Ben Lowy is an award-winning conflict and feature photographer based in New York City. He’s covered major stories worldwide, including the Iraq and Afghan wars. Hipstamatic also created the “Ben Lowy” lens after he used the app to document life in Afghanistan and was featured by The New York Times.
But alongside his award-winning photography is a distinct business brand that helps him reach more clients. So we got his advice on creating a real, lasting brand for your photo business.
Branding is a concept that can be elusive to many, but it’s a key element that touches every aspect of your business. A brand is more than your logo or the color scheme you choose for your website. Your brand is evident through your niche, your technical style, your website, the way you interact with your clients, and much more. The good news is that, as an artist, you already have a distinct style and point of view – which are essentially what make up your brand. You just need to consciously identify the characteristics of that style and make sure they are apparent throughout your marketing.
Here are three tips to help build your own photo brand:
1. Focus on a niche.
When you develop your brand, you develop the identity of your business. Are you a high-end fashion photographer known for your impeccable client service? Are you an edgy wedding photographer who shoots only alternative couples? “The more focused your specialty is, the more effectively you can communicate your product, services, and values – in essence, your brand – to potential clients,” Ben points out.
- To help better identify your target audience, ask yourself, who is your ideal client? Write down the characteristics that define your target audience including: age, demographics, socioeconomic status, and even common shared hobbies among that community.
- List out your clients’ needs and pain points one by one. Determine how your services will address those needs.
- Look at your website. Do the photos in your online portfolios show off strong work in a specific field, or are your images all over the map? Edit to show only the work you want your target client to see.
2. Dedicate time to social media.
With over 20,000 followers on Instagram and a Tumblr blog he updates daily, Ben realized very early on that as he grew a steady following, he would need to think about how to present his work. This meant he would have to think carefully about the tone of his posts, the photos he chose, the frequency he would share content, and more. Consistency in these areas can often help define and strengthen a brand.
When sharing his work through social media, Ben makes an important distinction between his social media followers and potential clients: “The interesting thing about social media is that many of your followers are not future clients or even in the industry, they’re just fans. This means the work you should feature should be interesting, not necessarily always a photo that is technically your best shot.”
- Get a hold of who your social media followers are. Each day, click on a handful of followers’ profiles to get a better sense of these folks—their interests, their careers, where they live, etc. Keep a log of any trends you notice. An understanding of your followers will guide your on which content will be most engaging.
- Update regularly. We recommend posting on Facebook at least once a day and tweeting at least twice a day. If you rarely post, you don’t give followers a reason to come back and interact with your work, which defeats the purpose of social media altogether.
- If you plan to share many photos, think about which platforms (i.e.: Facebook, Instagram, Google+) are best for photo sharing and will display nicely on iPhones and iPads.
- If you choose to be present on multiple social media platforms, aim to have the same username on each. We recommend using your full name. The consistency will help reinforce your brand across your online presence.
3. Your logo isn’t everything, but it does matter.
A well-designed logo is only part of your brand, but it can make an impact on potential clients. When visiting your website, it can be one of the first creative pieces someone sees. As the symbol of your brand, your logo will also touch all aspects of your business including your website, your Facebook page, your newsletter, your blog, and even your final invoice.
For example, Ben’s logo is bold and modern and creatively joins the first letters of his first and last name. The design combines grey and orange in a standard Helvetica font that appears consistently across different browsers. The logo is sleek and clean, which complements his mobile-friendly workflow and forward-thinking photo business. Ben told us that his logo, which his wife helped design, came as inspiration from one of his favorite comic book series characters, Tony Stark from Iron Man.
- Make a list of the brands whose logos you like and list out the characteristics that appeal to you and why. Since there is often a fine line between you, your business, and your personality, find styles and designs you gravitate toward and think through how you can reflect certain elements into your own branding.
- Brainstorm the concept of your logo. Ask yourself questions like: Does it represent your business? Does it stand out? Can it work in black and white or on different colored backgrounds? Does it look too much like other logos? Can it still work in five years?
- Decide the budget for your logo design. If you can’t hire a professional designer to do the job, is there a friend with basic design skills you can approach? Ask your social media networks if there’s anyone they can recommend.
Want more tips on everything from defining your target audience to SEO to managing your finances? Check out The 2014 Photo Business Plan Workbook.