Doing Business Your Way—3 branding tips for photographers

3 branding tips for photographers

Doing Business Your Way

(Disclaimer, this is mostly for other photographers/creatives)

Hey there, if you’ve read anything we or I (Luke) have ever wrote, you know you’re about to embark on an incredible journey. We’re going to talk about business and the way we do things. We’re going to teach you about doing business your way. What does that even mean? Doing business your own way? You’ll probably hear from your one great uncle who’s been in corporate America for the past 250 years that business is and always will be a formal and “professional” transaction.
What. A. Load. Of. Hot. Garbage.

Guys, we’re not only apart of corporate America, (working at Progressive Insurance as graphic designers), but we run our own business that is freaking awesome and 100% us. In this blog, I’m going to talk about all the amazing things you can do when you’re doing business your own way. So, throw out all the preconceived notions you’ve heard about doing business, and let me teach you the ways (or more so, how we found our way) of Agape.

Tips for photographers # 1 | Brand voice

Tips for Photographers | Your logo/identity
Okay, you probably knew this was going to be one of the first topics I talk about here. As one of my first big tips for photographers, in my professional opinion, your logo/identity is one of the most important aspects of your business. It’s the first thing that people see when they go to your website. It’s a very memorable part of your business. Now, think of the major brands in the industry today. Could you imagine Nike without their swoosh? Or Apple without the … apple? Pepsi without … hahaha we all know Pepsi has and will always have an identity crisis. Like dudes, just pick a freaking logo and stick with it, we all know Coke did an amazing job and made a timeless logo, ya’ll just jealous.

But in all seriousness, your logo is super important. Your logo should have a meaning, a story, a reason why you created it. Looking at the huge general population of photographers’ logos in your area, you’ll notice a trend throughout all of them, which is not not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely tends to blend them all together. In this day and age, they’ll tend to have a very popular script font, a camera icon, or the classic, the one and only, camera shutter.

I say this not to make fun these photographers in any way, shape, or form, but to bring you to the realization that not every photography or creative logo needs to be that literal. But a lot of professional photographers fall into this logo trap, and though not intended, end up looking exactly like one another. We’ve been in the design industry for about 8 years now and it took us FOUR years in our photography business to even find our logo/identity.

One thing you need to ask yourself is this: does my logo reflect what my business is about? When Mikayla and I started off, we went super literal. Here was our logo at the time:

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I mean, it’s not that bad. But, one, it limits us just to the Ohio area, and two, it doesn’t really have much personality, and three, it’s just meh. After about a year or two of shooting and getting clients that really didn’t reflect who we were, we commissioned an amazing artist, Ryn Frank. We told her exactly what kind of vibe we wanted and she blew us away. Check it out here:

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At the time, this really reflected who Mikayla and I were … or so we thought. This was the point in time where everyone wanted travel photography gigs—it was super cool to hike to the top of every mountain, or travel to the farthest desert and camp for 40 straight weeks. But we learned pretty quickly, that traveling and working for weeks on end or camping in terrible conditions has never ever been one of our goals and life, and to be completely honest with ourselves, we’re freaking bouji. We were getting clients that loved that vibe and for us, it didn’t really vibe haha. I mean, don’t get us wrong, we love the outdoors (especially hiking), seeing new places, and traveling, but that’s not who we really are or what we wanted our work to be.

Then came the realization during a workshop from our friends, Ben and Ashley, where we figured out that we weren’t really projecting who we were as business owners and how our clients perceived us. In a way, we were lying to our customers about who are and what we offer (without realizing it, obviously). But something deep down never clicked or set our creativity on fire. I mean, we made some incredible friends, shot with amazing couples, and pushed ourselves as creatives, but it all felt like it wasn’t real. Add this to the list for good tips for photographers, attend a reputable workshop that has emphasis on one-on-ones, you won’t regret it, you’ll never know what you’ll get out of one.

But, we did it again. The classic logo redesign. We commissioned an artist that we’ve been following for a LONG time on instagram named Joshua Noom. Prepping for this, we tried to break down the things we really loved and what spoke to us creatively. We told him that we wanted something that’s freaking metal, has cats, motorcycles and skulls. And boy did he deliver:

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Like I said before, Mikayla and I work for Progressive. I have a good friend that works there, and he had said that it was a stupid move to change our identity because of the success we were having with the old. That was very conflicting, because he was right. We were making great income, still having amazing couples, but a lot of the couples weren’t necessarily our “target audience.” Mikayla and I are super chill, super laid back people who love metal, cats, the office, motorcycles, etc. Nowhere in there does it say we love to camp and travel the farthest places; Mikayla hates being confined in the car for more than an hour haha.

