Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Branding secrets for photographers

Today I had a communication. To the sender it was a marketing exercise, to most recipients it was spam. To me, it was a golden opportunity for a blog article on branding. Maybe for the one or two photographers that are making money, it might have helped. Would it have helped the millions of wannabe photographers?

The communication shall henceforth be referred to by its correct name: spam. This spam was from Photoshelter which I believe is some kind of outfit that peddles online portfolios and websites to dreamers that are under the illusion that by slapping a few snaps online and paying some organisation lots of money will make them rich.

The spam I had today referred to an "eBook" by Photoshelter. Having reviewed already some of their tawdry publications, which I thus rename Playing with Facebook and Losing all your money, it just did not seem worth reading let alone downloading yet more of their piffle. Thus the spam started out by giving the following bulleted list:

  • How to communicate your photographic style and personality 
  • How to determine what aspects of your business are unique 
  • Why developing a strong name, logo and aesthetic across all platforms is crucial 
  • Why a consistent voice and style must be part of everything you do - including your website, social media, and business cards
Taken in turn, let's look at the nonsense listed. How to communicate your photographic style and personality. Most people couldn't give a rat's backside what your style or personality is. They don't want you to take pictures for them anyway. For those that do, it's a cursory glance - are your snaps in focus and is the subject centered. Other than that, they just don't care. Style is a meaningless term as most people will ask is it color, black and white, sepia or that yucky half-colored effect. Personality is equally meaningless. What on earth do they mean there? Clearly if you're going to employ a photographer (and I see no reason why you should) then you're obviously going to want to get along with them - a conflicting personality will be a problem. The only way to assess that is by meeting the bum.

How to determine what aspects of your business are unique. Photography is not unique - everybody with a cellphone can take pictures ergo everybody is a photographer. There is no photographer today that actually earns a living off photography. Anybody that claims they do is a damn liar and are getting their income elsewhere - off a spouse, from a main job or from selling drugs. If it is a successful photography business then it will surely go down in the Guinness Book of Records. It will be that unique.

Why developing a strong name, logo and aesthetic across all platforms is crucial. I'm not entirely sure what they mean by a strong name. Perhaps they mean something with obscene words in it. Perhaps they mean copying a well known brand name and changing it a bit. StarNickels doesn't quite sound right. I'm certain that any name with an obscenity in it would be instantly famous and would have the prudes up in arms and the user's backside in jail.

A strong logo and aesthetic. This is equally puzzling. I don't remember ever caring what a company's logo is or even noticing it. I know they have strange symbols on the fronts of cars but who really cares or takes the time to look at such foolishness? The average fellow selling photography is selling it to people in his area. That'll be the people he meets at work, in the bar, in the golf club. I can't imagine somebody asking for his logo and saying "nah - I'll go with Fred Smith - his logo is so much better". As far as the aesthetic goes - that's for big companies. Photographers are one man outfits.

Why a consistent voice and style must be part of everything you do - including your website, social media, and business cards. Ah now we get to the crux of it. Photoshelter as far as I know sells social media presence, web design, websites and business cards. This is a book designed to flog Photoshelter's products. So branding essentially is a way of making money from businesses. Marketers have convinced businesses (who are by far more gullible than most weak-minded individuals) that branding makes sense. British Airways kept rebranding themselves every few years. Nobody could see the point - all we wanted was to buy plane tickets at the cheapest price to get us from A to B.

So, the real branding secret for a photographer is that it's a scam - a way of parting you from your money. Let's get real - where is the market for a photographer? It's going to be local - right? It's going to be people you know and people that know people you know. Branding is irrelevant to that kind of market.

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