I adore the work of Sarah Sunstrom! It is light, airy and soft and it consistently matches her brand. Sarah is also super business savvy (which you all know is high on my list of priorities!), so when she and Artsy Couture came up with these fabulous tips for you, I had to share! I often get asked how to maintain a strong brand and Sarah gets right to the heart of what works for photographers. Thanks Sarah!
Building (And Maintaining) A Strong Brand by Sarah Sunstrom
“When I first started out in photography, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I knew I loved taking pictures and creating memories for my clients. I wasn’t sure about editing, policies or what I wanted my business to stand for. After a while, it became clear that my business wasn’t going anywhere because I was all over the board. After my epiphany, I began to see significant growth in my business and people were seeking me out for my style and the exclusive experience that I provided. Here are a few tips to help build a strong brand.”
1. Defining Your Style
It’s about who and what you love to shoot. Take out a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. On one side write “love” and on the other side write, “didn’t love.” Look back at your calendar from the last 6 months and write down each session in either the “love” or “didn’t” love column. Are you seeing a trend? Are you loving senior sessions? Not loving newborns? What types of sessions make your heart skip a beat? On another piece of paper, write down what it was that you loved about each of those sessions and what you didn’t love about the others. Seeing this in writing may validate the feelings you’ve had over the last 6 months. Start referring those “didn’t love” sessions to other photographers who excel in that niche so you can excel in yours.
It’s about editing. Are you consistent in your work? Editing one session a certain style, and then editing another session a different style can become very confusing to your potential clients. For example, if a potential client has fallen in love with a certain image on your website, they may book a session with you to have a resulting canvas collage with that editing style in mind. They get their gallery back from you and it doesn’t at all resemble the image they saw on your site. Mom’s disappointed and now you have to re-edit the whole session. It’s best to avoid this scenario by sticking to a particular editing style that represents who you are and what you shoot. Finding your editing style will help draw clients in that love that style as well.
It’s about the props and elements you incorporate in your sessions. Are you a vintage prop junkie? Do you love urban downtown areas? What types of clothing choices are you suggesting to your clients? Having a non-cohesive look between sessions, and even within a session, also creates confusion for clients. They may have a certain look they are wanting based off the work they have seen on your site and if you have a different vision, this can cause stress. The clothing they wear can also affect the vision for the session. Guiding your clients with outfit styling is crucial to creating the perfect session. Take some time to create a Pinterest board filled with tons of ideas for clothing options, and then refer your clients to it to start planning their session.
2. Defining Your Policies
Be sure to start making a list of things that could potentially come up and how you’d like to handle them. Here is a starting list:
- What happens if it rains?
- When they are late?
- When is the payment due?
- Are other cameras allowed during the session or wedding?
- What happens if you become ill?
- What’s your rescheduling policy?
- Are you able to show these images on social media?
- What about for marketing?
Having a contract is also very important. It’s a safeguard for you and your client. It spells exactly what’s expected of each party so there is no confusion. There are several places you can purchase a photography specific template but just make sure to have a local attorney look it over before your first client signs. Each state is different and what may work in one state may not be legal in another.
Lastly, it’s imperative to stick to your guns on your policies and procedures. I’ve learned that there is a slippery slope when it comes to letting one little thing slide. People know other people and word will get around if you do something for one client. Another client may come to you and say, “I hear you did this with so-and-so and I’d like the same deal.” You can avoid this by staying strong. If you value your time, your work and your policies, your clients will too.
3. Continually Building a Strong Brand
What you wear speaks to who you are as an artist. Do you wear loud, bold colors? Then maybe you aren’t the soft, creamy, dreamy baby whisperer of a newborn photographer. It sounds like you may be a funky urban senior photographer.
The activities you do as a business also help create a strong brand. Perhaps you are a pet photographer. It would fit your brand perfectly to volunteer at your local pet shelter’s annual fundraiser. It’s a great marketing opportunity as well. For example, you could take free pictures of the animals with their owners and post them on your Facebook page. Tell the people to find their pictures and tag themselves. This not only looks great for the shelter but helps spread the word that you are an amazing pet photographer.
Staying active in your community through various networking events and other local events will help spread the word about your business.
Remember to think about your brand all the time and how to represent it. Building your brand will help create a look and feel clients will seek you out for, will help you be able to have pricing consistent with having a niche market and you’ll love what you do!