What I Wish I’d Known As A New Brand Photographer
Just starting out as a brand photographer?
No matter if you’re dreaming of launching a new business or you’re curious about adding brand photography to your services, starting anything new can be overwhelming, and brand photography is no exception.
As someone who has been in the industry for some time now, I’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons along the way.
Looking back, there are SO many things I wish I had known when I first started out.
Now, I hope to shorten the learning curve for you!
Whether you’re starting from scratch or have been in the industry for a while, my hope is that these 5 tips will help you navigate the challenges of brand photography so you can achieve success in your career.
Tip #1 Showcase Your Work & Process
Yes, your audience wants to see those beautifully edited photos from your most recent shoot.
But more importantly, they need to see the process behind the photos!
Early on in my career, I posted my client photographs constantly. And while they definitely showed my audience what I was capable of, they never quite got the response I had hoped for.
It took me a while to realize I had to practice what I preached to my clients! Especially with social media being as big as it is now. This new way to marketing your business as a photographer was daunting at first but it has big rewards if you stay consistent.
In-action shots are GOLD as a small business owner.
Behind-the-scenes content is a powerful way to showcase your process and your personality!
But as the person used to being behind the lens, I still struggled with something:
Stepping out from behind the camera!
I was missing out on key opportunities to spotlight my entire process.
Things that would make me stand out in my industry such as:
- Consulting with clients
- Creating concept boards
- Meeting clients at their studios, shopfronts, and offices
- Packing, organizing, and setting up my gear on-location
So I got creative.
Camera timers and my mini tripod became my saving grace and I was finally able to bring myself (the backbone of my business) into focus! I still bring my tripod with me everywhere I go to capture timelapse videos.
But, over the past few years I’ve actually worked with a fellow photographer to capture branding images while on a shoot (yes, even brand photographers hire brand photographers). This has allowed me to capture and share authentic, professional behind-the-scenes and imagery of my work and environmental portraits.
Now, clients were able to see the end product as well as all of the steps that led up to that grand finale! Plus, they get to know me– the person behind the business!
Suddenly, my audience seemed to connect with my images and messaging better than ever!
That’s because I was sharing compelling content that made them feel part of the process. They could better envision what it would be like to work with me!
My biggest takeaway:
Step out from behind your camera lens for your own personal brand photography so that people can see the work you do and how you do it! I guarantee, your process is unlike anyone else’s. Spotlight what makes you uniquely you!
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Tip #2 Build Your Network
When I stepped into entrepreneurship, I was wholeheartedly focused on finding clients. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, this meant I was shutting out opportunities to connect with other fellow entrepreneurs, photographers, and business owners who could have helped me accelerate my growth.
Basically– I tried doing it the hard way.
Finally, a friend invited me to attend a local networking group and I never looked back. I quickly realized I could tap into the wisdom and experience of a whole community instead of just my own isolated encounters.
To this day I seek out opportunities to expand my network.
I love connecting with fellow photographers as a way to both receive and share advice. I enjoy meeting other creative entrepreneurs who could potentially become clients in the future (hello, referrals!).
Plus, I make an effort to stay connected with my current and past clients. Fostering and those relationships has proven to be not only enjoyable and fulfilling, but an essential piece in my business’ success and sustainability.
But beyond that, I also see the value in creating my business support system of copywriters, graphic designers, business coaches, and web designers who help me improve the backend of my business too!
Because at the end of the day, you could be the most skilled photographer on the planet, but if you don’t know how to be a savvy entrepreneur, you may never find success in business!
My best advice to you is to seek out and nurture your network sooner rather than later.
It will save you a whole lot of trial and error and will ensure you feel supported on what could otherwise feel like a lonely journey as an entrepreneur.
Tip #3 Get Clear on Your Niche
Early on, you want to show anything and everything you’ve ever worked on. In an attempt to thwart imposter syndrome, every photo you post feels like a badge of legitimacy.
Evidence that you do, in fact, know what you’re doing.
And while we all need a confidence boost, posting a smattering of photos could actually backfire.
This is why it’s important to showcase images that don’t just represent you as a visual artist, but represent you as a brand and a business.
