When we hear the word “brand”, the McDonalds arches, Nike’s swoosh logo or the Coca Cola script immediately jump to mind. These ubiquitous brands convey such a consistent aesthetic and feeling through all their messaging that their brand value alone is worth billions of dollars — think of how many hamburgers or sneakers they need to sell to achieve that number!
Branding isn’t for the novice amateur, but it also isn’t in the sole realm of multi-national companies with deep pockets. The good news is that as a photographer, you’ve got a good start as you’re already conveying an artistic point of view and a style through your work. But, as you grow your business or want to attract a different type of client, it might make sense to bring in some help. A good designer can help you clearly define and elevate your brand to ultimately help you get more work.
We talked to Kate Harmer, Owner and Creative Director at Seattle based design studio Hum Creative, who specialize in creating and developing brands, about just that. Hum has worked with photographers such as We Are The Rhoads, Pamela Littky, and Brookelyn Photography to build strong branding through their promotional materials, overall identity, and self published magazines. In this interview with Kate, learn the importance of having a “thoughtful” brand-look, how to go about finding the perfect designer for your business, and the number one thing you must communicate to them before they get to work on your branding.
PhotoShelter: What exactly does “brand identity” mean for a freelance photographer?
Kate Harmer: A brand identity an important introduction to your creative and professional sensibilities. A successful brand identity establishes a recognizable aesthetic and suggests your unique artistic point of view. It represents the look and feel of your work, the visual world that your service lives within, and how you work with your clients.
How important is it for photographers to design a “brand look”?
A thoughtful brand look will help differentiate you in a competitive market. Digital media provides people with an abundance of options when looking for a photographer, so it is crucial that photographers express their aesthetic quickly, naturally, and intelligently. No matter what type of client you are working with, a professional and thoughtful brand builds trust, conveys a clear understanding of holistic thinking, and contributes to perceived value.
At what point in a photographer’s career should they work with a designer to help develop their brand’s aesthetic?
As soon as they have a strong understanding of what makes them special, what kind of work they want to create, and what kind of clients they want to work for. It helps to have a body of work that can support the brand, but a clear brand can also help you build that body of work.
What are the first steps Hum Creative takes when beginning the design process for a photographer’s brand?
We do our best work when we have a clear understanding of our client’s personal aesthetic, business goals, and target market. To develop a creative brief, we ask a photographer many of the same questions we would ask a large company – What do you know about your audience and what do they know about you? What are the challenges of your marketplace? What are the key messages your branding should express? How will you measure success?
How does the photographer’s own work inform the brand aesthetic/collateral?
In theory, a body of work already suggests the sensibilities that should be represented in a photographer’s branding. Often times, however, a photographer rebrands because their client base is not aligning with their preferred style. In these cases the branding and collateral may instead act as a guide toward a new overall style.
What’s the number one thing photographers must communicate to their designers in order to get the results they want?
In addition to providing a clear overview of your audience, goals and expectations, it is helpful to describe your preferred working relationship with a designer. Do you want to collaborate with, art-direct, or be surprised by your designer? This will help both you and your designer know if the relationship is a good fit, and will also help your designer present work that is best suited to your expectations.
What’s the best way for a photographer to find a designer they will work well with?
You should love a designer’s work, but it is also very important to trust their thinking. If you don’t like the look of a project in a designer’s portfolio, you should still be able to understand and appreciate the reasoning behind it. Consider the target audience and the messages being conveyed. Branding isn’t just about your personal aesthetic preferences – if you trust your designer to make recommendations specific to your audience, you will likely wind up with a brand that is better than you could have imagined.
Other than the photographer’s website, where can they place their brand’s identity?
A consistent brand voice should be present across every interaction you have with your clients. This includes everything from promotional materials such as postcards and magazines, to business cards, packaging, invoices, and thank you’s. Your brand should be present in non-graphic ways as well – consider your tone in emails and across all social media channels.
To get more tips on branding your photography business, download our guide 10 Branding Secrets for Photographers, here.