Selecting a Style: Part 1 Defining your brand.
For the last couple of blog series, I’ve ranted about trends affecting the photography industry, shooting portraits, and selecting equipment. All of which are great topics, and topics I am passionate about. That’s why the rant.
But they are also topics which speak to an overall style. Style is an odd concept, isn’t it? Style of what? Equipment? Photography? Portraits? I guess when I say style, I mean:
Your photography business’ brand, or PBB. (PBB. Sounds like STD)
(In this rant, my tourettes thoughts are in italics and parentheses. If they offend you, please disregard. My real brand is not written in these side notes. Just what I’m actually thinking, the “non-politic” if you will. So, you’ll get my business, public face — and what I really want to say.) (stupid.)
As a photographer, you are selling your brand. When you take a photo, and a person looks at it, can they see you in the photo? Can they point to it and think, “Obviously, Mike Gatty took that picture.” Or, does it just look like another headshot, green screen photo, beach portrait, or speaker? Is your brand high couture or JC Penny’s? Walmart or Zara? Iphone or Blackberry? Does your brand suck? Does it scream, “I’m average”?
Some parts of style are big picture — the type of lighting you lean toward, the way you compose a photo, hell, even what’s important to you in a picture. Other parts of style are more esoteric. A certain look your subjects get because you are cracking a joke off frame, an emphasis on how they really look, or are you capturing a fantasy of how they’d like to look, a way you catch the speaker just when they’ve smiled at one of their own (read: not-funny) jokes.
Style also includes how you shoot, what you shoot with, what you wear, how you present yourself on a shoot. Casual? Business buttoned down? Rock and roll? Hippie? Deadhead? Schmuck? Schmoe? Other Schm word?
(A side rant: Photographer’s polyester black. Who decided all photographers must wear dirty looking polyester black outfits? Whoever it was should be shot. I own lots of black outfits. None in polyester. And seldom do I wear ALL black. Just sayin’. I was in Rome, as you all know, a few weeks back. There were news photographers photographing the President of Italy as he left office. Do you know they were the worst dressed people in Rome? How is it possible, in a country that is otherwise very stylish, that the photographers all wear A. polyester and B. have dandruff on their shoulders?)
And here’s a dirty little secret: that style, that way you present yourself and your work? It’s in direct proportion to what you can charge. If you happen to be more casual with a less – than – glam look? (Black polyester) You’ll probably attract a more casual client with a smaller budget. (Read: cheap) If you go high end and show up in a custom tailored $3,000 suit and $40,000 camera kit? You might work a bit less, but on higher end jobs that pay a bit more, for a more sophisticated client. (Read: living the good life. Happier. More sex because you look good and have money. Write the suit off your taxes. Don’t tell your accountant I said it was a business expense.)
One is not better than the other. (That’s me being politically correct. One is better than the other. Less work for more money is always better.) Your style is reflected in who you are, what’s important to you, and your own spirit. You can change it a little — but in the end, you’re kinda stuck with whatever comes natural. If you aren’t Saks 5th Avenue, they’ll smell you (perhaps literally…) and will not hire you. On the other hand, if you’re an uptight, high – end executive photographer? Don’t expect South by Southwest to be knocking on your door.
Everything you do with your business becomes part of your brand. Your website. (duh) Your blog. (duh duh) Your Tweets. (duh duh duh) Facebook. (duh duh duh duh with sugar on top) Brochures. (Quadruple duh with sugar on top and a cherry) Business cards. (I can’t think of anything else besides: duh) What phone you use. (If you don’t have a phone, I guess that’s a brand, too.) How you speak. (DUHHHHHHHH!) What you communicate. (Blanking) Everything.
In short, as a photographer, you are under a microscope. On one hand, you’re the cool guy in the room. On the other, as I was told (unceremoniously) the other day, “you’re just the photographer.”
But you need to think about your brand, it’s just as important as how you photograph, what you photograph, and where you capture your images.
Because, it’s all interconnected. This rant: this rant will take a look at brand. How to shape it. How to communicate it. How to change it. (How to have your cake and eat it, too. I like cake. Not as much as sushi, but I do like cake. mmmm. Cake.)
Where’s my butler? I’m ready for tea and biscuits. (Freaking that lazy butler is always disappearing at 4 pm.)