You need to get clear with yourself about what kinds of photography you want to focus on and who you want to work with.
Define Your Ideal Client
I recommend the Ideal Client Avatar exercise (click here to learn how to do this in 5 simple steps) to help you get clear on who you serve and how.
Once you know what you want your brand photography business to be known for, you can feature images that support your goals.
For example: early on, my website was a collage of sports photos, family events, and magazine editorial shots, and even brand photos for big names in the fitness world.
Sports branding and magazine shoots helped me develop my skills and gave me a ton of experience (all of which influence my approach to photography today). I attribute these experiences to my quick turnaround times, my ability to compose a winning shots in-camera vs. after lots of editing.
But over time I realized these weren’t actually the kinds of projects I wanted to attract anymore. In fact, I learned that I prefer working with small to medium creatives businesses because I find the work so rewarding and feel like I’m on the journey with them!
And while I do brand photography, I don’t work with all types of businesses. Instead, I focus on working exclusively with creative small businesses like floral designers, calligraphers, and home organizers– real estate firms, for example, typically don’t fit my ICA!
To sum it up: Avoid featuring projects on your website that you aren’t interested in taking on in the future. Make sure your content is geared specifically toward brand photography in the niche or industry you want to focus on and be known for!
Tip #4 Get That Website Up and Running
One of the biggest errors SO many brand photographers make?
They don’t have a business website and instead, just have an online portfolio.
Ditch the portfolio, and invest in the website.
“What’s the difference?” you might ask.
A portfolio simply showcases images. But when you’re a business owner you need to be conscious of not only how people respond to your work but your brand as a whole!
Your professional website should be a place where potential clients can get to know you, the kind of work you do, what your process looks like, and how to get in touch to work together!
You can absolutely keep a traditional portfolio for yourself or as a portion of your website, but it should not stand on its own.
Your clients need context and connection!
My rule of thumb:
Clients are hiring YOU, not the camera!
Whether it’s through copy, photos, or videos, your website should be a unique representation of the person behind the lens so you can build trust with your audience!
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Tip #5 Get Gritty
At the beginning it can be tough to find clients that fit your ICA and projects that meet your goals.
When this happens, it’s tempting, and often financially necessary, to take on photography projects outside of your ideal scope.
Instead of feeling deflated or frustrated, this is where you’ll need to get a bit scrappy to create the opportunities you seek!
For example, if you want to do more brand photography, start a personal project, reach out to a few local businesses you admire, and do a few shoots without compensation. This will allow you to gain experience and showcase what you can do. Basically, you’re creating your ideal client and an ideal project which will make it much easier to market paid photo sessions in the future!
Another option is to collaborate with brands or businesses and find a mutually beneficial arrangement. Maybe they receive some brand images for free and you’re able to build your portfolio (and maybe even get a client testimonial while you’re at it)!
Be sure to leverage these experiences by capturing behind-the-scenes imagery of you working for these brands or businesses so that you can use the opportunity in your marketing, on your website, social media, and as I did here on my YouTube Channel.
For a time, that will be the compensation for the work and it gets you out there until you’re able to earn REAL money doing the work you’re most excited about. Think of it as an investment into the brand photography business you want to build!
The Business of Brand Photography
Starting a new business or expanding into brand photography for the first time can be challenging. But with an intentional approach, your journey can feel much more manageable and rewarding!
Showcasing your work and process, building your network, and replacing the traditional portfolio with a solid website can go a long way in helping you stand out as a brand photographer.
By implementing these tips, you can attract your ideal clients and projects as you establish your unique brand photography style.
Speaking of leaning on your network…
I’m leading my first online course called, The Business of Brand Photography.
It’s live, interactive, and cohort-based so you can get the most personalized experience possible!
Over 3 weeks I’ll invite you to ditch the stale branding questionnaire and instead learn my proven framework for creating impactful brand photography sessions for business owners.
I’m excited to share my insights and help you achieve your goals.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn from my decades of experience as a photographer and small business owner.
Register now to join our cohort starting on July 11, 2023.
Let’s build your brand photography business together! Click here to learn more and secure your spot!