This is a complete guide covering 10 steps to creating a successful photography brand and how to brand yourself as a photographer.
While this guide is tailored to photographers since I am a photographer, these concepts and core principles apply to any artist or creator.
What is a Brand?
As I mention in my Marketing Framework, people often use the term “brand” without understanding these two crucial components.
It is when both your corporate image and positioning work together that you can build a strong brand.
The two work together in unison to create, enhance, and protect your brand.
Your corporate image is the perception of your business/organization in the minds of your target audience.
Make note that it is the “perception” of your business and not the “reality.”
The difference is that we as marketers can influence the perception of our business through promotion strategies, pricing tactics, our distribution channels, etc.
Reality to marketers is what is in the mind of our target audience.
Positioning involves filling an unfilled need that your target has with your product.
The analogy I give is that it is like a lock and key.
Your target audience with the unfilled need is like the lock.
Your product image is like the key that will fulfill your audience’s unfilled needs.
In terms of photography, if you are a wedding photographer, your target audience is people getting married, and your product/service is your photography service.
In this case, the unfilled need is the people getting married needing photos and you are providing the photography service to fill their need.
Combining the Two
It is only when you have an understanding of corporate image and positioning, that you can brand yourself as a photographer successfully.
“Brand” is often a word that is thrown around a lot, so understanding and breaking them down into these two components can help create a successful strategy!
How do You Create a Photography Brand?
Here are the 10 branding strategies and ideas for photographers, artists, and other creators.
1. Create Your Mission Statement
What is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is the summary of the values, purpose, and aims of an individual, a company, or an organization.
For example, Google’s mission statement is to organize the world’s information and make it easily and universally accessible.
How to Create a Mission Statement?
In order to create your mission statement, as a photographer/artist, you have to first understand why you are in the photography business in the first place.
What was the reason you got started in your craft?
Once you have some form of an answer to this question, there are three main components of your mission statement:
- Make it clear what you do/what you offer
- Identify the target audience you are going after
- Focus on what makes you unique
For example, here is a mission statement a wedding photographer whose style is “dreamy” edits could have:
“Providing couples with a memorable wedding experience through dreamy photography edits and captures.”
In this example, we are making it clear that you offer photography services, your target audience is couples getting married, and you are mentioning what makes you unique which is the “dreamy” edits and captures aspect.
And just remember, if you don’t know your mission statement/what you stand for, then how would your target audience/ideal clients know?
2. Identify What Makes You Special
Identifying what makes you special ties into the first tip of creating a mission statement.
If you don’t know what makes you special as a photographer/artist, then no one will either.
It’s up to you to create and identify your “uniqueness.”
It’s okay to not know immediately, but it’s important to be constantly trying to identify what makes you special until one day you can confidently say “I am unique because of XYZ.”
Questions to ask yourself include:
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What makes my photography style different from other photographers?
- What makes my offerings and photoshoot experience different from other photographers?
3. Create Tools to Support Your Business Identity
The third tip is to create tools that support your business identity.
Such tools include your business name, logo, slogan, colors, font styles, editing style, jingles, etc.
All these tools should create one cohesive image of your business.
For example, if your wedding photography business name is “Dreamy Captures,” your logo should have a “dreamy” look to it and your editing style on Instagram should have a dreamy aesthetic.
Think about how you want to brand your business and ask yourself if your business identity is cohesive.
4. Identify Your Target Audience
The fourth tip is to identify your target audience.
The problem I see most beginner photographers/artists have is that they try to start too wide with their target audience — photographing all types of portraits and headshots, event photography, product photography, etc.
Now I’m not saying don’t be diverse with your photography portfolio, but going back to tip #2, hone in on what makes you special, then identify the target audience that best aligns with what makes you special.
It’s important to identify your target audience because you don’t want to be too niche and then end up backing yourself up into a corner because what you specialize in is so specific.
If you are in the early stages of branding yourself as a photographer and you are starting to identify your target audience and you find it’s not that large, then take it a step back further before you dive into it 100%.
If you don’t know where to begin to identify your target audience, then check out my guide on Identifying Your Target Audience.
5. Create and Train Your “Sales” Army
The fifth tip is to create and train your “sales” army.
What is meant by this is to let your family and friends know about your mission statement when they ask how your business is going.
