Brand yourself! – Part 1

Photographer to photographer, visual artist to visual artist, would you mind if we took a break from snapping our shutters and talked about something else for a moment?  Allow me, if you will, to be introduced to the visual brand of your work  Oh… what’s that? You aren’t sure if you have one?  Wait… you’re pretty sure you DON’T have one?  OH…. you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about?  Hmmm. Well, then it’s a good thing I changed the subject.

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We, as photographers (and thus visual artists), pride ourselves and work hard to to be known by our artistic voices and visual stylings as much as our actual body of work.  Nobody can argue this fact.  However, something that is arguable is whether or not your artistic identity is legitimate enough that you will be both recognized and remembered long after someone has had a few moments to gaze at the pictures you have taken.  If you are finding that you and your work have become easily forgettable or at least not memorable enough, perhaps you need to consider branding yourself visually.

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When it comes to personal branding for photographers, it’s been debated whether or not it’s necessary or not.  Establishing a visual brand for yourself can be expensive – both financially as well as with your investment of time.  Also, how do you quantify and essentially create a tangible element to represent visual art talent and stylings as unique as your own?  THAT’S HARD!  Well, I have some advice for you: DO HARD THINGS,  Seriously!

Don’t shy away from something that is particularly challenging because it might be the very thing that could catapult you beyond the level you have been on that every other person who is NOT that legitimate of a photographer is on as well. You know which level that is?  I’ll give you a clue.  It’s the  same one that “Uncle Bob” and “Debbie Digital” and the “Mama-razzi” next door – all individuals who decided to be “professional” photographers during that last major retail holiday occurred when prosumer grade cameras were incredibly affordable – are on as well.

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Even if you are just aiming for freelance work?  You still ought to visually brand yourself. We are living in a world where virtual homepages and .coms are essentially of the same importance as real homes, and avatars and tiny thumbnail views are the faces others see of us instead of the real McCoy.  If you want to be recognized and remembered the best way to do that is to just go ahead and brand yourself already.  Now if you’ll give me just a few more moments of your time, I’m going to teach you some very simple ways that you can do just that.

Having a visual brand/logo that communicates your artistic voice and style from the get-go goes along with that ol’ adage about the importance of making a good solid first impression.  All that being said?  Let’s start looking at and evaluating logo styles strictly on how they present themselves visually.

First off, let’s do a little experiment.  Let’s look at two words in their written form that communicate polar opposite ideas: war and peace.

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Isn’t it amazing how rough and decayed peace looks when presented in a typeface that is so war torn and ravaged like this?  This style is SO much more appropriate for war since the visual presentation matches the word war better, no?  Let’s change things up a bit and give peace a chance this time.

WP2Wow! What a difference calligraphy makes!  Amazing how war was softened and even beautified just by presenting it in a way that was fluid and elegant.  This style matches the idea of peace but definitely not war.  Rather, it presents the idea of war in a way that is so far from what the reality of war is. Maybe we are going about this wrong though. Maybe what needs to be done is more stylistic so that neither word is highlighted more than the other.

WP3Hmmm?  This period-style font reminiscent of the 1930s is definitely not doing it even if it is fun to look at.  The stylistic visual qualities actually discount what the words say.  It actually makes both of the words look almost silly.  Picking something fun and different for the sake of being fun and different doesn’t hack it for visual enhancements at all.  However, now that we know how to disarm words and their actual meanings just by presenting them visually in a certain way, perhaps this is something we can bank for later use.  Let’s keep this in our bag of tricks, shall we?

Now, I suppose you COULD come up with a really cool graphic that would definitely be a great visually illustrative symbol of who you are and what you do (think of the recognizable Apple logo or the Nike swoosh) but who has the time and also the illustration software (and know-how!) to do that?  Photographers are a different kind of visual artists that illustrate life in a different way. Well, what if I told you we could do this in a different and completely approachable way.  Consider what we just did above.  See?  A message can become a visual representation just as much as it can communicate something specific. It CAN be DONE.  That being said?  Let’s establish the TYPE of photographer you are so then we can look at what type(face) you should be “wearing” for your visual brand.

In order for us to be even more focused, oblige me with some Q&A action and ask yourself the following.

  • Are you the photographer that is into black and white images only OR are you a huge fan of gorgeous punchy color?
  • Do you prefer shooting landscapes over people OR do you like your subjects to be more wild in nature like animals or insects?
  • Do you prefer the tiniest variety of people like infants and children or are you a great fan folks who are in action in the way of sports or momentous occasions like weddings?
  • Are you a big picture type who is all about the wide angles or can you just not get enough of the level of intimacy that your macro lens provides you?

These are all really important questions to ask yourself in order to establish and be able to visually explain your brand (read: personal STYLE of images).  The answers to these questions will definitely help to steer you in the right direction with regard to what (type) face you should end up “wearing” (Pun most definitely intended!).   As evidenced by the war and peace examples, the way something is visually presented can change things in dramatic ways. Incorrect typeface can make, break, or be confusing for your visual brand.

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I’ve definitely offered up a lot to consider with regard to using typeface to brand yourself and I am going to pause so that you can think about some of the questions I’ve posed.  Part two of this posting will address more specific details about different types of typefaces as they might pertain to answers that may have come of your own thoughtful ponderings.  Part two will also provide actual examples of different stylings that might even apply with regard to where you are ultimately headed in your own journey of visual branding.  In the meantime, now would be a great time to start and propel the conversation of what your visual brand ought to look like.  My favorite thing in the world is to brainstorm and the comments below provide an awesome venue for just such a thing.  Comment below with your own understanding of visual branding and how it works with what you are doing for your own work.

Andrea Ream Ellwood is a visual artist who splits her time among various mediums: 10+ years of experience in freelance photography, high school art education, visual design consulting for print and web, and free form soft sculpturing of fun hats and toys for family and friends. She lives and works in the Washington DC metro area with her husband and daughter. You can view some of her photographic work at http://andreareamphotography.com or follow her on Twitter @dreampraycreate

 

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