It takes more than just having pretty pictures to make you a successful photographer. You could be the best photographer in the World, but if no one knows about you or sees your work, you’re nonexistent. In this second part of the Keys to Being a Successful Photographer, I’ll dive into your brand identity.
When you first start out shooting, you think everything is great! You want everyone and their moms to see it. You do small jobs and you hand over all the images to your clients. But by doing so you are not doing the clients any favor and you’re hurting yourself in the process. The client hired you for your artistic eye, use it to select only the best to share with the World. Be the gate-keeper of your work. Doing this early in your career will help you with your brand later on.
I’m not referring to photo retouching, I’m talking about making your image selects, finding the “hero” shots. After a photoshoot, I use Bridge (you can use Lightroom) to sort through the images. In my first initial run through I don’t look at the details, I’m focused more on the composition, color and mood. (1 star these) Don’t spend too much time on this process, if it pops out at you, star it, if it doesn’t, move onto the next image.
In the second round, I look at the details of the image like facial expressions, posture, clothes, etc. (2 star these) I spend a little more time on each image. Round three, I select similar images and compare them side by side. I three star the better one. In the final round, I look at all the three stared images. (Command click the 3 starred images to have them all appear in the preview window so you can compare them side by side) I four star the images that my eyes gravitate towards. Next I upload the 3 star and up images for the clients to review, I give them my 4 star recommendations, but if they prefer the 3 star images, I can live with it because I’ve already gotten rid of the fat.
When most people think of branding, they think of website, colors, fonts, but branding goes way beyond that. Branding is the holistic view of what your client perceives you as. It’s the way you portray yourself, the perception of what people view you. It’s how you represent yourself on-set. It’s what people classify you and associate you with. It’s the tone you set in your marketing. The tone you set with interactions with your client. Just like a well-known brand name versus a generic brand, people are willing to pay more for the well-known brand names because they associate better quality with it. Same can be said for photography. You have to create the illusion of success and exclusivity, and charge accordingly, whether it’s true or not.
Of course this only works if you have the product to back it up. You have to have talent. People can spot an imposter from a mile away.
Now that you have a collection of kick ass photographs (because you use the above step to weed out the crap), your next step in branding is your website. Ultimately this is probably where clients will initially come across your work for the first time. You have roughly 15 seconds to impress so make the most out of it. Here’s how:
Design your own website from scratch. I suggest that you don’t use a template, even though there are well-known photographers out there that uses templates such as view books. Like everything else in life, you want to stand out. Your photography is unique and so should your website. Don’t be a follower. You want them to remember you, so when your website is the same as everyone else’s it’s not going to help your brand.
Make sure your images load fast. The attention span of people these days are limited. Art directors and art buyers have busy schedules, consider yourself lucky if they take the time to visit your site. Don’t make them wait. If your images can’t impress them within 15 seconds they won’t bother digging deeper into your site. Your website navigation needs to be intuitive, easy to move around. Your images need to be big so potential clients can see all the details, anything can look good thumbnail size. Whatever you do, please, please do not add music to your website. Finally, make sure you have a mobile site for iPhones, Androids, and iPads. Update your images regularly.
Start a Blog
Create a blog that’s in lined with your brand identity. The blog creates another extension of yourself, it shows potential clients your personality. Don’t just blog about yourself, reach out to the community and write about what’s relevant, along with other photographer’s projects that you think deserves attention. Be transparent with your blog, meaning admit to your downfalls and what you can do to improve. Put everything out in the open, the less secrets you have, the more people will appreciate you.
Create a social media presence that’s in lined with your band identity. Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter and Google +, make sure the content for each one is slightly different. Nothing is more annoying than connecting all three to have the same content. If someone is following you on all three, they don’t want to see the same update.
Pay it Forward
Take a newbie under your wing. Teaching is a good way to give back to the community and it may help you learn things that you didn’t already know. By taking in interns, you’re helping them advance their careers, thus creating a blanket of photographers who look up to you and will spread support of your work.
When you’re not shooting for clients, make sure you take that time and shoot personal projects. Push the limits, try something new, these projects have no limitations, it’s what you want it to be. Most of the time, my personal projects are what draws in potential clients.
I hope that you found this post helpful. Feel free to leave feedback. Stay tune for Part III.