Monday, February 23, 2009

Starting Off Part 3: Your Brand

In both Part 1 and Part 2, your company's name was mentioned. As stated, if you stick with using your name with a modifier, such as "Majel Barrett Photography" or "James Kirk Images," you'll have less paperwork than if you adopted a DBA like "Phaser Photography." Most solo photographers, such as wedding photographers, go this way, and it makes good sense for that.

Naming and future growth.

However, note the word "solo" above. If your business plan ever includes expanding and bringing in additional photographers (not assistants or post-processing crew), you might want to rethink that. After all, if your associate were to go to a shoot, there is a great chance that everyone there will the that he (or she) is you, the owner, as they're professing to be with "Jimmy Doohan Photography," so naturally people will think that this associate, is, in fact, Jimmy.

Herein lies the problem of using your name as the company's name: you may be hindering future growth of your fledgling enterprise. I'd highly advise keeping this in mind with you determine your company's name.

Oh, one other thing about naming your company after yourself: if you were to ever sell the business, your name would be associated with something that you, personally, would no longer have any say over. Just a thought.

Logos, colors, and brands: oh my!

After you've determined your company's name (or perhaps, once you've narrowed it down to a few qualified candidates), you need to think about the next step: branding. Branding consists of tying all the parts of the company (image, products, and the general "feel") together in one whole unit. Branding consists of a color scheme, logo, watermark, packaging, website, advertisements, fliers and handouts, postcards, or anything that you want to associate your company with, or associate with your company. And to do this properly, you need to work with professionals. And I don't mean you.

As a professional (or desiring professional) photographer, you most likely cringe when you see people and businesses doing their own photography at a mediocre level; I can't tell you how many times I've looked through local advertising magazines and could see the bad color, bad shadows, or other unprofessional looks to these ads, and I wonder if the company realizes that by saving money doing their own photography, they're most likely causing themselves to lose money. Just like that, I believe that logo and branding design shouldn't be done by one's self, but by a professional graphic designer. Find a local (or even remote) designer, and work with her to establish a logo and color scheme that you can integrate with your website, packaging, and other company presence. Let her know what your
niche is and tailor this brand to your company and its goals. Ask for a watermark for your online photos as well.

Working with a professional graphic designer to create your brand is something that will pay off much more dividends than it is likely to cost, so please: don't do it yourself.

A dirty word.

Both the graphic design world and the photography world share a common foe, something that has been gaining in popularity even though it does nothing but suck the life from both sources. This word is a dirty word in both circles. In fact, I hesitate to say it, but I must, in order to educate you better on this heinous issue:


There, I said it; please forgive me.

Spec is short for "speculative," which simply means working and creating a product with the hope of getting paid. Would you spend hours shooting something in the hopes that your customer would pay you, especially when there were other photographers doing the same thing, competing for the same customer? I didn't think so. So please, don't play the spec game at some of the graphic design "competitions" out there. For just a bit more money, you'll get to personally work with a graphic design who can work with you to develop your brand, as opposed to a fishing expedition. I mean, if you were spending your time competing with just a possibility of getting paid, how much time and effort would you put into it? Right, I thought so.

So spend some time with a real graphic designer. Don't know any? Ask around at other local companies and other photographers. Get some references and perhaps contact one or two asking for samples. This is definitely one of those things that pays dividends, trust me.

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