It’s no secret that the photography industry is a crowded one. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to make yourself memorable.
I see so many photographers start businesses that take years to gain traction, if they ever do, and I know what that’s like because when I started my career, I was the same way: My work was good and I offered amazing customer service, but I just couldn’t get steady bookings.
As a brand and website designer, I now know that the problem was never my work, and it was never personal. It was psychology.
There are a few key factors which, if you focus on them, help quickly establish your business as a brand rather than a commodity to be chosen among many others based on price.
Why is it important to establish yourself as a brand? Because people remember brands, they trust brands, and most importantly, they buy from brands. Setting yourself up as a brand as early as possible is critical if you want to gain momentum in your business.
The good news is that anyone can do it. You can do this! You just need to focus on the right things, and that’s what I’m going to help you with today.
Here are the pieces that need to come together in order for prospects to start seeing you as a credible, distinctive, authoritative brand:
1. Your focus
First, you need to get really specific on who you serve and how. “Weddings and portraits” is not a focus – it’s a genre. Nirvana and The Beach Boys are both rock bands, but they don’t sound much alike, do they?
Your focus should be so specific that it will turn some people away and greatly appeal to others. Are you a destination elopement photographer? A luxury pet portrait photographer? A day-in-the-life family photographer?
If you’re brand new to starting a business, you might not have such a specific idea of who you want to serve yet, and that’s ok! But start thinking about it. And if you’ve been at this for a while, spend some time considering how you can sharpen your focus.
2. Your differentiators
Even within the same niche, there are always things that distinguish one brand from another. A destination wedding photographer can serve an upscale celebrity client base or an easygoing, young, bohemian one. And the choice of which one they serve will permeate everything from the packages they offer to their website copy.
Your differentiators can be anything from the locations you shoot at, to the way you pose clients, to the experience you give them, to the products you sell, to the philosophy behind the work you do. They will probably feel like a natural extension of who you already are as an artist and a person. Pinpointing what these differentiating factors are and how you can express them throughout your business just takes a little bit of time and intentional thought.
3. A consistent visual style
This is all about your photography itself: It needs to be consistent. This is not to say your work won’t continue evolving forever (because it will!), or that you can never try new things. I’m referring specifically to the portfolio your prospective clients see when they consider whether to hire you.
Your work should be consistent enough that you could make a mood board of your best images and it would be obvious that every photo was taken by the same person and processed the same way. Sometimes it helps to list the qualities you want your photos to have in common.
For instance, maybe you want your work to be all about epic landscapes, wind-blown hair, golden backlight, and dramatic tones. Or maybe you photograph families at home, and your work is full of energy, color, motion, and priceless facial expressions. You probably already have an idea of how you want your work to look. My best advice? Invest in some good presets and be consistent with your editing so that your style is obvious to visitors who may only spend a minute or two looking through your galleries.
4. A professional web presence
Your website is how your brand presents itself to the world. It must be polished and function perfectly to instill the sense of trust and credibility you’ll need in order to be seen as a brand.
For me, the answer to the website question is easy: Buy a good template! A really good website template is enough of an investment that it will set you apart from the competition immediately by making you look that much more professional, but for a much lower cost and time investment than a custom design would be.
I’m always so genuinely excited when photographers use my templates to up-level their brand, but even if you buy one somewhere else, this is still my best advice! Find a fantastic website template that looks professional and matches your brand’s style (or could easily be modified to) and launch your site ASAP. It’s such an easy, instant way to elevate your brand, and you only have to do it once. For me, this one is a no-brainer.
So in summary, there are a handful of key factors that can quickly help brand your business, even as a newer photographer: 1) Your focus, which is the specific who/what/why that sets you apart from others in your genre, 2) your differentiators, which are the unique qualities that make your work and services distinctive in a sea of other options, 3) a consistent visual style, which will help your work be instantly recognizable and memorable, and 4) a professional web presence, which immediately ups your credibility and elevates your brand.