If your business statement is concise by this point, you should be able to summarize what you do, what you offer, and what makes you special to them under 10 seconds.
Since it’s so concise, your family and friends will also remember what your mission statement is and they could spread positive word of mouth if someone asks them if they know a photographer.
Going back to the example of wedding photography in tip #1.
Let’s say you told your friend your mission statement and someone asks your friend if they know any wedding photographers.
Since you knew your mission statement and were able to tell it to your friend, they could respond by saying “yes I do, my friend photographs wedding experiences and has a beautiful dreamy photography edit.”
Just remember, everyone is a potential customer or referral source.
6. Connect on a Human Level
While the end goal of most businesses is to make a profit, it is important to also connect with customers on a human level.
You want customers to feel a part of the brand this way you can help them and they can help you.
Think of all the top brands and what they excel at — customer service.
Have you ever returned something you bought from Amazon? It’s a seamless experience with no hassle.
If your business can connect with people at a human level, it will stand out from the rest.
Develop your brand and business around the principles of passion and reliance and everyone will want to be a part of your brand.
And just like the tip above, you will grow your “sales” army, who will also act as referral sources.
7. Build a Beautiful & Optimized Website
Paul Rand once stated that “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”
An area where photographers and artists can flex their creative muscles is their website.
A beautifully designed and well-optimized website can put the finishing touches on your brand to bring it all together.
If you do not currently have a website or you have one but want to improve upon it, I highly recommend checking out my Creating a Website Guide.
8. Create Positive Publicity
The eighth tip is to create positive publicity.
It’s important to create positive publicity to let your target audience know that the business is doing well and to give more social proof to potential customers.
An example of this can be in the form of your photography business sharing an Instagram post or Instagram story of a successful wedding photoshoot.
When it comes to publishing a blog post and what to write about, I highly recommend checking out my Content Marketing Guide.
9. Build Trust
Building trust is crucial for any business brand.
When you lose trust, it is very hard to gain it back. Even if your business does manage to gain it back, your corporate image perception will have changed.
In order to build trust, be honest, provide good work, and remain professional at all times.
The trust your brand builds will lead to greater profits, a bigger “sales” army of referral advocates, and a stronger perception of your brand.
10. Keep it Simple
The last tip is to just keep it simple.
With so many guides and fake gurus out there telling you how to build your brand and business, it can be overwhelming.
After reading and studying up on concepts such as this guide you are reading right now, keep what is useful and subtract what is not.
Building a brand takes time, why do you think companies have a whole marketing department dedicated to creating, protecting, and enhancing their brand 24/7.
Remember to keep it simple in everything you do in order to build your brand. Whether it’s designing a website, writing captions for an Instagram post, or even creating tools to support your business image.
Follow the age-old adage — less is more.
How do You Protect Your Photography Brand?
Now that we’ve covered tips on how to build your photography brand, how do you go about protecting it?
1. Rumor Protection Strategy
The rumor protection strategy involves the process you go through when there is a rumor threatening your brand.
If there is a rumor against you or your brand (such as someone discrediting your expertise), it’s best that you:
- Don’t publicize the rumor
- Promote the opposite without publicizing the rumor
- Provide proof to support it
2. Trust Protection Strategy
The trust protection strategy involves the process you go through when a mistake is made.
When you or your company make a mistake, it’s best that you :
- Admit and apologize to establish trust
- Limit the scope of the mistake
- Propose a solution that is believable to resolve the mistake so it won’t reoccur
How do You Enhance Your Photography Brand?
Enhancing your brand involves promoting your successes to the masses.
This can be either in the form of blogs, social media posts, ads, press releases, or newsletters.
Promoting your successes, it will let your target audience know that you are doing well and act as a form of social proof for your own company/self.
Why is Having a Brand Important?
Having a strong brand can help you sell a service which results in more sales & profits. It can attract people to work for you, and it can attract people to work with you.
A strong brand equals a boost in sales and profit.
No brand equals no boost.
A bad brand requires you to dig yourself out of a hole.
This was an in-depth guide looking at how to build a brand that every photographer, artist, and creator needs to know in the digital age. We hope these tips helped you!
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate used to run his own professional photography business called Nate Joaquin Photography but has since focused on the marketing and business aspect of photography although he still enjoys taking photos. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.com.