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Luxury and upscale, affordable and fast, do-it-all or niche? How do your customers view your studio? There are so many choices when deciding how to brand yourself. It’s also one of the biggest mistakes photography businesses – or any business for that matter – make when trying to establish a profitable business.

It’s the biggest buzzword around – branding. But what does it really encompass and how can you translate building a brand image to your photo studio?

People Love a Good Story

Brand storytelling and engaging content has moved to the forefront. Everyone is drawn into a compelling tale of tragedy over triumph, heroism and success. What story is your studio telling? Has photography been your life-long passion or do you love working with people? Did a relative plop a camera in your hand and you turned out to be a natural? Being transparent and relatable to your customers is key. And, positioning yourself amongst the 1,000 other photographers in your area and being able to stand out when it’s time for your customer’s decision-making process is a must. According to the experts at Brand Strategy Insider “As a storyteller, your main responsibility is to invoke wonder.” (1) Here’s their top five storytelling tips: 

  • Make me care
  • Make me a promise right from the start
  • Give people enough to put the rest of the story together
  • Stories should be inevitable but not predictable
  • Stories must mix anticipation with uncertainty

Build A Brand Image

It’s not just the color and shape of your logo, it’s how customers feel after using your services. Basically, it’s the total personality of your studio.

Brand Archetype

In branding, there are 12 basic identities or “archetypes”. If you’re heavily involved in your local community, you’ll bee seen as “The Caregiver”. Were you the first in the area to offer new services? You’ll bee viewed as “The Explorer”. Do your customers feel like they’ve just attended a great party? You’re “The Jester”! Read more about the in’s and out’s of brand archetypes here. (2)

Color & Visual Identity

These two elements will also play a big part. Be sure not to choose brand colors based on a whim or Pantone’s color of the year. Also, take into account that colors have varying meanings across different cultures (yellow is a color of mourning in Mexico). This is an identity that will be with you for a long time and may be difficult to morph once it’s established (just ask the Gap about their failed attempt to change their logo).

Offer An Amazing Brand Promise

A brand promise is exactly what it states – what your studios promises to give your clients. Coca-Cola promises “To inspire moments of optimism and uplift. Virgin promises “To be genuine, fun, contemporary, and different in everything we do at a reasonable price.” (3)

Strongly tied to your brand promise are your brand attributes or the values and beliefs of your company. For instance, do you value fast service and low prices or premium service with a higher price tag? Will you take any job that comes along or would you rather have a less profitable month but do work you are happy with?

See more: Client Pricing Strategy & Communication: Avoiding Hidden Costs

Online Reputation Management

Monitoring your online brand reputation, especially for localized businesses like a photo studio, is pertinent. Google research shows that 84% of customers felt that online research and feedback helped influence their buying decisions and that those who interacted with reviews are 105% more likely to purchase.(1) Gleam sites like Yelp, Patch and Manta. Ask your current customers to post positive reviews and respond to any negative comments you may find.

See more: How to Gain a Following for Your Photography Online

How can you arrive at your brand image? Hold a no-hold’s barred brainstorming day. Ask staff or regular freelance assistants, stylists, etc. to attend. Be sure to have on hand competitor research. (What messages are they sending? What are their taglines, key phrases and logos?) Generate a list of buzzwords around your studio. From there, you’ll be able to fashion a compelling story, a worthy brand promise and identify your archetype so that you have effective, consistent messaging to market your studio moving forward.


Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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