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Thinking About Brand, Thinking About Photography

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There has been lots of discussion recently on how to brand what it is that we do, since so many of us are doing multiple things. Do we brand each thing or genre we do, or brand it into some sort of ‘holding company’ title? That’s a lot of work.

For instance, take a photographer who also writes books, and creates multi-media productions for musicians and their studios.

Does she brand the photography separate from the writing? And then add a third ‘brand’ on top of that for the multimedia? Can you imagine managing that many brands, that much different content for brand reach? It would be a full time job with no time left for actually doing the work.

And doing the work is what we want to focus on, not keeping current with 2 or 3 brands.

The answer may be to simply brand yourself. BEING the brand, and letting the work simply flow from that brand. A “personal” brand that makes what you do, what YOU do.

We all know that lots of photographers are adding capabilities to their arsenal of work. Still shooters adding video is the first one that pops to mind, but also design, writing, producing, teaching, consulting and publishing. Adding a new channel to an established business is not the same thing as adding a new brand. At least I don’t think it should be.

Paul Jarvis is a multi-channel designer. writer, entrepreneur who has settled on one approach to his brand – him. HE is the brand, the work that comes from him is a natural extension of who he is.

His website presents him as the brand, the work as following from.

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“I’m Paul Jarvis. I create simple, meaningful things – like best-selling books, courses & websites for creative people like you.”

It is both simply stated, and perfectly representative of his brand. Brash at times, minimal fluff, no-nonsense design and writing.

Another multi-discipline creative is Rosh Sillars, a photographer in Detroit.

Rosh specializes in corporate people and interior photography, but has also built a good business in helping commercial photographers understand the new media.

His website presents a myriad of different channels and ways for Rosh to reach out to clients and other photographers as well. He has co-authored a few books and created a podcast for photographers wanting to seek clarity in this time of change.

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Chase Jarvis wears many hats, but the single brand he has is “Chase Jarvis”. Whether making photographs, being an on-camera personality, or leading a major corporation Chase stays true to his own brand, not creating new ones for each venture.

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Ash Ambirge has built a solid brand around her. Whether speaking, writing, consulting or creating products, it all revolves around her unique qualities and quirky persona. Even her blog name is edgy and memorable… heh.

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So how do you do it… a personal brand that is a blanket for all that you do?

You can hire a brand consultant, like my partner Robin Bramman for one. This is not an inexpensive route, but it will most certainly be cost effective over the long run. Creating a great personal brand is more about discovering it within you than manufacturing it around you.

Another way is to take a step back and look at who you are, and what YOU are about. As I state again and again in marketing classes – your story is not the most important thing, it is the only thing.

Who you are.

What you do and why.

How it is unique and what you do to make it so.

Those are a few of the ideas you can use to identify your story.

Then craft that story well, and make sure everyone knows it. BE that story when you are in public, shooting, working, and presenting.

Your story IS your brand. And YOU are your story.

The collateral material that surrounds that brand is only there to support it. Don’t fall prey to the thought that a logo is your brand. It supports your brand, where you live your brand.

Becoming your own brand means that no matter what you do, it is yours. Building a legion of people who love what you do is easier if what you do is identified with you, instead of the genre it is part of.

Look at how some celebrities loan their name to products. From perfume to bikinis to self-help plans, the celebrity name is the overall story that holds them together.

The same way they do, we can do.

Take your story and present all you do from that point out. Take your personal brand to a point where it can be the brand others associate with your great photography, and the excellent fudge you sell at one of the boutique restaurants. Yeah – the genres can be that far away from each other when the creator is the brand, not the item sold.

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Caveats

Wedding and maternity photography. If you are in a small town, you may want to brand that part of your business differently. And the reason may surprise you a bit.

Because you can sell it. A successful studio in a small or medium town can be sold only if the owners name is NOT a part of it. “Lonely Mountain Photography” can be owned by anyone, and the work can be subtly changed to fit the new owners, but the change in ownership does not change the brand awareness.

When Don Giannatti doesn’t want to be a photographer anymore, the value of his business is kaput… nada… nadadamthing. It IS me, and I am it. No me, no business.

Brand — personal brand — is one of the most important areas a photographer should concentrate on. It encompasses everything from your portfolio to what you wear… and what you wear is VERY important to your brand.


About the author: Don Giannatti is a photographer, designer, and writer who has never owned a Subaru or an Escalade. He once owned a PT Cruiser, but that it a long and tortured story not fit for telling without a few beers. He lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona, and prefers Mexican food to anything else. In fact, there may not be anything else. You can visit his website here and his online portfolio here

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