In the photography industry the term “branding” is tossed around quite a bit. What is branding? And why is it important to us as photographers? A good place to start finding the answers to these questions is with the origin of the word “brand” itself.
The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse “brandr” meaning “to burn.” Many of us are familiar with branding as a way for cattle ranchers to differentiate between their own cattle and that of others by burning a brand into the hide of each animal. Of course the idea of branding has evolved and taken on new meaning in recent years. These days, your “brand” is something that can help you stand out from your competitors and communicate to your market who you are as a professional.
When creating a public image for your business you have to consider where people will encounter your brand. This includes on your website, social media pages, blog, logos (on business cards or other collateral), and other places. As you craft your personal brand there are a few important things to keep in mind. With photography being a visual media, it is all the more important to carefully and thoughtfully choose each element that will come together to make your brand as a photographer.
The first thing to consider is color. The colors you choose will speak volumes about your personality, your point of view, and your overall approach to your work as a photographer. Choosing the right palette to compliment your images without distracting from them can be tricky. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
With photography, the traditional and classic approach is to go with a palette of dark grey or black. The other major trend is to go in the opposite direction and use pure white with minor accent colors added. This is a tried and true approach and has been done successfully by a number of working photographers. To eliminate the guesswork, and be sure that you’re using colors that are complimentary, you can also use a theme designer. If you have a Zenfolio account the included theme designer is perfect for this. Alternatively, try Adobe’s theme designer called Kuler. The following examples show good uses of the Zenfolio theme designer.
If you choose to go the traditional route, consider adding a texture to the black, white, or grey elements of your brand. This added detail goes a long way to make your branding work using a modern approach to a classic look. The traditional approach works for many but there is no reason to be shy with color. If you carefully choose a color palette that makes your work pop, this can be the first way that you distinguish yourself and your brand. For example, if you photograph children and your work is fun, energetic, and playful this should be reflected in your branding as well.
Take photographer Debbie Virgin Shook of Squeak Dog Pet Photography as an example. Her work is charming and approachable and her personality and carefree attitude are reflected in the design of her website, logo, and overall brand. Using a dynamic and playful logo, paired with bright colors and smart design, Debbie has created an individual brand that is unique and compelling.
Logos and Design Elements
Designing a brand that reflects your work and who you are as a photographer does not have to be daunting. You might even want to consider seeking help from a professional designer—such as Shari Warren or Melissa Love— as creating logos and design elements can be challenging for those without a graphic design background. It is important to remember that your logo is one of the first elements that people see so it is paramount that it does not look amateurish or unrefined. A well-designed logo goes a long way.
When creating your logo, all areas of your business need to be considered. It is a good idea to create a series of logos that go together but can be used separately. The logo you place on your invoices may not work for the Home page of your website or your email marketing campaigns, etc. Try to cover all the bases while keeping the message the same.
If you decide to design your own logo and not use a graphic designer, we recommend that you reach out to people you trust for feedback. Once you have designed a number of options to choose from, ask for constructive criticism from other photographers and professionals that you trust. Getting additional opinions can be very helpful in steering your design efforts in the right direction.
In addition to your logos there are several other ways that you can communicate your unique brand. Many photographers use a symbol or element that they love or that represents their personality as part of their brand. Take the site of Tiree Dawson as an example. Using a feather as a design element, Tiree ties all her website pages together with this whimsical approach. The light and airy design reflects Tiree’s creative aesthetic and compliments her photos perfectly.
Once you have decided on your color palette, logo approach, and elements you want to utilize, make sure that you keep this consistent through your website and business practices. While your professional website speaks volumes on your brand and who you are as a photographer, this needs to be carried though on the other areas of your business as well. Invoices, emails, packaging, and all client deliverables need to reflect your brand. Making sure that your design choices carry through to all areas of your business communicates a professional and well-put together brand.
Although the process of creating a brand can seem like a lot of work, this can be a fun and fulfilling process. Creating your brand allows you to dig deep and think about who you are and what is important to you. These are the things you want your brand to communicate but you should never feel locked in. As time passes and your business evolves, consider updating your brand in kind.
Keep in mind that over time it is never a bad idea to consider a redesign. The major themes and design choices of your brand do not need to change but consider updating how you illustrate them to keep your website and your marketing materials fresh and up to date. Most photographers change the look and feel of their website, blog, and marketing materials every two to three years.
While we do not advocate copying the hard work of others, we do recommend that you keep your eye out for good design examples. Photographers are deeply creative and keeping up with the current trends in the industry is a good way to stay ahead of the curve. A great place to see current designs is the Zenfolio Examples page.
Also keep in mind that as you are designing or redesigning your brand to try and have fun with the process. Your brand reflects whom you are and gives you the opportunity to really think about what that means and how you want the world to view your work.
We would like to thank the following for allowing us to use examples from their websites and images in the making of this article: