularity, and through  establishing the fundamentals of what your clients can expect from you and your work, your vision, and the brand created from it, will become memorable.

Aspect 1: The Roots – The first step to establish your brand is picking the right name for your photography business.

Naming yourself is important. It indicates how you truly see yourself as a whole, from seed to tree. At your core, are you a  portrait  studio? A boutique destination wedding photographer? A multimedia empire?  Do you want your business to attract businesses and corporate clients? Or do you want to establish yourself as a family photographer? 

Choosing a name that is unique to you, that speaks to your goals, that  can grow with you, is a crucial part of running a successful photography business.

TIPS: When choosing a name for your business, consider where you want to send current or future clients on the web for your photography website or web portfolio – what you want your website URL to be.

Pick a name that you can use for your website by searching to see if the domain is taken using a service like iwantmyname. Discovering that the custom domain is taken can be mortifying – much better to plan for this before you create marketing materials.

Loglines are a movie-industry term for a sentence or two that summarizes the major story of a film. Similar to a mission statement, tagline or slogan, “logline” is a useful concept because it is brief, comprehensive, and informative. A slogan might look more like, “Capturing moments to make memories.” – not necessarily specific to you and your vision. The logline isn’t necessarily for your audience; it’s  for you, so you can translate your core vision to every step of your creative process and the building of your business.

Aspect 2: The Trunk- Consistent design supporting the core of your photography brand

The key is making sure the style you portray in your branding is appropriate for your business goals. Trees require a strong trunk (core) to grow in a healthy way. The design and marketing necessities of your photography brand that  you use to advertise your services will either crystallize your vision or confuse your audience and prospective clientele. Aesthetics either resonate, or they don’t. 

Logo – a visual cue that communicates your business identity to your audience – including established and prospective clients.

You have the briefest moment to catch the eye, to focus your prospective audience’s attention on you. Some photographers utilize pictographic logos, with signs or symbols that can spark a conversation, tell a story, or set them apart from their peers. With this type of logo, it is important to consider that in most cases logos use uncomplicated color schemes and simplified objects. Others prefer a minimal aesthetic, with a text-only logo design that uses a compelling font. No matter what you choose, make sure your logo can grow with you and support your vision.

Visuals – Color palette, font choice, and their consistency with your visual style translate to reliability and professionalism.

Select a few specific colors that work well together and establish your color palette. This will take a lot of guesswork out, and help you prepare for each additional step to building your brand. Design consistency is communicated through text elements as well. It’s  important to consider font choice when establishing your branding. Have 2-3 fonts picked that you can use consistently, and that work well together. Here are some ideas you can use to get started as you start to design your brand style:

  • Mood board: Pinterest is great for this. Create a mood board of a variety of images that speak to your personal style. You may discover in the process that you gravitate toward specific patterns, elements, styles, or color schemes. This can also help you organize major themes or inspirations for your work. Be sure to document your mood board, and use it as a reference along the way.
  • Research: Find samples of branding templates that others have created. Often, you’ll find samples that contain crucial information – such as noting specific HTML codes of specific colors, so this can be a consistent element in your brand. Not just any blue – #4F5CB9. Taking a look at established branding materials can give you ideas about what you’ll need in your toolbox, from color palettes to how fonts work together.
  • Portfolio: Collect a handful of your best photos, images you can use to show off your skills and experience. This photographer portfolio – 10-15 images – can be a great starting point to help you determine a color palette for your branding materials so you can notice patterns in your own work. You can even use photo-editing tools to sample from the images to capture the HTML color codes. It will also help to give you ideas about what kinds of vocabulary you can use to market yourself depending on the kind of photography you want to focus on, and how to communicate your style through words for SEO purposes.
TIPS: When you are researching font choices, Google Fonts offers “Pairings” when you select a font you want to use – this is a great tool to see common complimentary fonts.

Canva allows even novice designers to create stellar, brand-specific designs and mood boards

Aspect 3: The Branches – Reinforcing your brand and growing over time

These branches of your business mutually reinforce each other by giving your audience the leverage they need to climb into your world. 

Even as a tree begins to grow, branches will grow off from the trunk of the tree – so let’s talk about some fundamental tools you can utilize in the growing process.

PORTFOLIO: Have a strategic selection of your best photos that cover the genres of photography in your focus

Before clients will be willing to spend their hard-earned money on your skills, they have to have a good idea of what they can expect from your time. If you’ve already started building a library of images you’ve created, go through your photos and select only the best, most relevant samples of your work. Choose 10-15 images overall and separate each portfolio by photography genre. Make sure your visual style is reflected in examples of work displayed to prospective clients. Look into options for offering online photo hosting that suit your brand and goals to share and sell photos online.

TECHNIQUE: Shoot as much as you can, train your eye, learn your craft, create consistent results

Shoot often, and with intention. This is how you can train your eye, give you samples of work to show off, get familiar with your equipment, and work on consistency. When clients see your branding and your images, they’ll know it’s you – and who they want to reach out to if they are in need of a great photographer who can deliver the results they’re looking for. Emphasize your strengths and bring them to your client’s experience.

PRESENCE: Market yourself intentionally in person, on social media, and with a photography website

All the effort you’ve put in to create your color palette, choose fonts, design a logo, and choose a name for yourself have a specific purpose: marketing. These are the basic tools you put into place to make it easy for you to create branded content to share in your marketing, elements you can translate to tangibles (business cards, swag), and the foundations you can utilize to create a portfolio website that reflects your style across platforms for your brand.

With these design elements in place, consider your marketing channels, like social media, digital advertising, or joining photography marketplaces like photobooker.com. Remember to create cross-platform consistency (the same logo used on Facebook, Instagram, and so on) so that your customers have a consistent brand experience across all touch points. On that note, don’t burn yourself out with social media blitzkrieg. Make posts and shared material strategic. Are you attracting clients by sharing a promotion? Make sure there’s a way to get in touch. Research tools to manage your social media presence: for example, with tools like Hootsuite, you can schedule posts ahead of time so you can manage your time wisely. Just don’t overextend yourself – or “overwater” your tree.

TIP: As part of your process, consider your ideal client. It’s important to know who you want to work with. Research their tastes, hobbies, etc. and ask yourself if your branding is well-suited to attract them. This will refine your approach to building your photo portfolio, which skills you need to work on to develop your craft to their taste, and market so they can connect with you.

Aspect 4: The Leaves – Industry immersion of exposure and feedback

Now that your seed is solidly planted in a fertile foundation you’ll need to grow some leaves to get the food you need. Let there be light! Get eyes on your work – especially unfamiliar ones. Get feedback from people you don’t know. How does this portfolio make you feel? Is my photography website easy to navigate? Here are a few more ways to get some light on the work you’ve done:

  • Research successful photographers for inspiration 
  • Look at the photography market in your area to determine good pricing to start
  • Work with a coach, branding expert
  • Find a photographer to mentor you/ give you feedback on your work

Remember that you’re not a tree that can please everyone. Pruning is a necessary part of your growth if you want to be a strong, stable, reliable creator. Parts of you will get distracted along the way – life goes that way, and losing dead limbs means more resources for the whole, living tree. Honor those parts you lose by affirming the strength of the whole. Focus on the audience you want and work toward them in all things. Stand tall in the face of feedback – especially the healthy, constructive kind. Good Luck!

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