So naturally, I didn’t listen to him and it’s been the freaking greatest (he’s still great though). We’ve had so many amazing clients and opportunities that have come from this rebrand. When I say rebrand, it’s in reference to everything from how we talk to clients, how we shoot, our voice, etc. We changed from this authentic, raw, adventure couple, to this let’s hang out, eat fantastic food, and watch The Office couple. From the get-go, our clients know that we aren’t normal business owners. We’re gonna hang out, play board games, make you something from our garden, etc., etc. (COVID kind of threw a wrench in a lot of those plans, but there are brighter days ahead).

But the feedback we’ve received from our logo has been amazing. People see the lion and the skulls and think it’s awesome and different. It’s nothing you would ever see when researching a wedding photographer. The goal/objective of your logo/identity is to be memorable. Okay, I think I touched on this a little too long, but it’s crucial, hire a professional designer guys. #deathtofiver

 

Tips for Photographers | Website Content
The next big step after creating your identity, is creating your voice. People need to know what you’re about, and quickly. This is some of the first content on our website:

“You’ve found the Jim to your Pam, the scarecrow to your Mose, the ranch to your, well, everything. And now you’re here and probably thinking “what next?!”. That’s where we come in—your new, weird, kinda funky BFFs. We’re here to remind you to take it all in, be flies on the wall, all while freezing some of your best memories in time.”

We establish that we’re relatable with pop culture, sarcastic, and want to become your friends. We turn It around and focus on you, relate it back to photography and voila! You have a realistic first impression of Mikayla and I and what we’re going to offer. We want our first impression to be inviting and casual. If you’re looking for a vendor, you’re in the wrong place. We loathe being called a vendor. By the time the wedding or event happens, we should be friends and our goal is for our couples to consider us friends/companions/confidants/sidekicks.

Your website content should reflect what your business is all about. If you’re going in the direction of Mikayla and I’s business, then you should be yourself. If you’re loud, giddy and excited all the time, then the tone of your website should be exactly that. Call people babes, talk about how romantic things are going to be, use words that really express what you’re like as a person, not what tracks as “cool” or “in” within the photo community.

Mikayla and I designed a whole new brand for a client and her whole brand experience is raunchy and crazy. Her logo is her in a trashy trailer park, in a bathtub, with a desert neon sign right above that has a flashing butts sign. Her copy on her website is full of cuss words, butts, middle fingers, etc. Her photography style reflects all of that and her clients all have that I don’t care vibe as well. Her old brand had that cursive font identity and a lovey dovey feel, and I tell you what, that was really confusing for us (having met her BEFORE we saw her then branding), and I bet it was especially for her clients.

Website content and your voice is huge for first impressions, and showing clients what their experience will be like.

 

Tips for Photographers | Social presence
In this day and age, social media is everything. Our whole lives are on the internet and through social media. Though I wish that social media was banished, destroyed, and never existed because it’s a toxic wasteland of time wasting and arguing, it can sometimes be a wonderful place where we can share updates on our lives and promote our business. This is where people get to see the real side of your business; the human aspect.

It’s funny, guys. Working in the insurance industry gives us a whole new perspective. They push all the time to try to be in the customers’ shoes. Think—how else can you sell insurance without sounding like a sleazy mobster dude trying to sell to Michael Scott? People like to see the “real” side to a business. They want to know WHO … WHOM? they’re doing business with. It’s a little misleading if you’re talking in the third person on your website when you’re the only person running the business. Oops, shots fired.

It’s extremely weird, but people genuinely want to get to know you and see what you’re up to. We looked at our top posts from 2019 and it was extremely weird. We thought it was going to be from our epic shoots we did in 2019, but nope. All our top posts were pictures of ourselves. People really do engage the most when you are representing your business. People like to see the people behind the camera, or computer, or business in general. It’s relatable, it shows that you’re human and not just a logo on the screen.

So ask people questions, engage, talk about your life. Give updates on the house projects, what you’re eating. But most importantly, engage with your followers and have conversations. Be what your business represents. Guys, we really didn’t know how much of an impact our garden/house projects had. We had a person at a recent wedding that’s been following us for a long time and knows almost every inch of our lives because she loves watching the content we put out. It was a weird/cool moment and here I thought I was just videoing myself for funzies. But, think, that person has been watching for a while now, but if any of their friends ask about a photographer, we know that we’re the first to pop up in their heads. Because garden content guys, gardens. Also, we get to make so many more friends than we would normally have the opportunity to, and that’s just a freaking awesome plus.

