How Branding Can Make or Break Your Photography Business

When you think of branding, you might think of the basics: a fantastic logo, a clever tagline, a carefully chosen color palette. But in reality, branding goes way beyond your marketing “stuff” — it’s the emotional connection you create with your clients, from the first time they stumble across your images to the day they walk away with their elegantly packaged keepsakes. And it’s far more important than you may realize. If you’re shooting circles around your competitors but still struggling to fill your schedule, your brand is likely to blame. Here’s why branding can make a big difference — for better or worse.

1. It shows dedication.

You’ve probably heard the following complaint ad nauseam: “These days, anyone can slap a watermark on their images and call themselves a photographer!” Consider that a reminder to examine your own brand and make sure nothing about it looks “slapped together.” Your brand should reflect that this is your profession for the long haul, not just some pipe dream you’re chasing this week. Strong branding shows you’ve invested time, money, and brainpower into your company, and clients can depend on you to deliver a high-end experience for years to come.

BRANDING BLUNDER: Having an identity crisis. If you talk about your sophisticated imagery, but your logo is a whimsical cartoon, potential clients might wonder if you’re still in the early stages of getting it all together. Make sure your brand reflects the amount of energy you’ve put into your business.

2. It makes you memorable.

Have you ever looked at a rock star photographer’s work and secretly wondered what the fuss is about? Here’s the thing: If your images are gorgeous but your brand is weak, you might never get noticed. But if your brand is unforgettable, it can elevate a solid portfolio to the next level. People will start to recognize your name as the one behind all those images they love, and they’ll start citing you as an “inspiration,” and your status will snowball. It doesn’t matter how saturated the market is if your brand is the one people remember.

BRANDING BLUNDER: Being a chameleon. Resist the urge to tweak your branding every time the trends shift — it’s hard to gain traction if you’re constantly in flux.

3. It gives them all the feels.

Are you a Canon or a Nikon? Mac or PC? Droid or iPhone? Starbucks or Dunkin? All of those companies are wildly successful and deliver a quality product, but branding is what makes us feel fiercely loyal, like we’re part of a team. Whether a brand instills trust, sparks nostalgia, or just makes you feel pampered, the emotion is more important than the logo, the price, or even the photos - because there are plenty of good photos out there. Make sure your images and your brand get clients excited to work with you.

BRANDING BLUNDER: Ignoring your audience. While it’s important for your brand to reflect your personality, it also needs to reflect your target audience. Say you’re obsessed with unicorns — your logo should obviously be a unicorn, right? Well, not if you specialize in sports photography, or upscale real estate photography, or something else decidedly non-magical. Make sure your branding finds a common ground between your unique personality and the type of clients you want to serve.

4. It’s un-copy-able.

A competitor can stalk your favorite locations, rip off your processing style, or replicate your posing. But they can’t recreate your vibe, because they’re not you. If your brand is strong, people will recognize you as the original — and they’ll be able to spot a cheap knock-off a mile away.

BRANDING BLUNDER: Being too generic. As an artist, you may want to “let the photos speak for themselves.” But as a business owner, you need a unique brand to speak for your business and set you apart. You may worry that an ornate logo or bold color palette will distract from your images, but don’t simplify it so much that it gets overlooked completely.

5. It permeates the whole experience.

Strong branding doesn’t end with your marketing materials. It should also come through in the way you write, the way you dress, the way you connect with clients, the way you network with vendors, and the way you deliver your final product. Every contact with clients is part of your brand. If you emailed Apple with a product issue, you wouldn’t receive a defensive reply or a text littered with typos. Write every email, text, blog post, and social media status like it’s part of your brand — because it is.

BRANDING BLUNDER: Cutting corners. If your branding feels unfinished, potential clients may wonder where else you’ll do the bare minimum.

Your brand is more than just a logo — it’s the way clients perceive your business, and the likelihood they’ll think of you first when it’s time to hire a photographer. A streamlined brand will help you gain a foothold in your market and earn loyal customers, so don’t let it be an afterthought.