So moral of the story. Make relatable, engaging content that people can talk to you in person about.

 

Tips for photographers # 2 | Client Experience

Tips for Photographers | How you talk/interact with your clients
Here’s the end to this very long novel of a section. I can tell you about a personal experience that just happened to Mikayla and I and a company.

Let me set the scene. It’s late. It’s like, 11pm and there’s nothing to eat in the house, you got the munchies, you’re hungry, and you’re about to make some bad decisions with food. But wait, there is hope in the distance, a light, oh my goodness, it’s Annies White Cheddar Macaroni. You both look at each other, it’s mutual, it’s love at first sight. You get that water boiling which takes like 10 minutes, but it’s worth it. You go to pour that sweet sweet macaroni into that pot to realize, THERE’S NO CHEESE PACKET. We had to settle with making our own cheese concoction.

I can’t tell you how disappointed we were in ourselves. It was the most awful macaroni experience we’ve ever had. So naturally I write a strongly worded letter, full of funny puns, telling them basically the story I just told you above but with so much fun thrown into it. They respond with the most professional sounding email that it made me want to vomit. I’m like, guys, I clearly was poking fun and was hoping for a little banter and you decided to just send us free macaroni. Disappointed. If I forgot to add a cheese packet and someone complained the way I did, I would of course apologize, but I would also roast them a bit, I mean, I was clearly asking for it. But that’s corporate America people.

From the get go, our website is sarcasm and fun. When we talk to our clients, I am constantly making fun of them (out of love, but also I just love poking fun at everyone). On the day the event, if I haven’t roasted you or called you ugly, or asked you to do dudoir, something is wrong. I warn every couple before they even book with us, that they will be made fun of, and they know exactly what they’re getting into. I obviously play the room, but that’s how I make friends for life, I’m VERY easy to make fun of and am usually the butt of the joke. So maybe me making fun of everyone is a defense mechanism? Anyways, I digress.

I mean, imagine if my brand was more on the bubbly exciting side and I show up to talk to them and I’m shy and quiet? Or to be even more relatable, what if my brand is all about hiking and going to every mountain in America to find out that I’d rather stay in a hotel in my underwear watching The Office. So whatever tone you set on your website, match it with the way you talk with your clients.

 

Tips for Photographers | Is your experience streamlined? 
Have you heard of The Knot? WeddingWire? Junebug? You don’t? Do you live under a rock? If you do, there’s a reason why you do know. It’s a one-stop shop for people to find all their vendors and keep everything organized. Out of all my tips for photographers, please beware of these companies because all they want is your money. But, people crave to have the best/easiest experience when working with someone or a business. User experience is EVERYTHING. I can’t express this enough, one more time. USER EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING. We live in an age where if one thing on your website isn’t working, or doesn’t flow right, you just lost a client (also, stop kidding yourself that you understand SEO, analytics, and algorithms, especially Google’s, and get yourself a bomb SEO guy like our guy, Dave, ask us for his contact info).

When we first started our business back in 2014ish we had everything on paper. We of course emailed and had a website, but all of our “business stuff” was done on paper. We printed out all our contracts, timelines, questionnaires etc. It was a hot mess. Not only was it a hot mess for us, we scanned all the documents in and then emailed it to all our clients, so they didn’t even have a good customer experience because they have a badly scanned document that was a bit sketchy haha.

Today, we use Honeybook. It’s a one-stop shop for us as business owners and for our clients. In Honeybook, we have our contracts, invoices, timelines, and project updates that all our clients can use and look back on whenever they want. It’s all digital, it’s all in one place, and it’s so stupid simple. The only thing we really need to manage, is our emails. With today and social media, there can be so many different ways that we can communicate, but that means, there are so many ways we can forget to write back. So if you can, find one or two main ways that you communicate with clients. It could be texting, facebook, instagram, email, but find one or two so you can easily manage the amount of communication with multiple clients.

 

Tips for Photographers | dude. you can literally just hang out
One of our main goals as photographers/business owners is to become friends with most of our clients. Like I said above, I don’t want the word vendor to ever come out of our couples mouths. We want to hang out, cook dinner, play board games, and have fun. We’ve taken some of our couples mini golfing, we’ve gone to escape rooms, pizza, coffee shops, etc.

I know photographers who shoot 50+ weddings a year and know barely anything about the couples their shooting. And that’s totally okay if you wanna go that route of business, we’re just talking about what we do since, well, we do it. I want to know the in’s and out’s of our couples and really get to know their love stories. Our philosophy revolves around getting to know who they are in order to capture them most raw and real when the time comes. That’s why we hang out, that’s why we have an engagement session, that’s why we share meals with them, etc. etc.

Your client experience will and can look different than ours, but just remember, if you’re still up in the air on how you should be treating your clients, just put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to be treated by a photographer? What does that experience look like?

 

Tips for photographers # 3 | Questions to ask yourself about your brand

Tips for Photographers | Why are you the way that you are? – Michael Scott
But seriously, why are you the way that you are? Really take a hard look at your business at the moment. Are you reflecting something that you think you should be and are giving your clients a disingenuous experience? Are you reflecting the right experience through your actions but your brand identity and voice don’t reflect it? These are some of the questions that were asked of us at the workshop from our friends. It really got us thinking and made us do a 180.

Another point on our tips for photographers journey—don’t wear a mask guys (NOT talking about the medical kind of mask here because #COVID). Don’t be something that you aren’t, because, people can see right through it. Imma get real with you guys. I cannot stand influencers anymore. I get that if you truly believe in a company and the product and want to help promote the company. But, if you are considered an influencer and promote any product that someone pays you the most for, people see right through it and see how fake it is. To me, it’s not being genuine. People can see right through your mask that you put on your business.

 

Tips for Photographers | How do you want people to feel when they’re working with you?
Let me give you an example of how we want our clients to feel when they work this us. We want them to feel comfortable, I want them to let their guard down, to be not afraid to say anything, open to talk about anything and everything, confident that they’re getting a quality product, and most importantly, we want them to feel happy that they chose us over the thousands of other business owners that wanted them.

We all need to remember that they CHOSE us. They could’ve given their money to anyone that offers the same product, but they chose our experience, our talents. They trusted us and we delivered not only a bomb product, but a bomb experience.

 

Tips for Photographers | What is your competition doing?
Oh no. Did Luke just say the C word in the photography community? Us photographers love to say the words community over competition but then in private get mad when other local photographers steal all your potential clients. Yes, it’s great to have community in the photography world, but at the same time, if you’re in the same area, you’re competing against one another. Especially if you have the same kind of business personality and style.

Believe me, there are other photographers that love metal, cats, motorcycles etc. and have a dark and moody style. Just like there is other photographers that look and act like you that could live in the same city as you. Check out what your competition is offering to their clients. See what gives them the most engagement on their socials and do it better. If you see a photographer giving gifts to clients, put your own spin on it and make it better! It’s a competition and your clients win. Don’t see it as you winning, see it as your clients winning and it will change your perspective.

 

Tips for Photographers | what are your long term goals? Short term?
Let’s be real, do you have any goals? haha. Because we didn’t before someone asked us that question. Goals are so important. Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, crap, I need to write some new goals. The classic interview question, where do you see yourself in 5 years is really important. Where do you see your business in 5 years? Do you have associates? Are you shooting 50+ weddings? Are you making six figures? Are you gonna write a blog with more tips for photographers?

What about the short term goals? Do you have weekly goals set up? Monthly? It could be as simple as checking your email once a day. For us I have weekly goals such as releasing one blog a week with at least 2000 words. Trust me, it’s a job to write 2000 words. I’m currently at 3,379 words in this blog, oh look, 3,385 now. Get on my level. But having these goals is super important because without them, what are you working towards?

Short term and long term goals go together hand in hand. Without you completing those short term goals, say bye bye to the long term ones. We’ve gone through this cycle in our business multiple times. We would have great long term goals, but never great short term and those long term goals keep getting pushed out farther, but if we had just kept to the short term, the long term would be shorter. Get it? Just get to work and grind and you’ll see results that effect the long term.

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Tips for photographers? More like tips for entrepreneurs. Everything I wrote in this blog can be used for anyone who’s starting a business, or has been in business for 15 years. There is so much more I can talk about and give more tips for photographers, but I’m human and I honestly just wanna watch the office in my underwear. So, If you have any questions, or just wanna get together and grab some ‘za with and socially distance hang? Shoot us a message and talk to our cats (aka the office administrators) for information! Now booking for the remainder of 2020 and all of 2021.

Okay, now enjoy some photos of us.

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