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How to Stay on Brand

Lesson 6 from: Find Your Niche and Build Your Family Photography Business

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

6. How to Stay on Brand

Next Lesson: Defining Your Style

Lesson Info

How to Stay on Brand

Well, back to what you were talking about earlier, about don't try and shoot like everybody else. Don't try and do everything. To stay within the defined borders that you've set for yourself and your style, so that the client gets what they thought they were gonna get based on the work they already saw. Exactly, exactly. Any other ideas on what it means to stay on brand? Let's have a topic or conversation about this. You had sound like you want to say something, Miss Jen over here. For me, it's knowing the personality of my business, and the personality of the feeling I want people to go home with. Exactly. Both of you nailed it. A brand is a feeling, it's a impression that a customer has of your business whether they've worked with you or not. So it's an impression that a potential customer or customer has of you as a business, whether they've worked with you or not. So like, what's something you ladies probably wouldn't have bought? Okay, this is a long shot, but do any of you ladies...

know what Cabela's is? Have you ever shopped there? For your husband maybe, right? Sometimes, I mean, there is a lot of, you know, it's a sporting/hunting store. Of course there are female hunters out there, and I'm sure people have, women have shopped there, but for the most part, generally speaking, us women don't really go into Cabela's that much. But do we have an impression of it, what it is? Yeah. I mean, you guys were nodding and giggling and kind of like, "Ah, I've been there for my husband." Okay, you have an impression of what it is just based on their marketing and brand management, right? But you don't really shop there. Isn't that interesting? Same thing with super high-end stores, I mean. And I'll walk in to the store and just be like, ahh. I have an impression even though I've never purchased anything. Does that make sense? So a brand is communicated to everyone who experiences your business, no matter how they experience it. Whether it be a fleeting passerby moment, or they actually are a deep loyal customer, okay? So to stay on-brand means to keep that feeling, that personality, to be consistent in what you're doing. So when you're thinking of products to produce, they have to stay on brand. I have a very clean, commercial, little bit of industrial farmhouse feel to my look. But the brand is not just the look. The brand is how you interact with your clients, how you communicate, how you deliver products and service, how you talk on the phone, what your website looks like, how much information you give, how much information you don't give. All of that contributes to the overall feeling, not just the appearance, okay? I am a art photographer, I print art for my clients. So I have to produce products that lend itself to that brand, right? Yes, I do offer digital files, but it's an afterthought, okay? It is part of our pricing structure, and I can talk more about our pricing structure later. I did bring my pricing book here. And we offer what we call "Create a Collection." You always pick an art piece and then you get the files. Everybody wants the files, because they know files. Clients want what they know, okay? They want what they're comfortable with, and what they're comfortable with, they know. Digital files, that's what they make themselves, right? So that's why they always call and ask, "How much are your digital files?" Okay? It's the first question out of their mouth. Every single client who ever calls from here to face of the universe is going to say, "How much are your digital files?" It used to be, "How much is an 8x10?" Okay, that was back in the old days, before digital really came out. How much is an 8x10? And we all lamented on the fact that everybody just wanted gift prints and nobody wanted large wall portraits. It's still the same, the medium has just changed. It's just digital files instead of gift prints now. Okay? That's all. It's no different. And it's up to us as photographers to educate our clients on, oh yeah, sure I have digital files, but it's not what you want. Let me walk you through a different process. So staying on brand means to define your own style and of course to stick with it, okay? This is hard when you're still discovering it. It's very hard. Pinterest is your best friend, I love Pinterest. I make boards on Pinterest like there's no tomorrow. They help me stick to my style. Because every time I pin something: is it me? Is it me? I ask the question: is it me? And it's okay for me to change, but don't, I mean, you're gonna be attracted to a lot of different things. Like I see some of these artists do this glorious, big, beautiful color. My only sessions that are colorful are these right here, the real kid sessions, okay? But it's still done on a gray background. Neutral, okay. I'm not doing pink and purple and green backgrounds. I got rid of my colored paper a long time ago, because it's not me, okay? But I'll see these big, beautiful art pieces and paintings on Pinterest and I want to pin it so bad to my art board. Oh, it's so pretty! Then I'm like, "Nope, it's not me, not me." I love it, but it's not me. And you know the feeling in your heart. You know when you see something and you're like (gasps) versus oh, that's so cute. There's a difference in that emotional draw that is has to you, so listen to that. Self-awareness is one of the biggest assets you can have as an artist. Style comes organically or planned, accidentally or on-purpose, evolved or suddenly. It will either hit you in the face gently, or gently tap you on the shoulder until you listen, okay? Style comes over time. Go watch the style class if you wanna get in this in-depth. We have, we get into this hugely in-depth in the style class, which is on CreativeLive here. But really, understand that style is something that evolves, and it can either punch you in the face, or go, whisper to you. You have to listen, okay? And I think what the biggest mistake most photographers make is that they don't actively listen to their hearts. They, who do they listen to? George. George. Exactly. Oh I should be doing this, oh I should be doing that. Oh so-and-so down the street's doing this and she's booking like crazy, I should do that. Tell George to take a flipping hike, okay? But style is really hard to define, and I think that's why I enjoy kind of teaching it and communicating it. So let's ask ourselves, why is it so hard to define? And a lot of it is our self-confidence and security. But if you can get there, you will see your business change tides dramatically. It means owning who you are, and being secure in your strengths, and that's hard, okay? Especially when you aren't quite sure what your strengths are yet. Style is elusive, you only kind of know it when you see it. And it means shooting a lot. You need a large body of work to start defining your style. So if you're not shooting, at least on a weekly basis, you're gonna have trouble. Because your confidence is not gonna come from knowing and seeing what's behind you, that body of work behind you. Do you know what I'm saying? It's kind of like, I used to keep a journal when I was a little kid, and going back and looking at my past kind of gave me confidence as to who I was becoming. It's the same thing, written word versus photography. Your photography portfolio is a diary of you, really. So what does that look like? And how do you visually represent yourself? And it's a vulnerable position to be in, and it can be very frustrating to find it. But the more you shoot, the faster you will find it. And you have to find it by emulating others. In the beginning, you have to. And I get so frustrated when people say, "Oh you know, so-and-so copied me." I'm like, "Yeah, I know it's frustrating." It's really frustrating, trust me. When people steal your work and copy you? It's frustrating, especially when they claim it's their own. Read Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist. There is a kind way to copy, to show inspiration. Like Vicky Vergara just taught me a bunch of stuff a couple weeks ago. And I'm like, "Oh, I want to shoot like that." "I got to try that stuff out, I got to make this." but I'm making it my own, but I'm still gonna give, I haven't posted anything publicly yet. But if I do, it will be, oh this was inspired by Vicky. She's the one who I'm emulating to try and learn this technique so I can then make it my own. Does that make sense? So there's a kind way to be respectful to the artists around you and copy them with your own heart, not with their mind. Does that make sense? Yeah, true. We got questions on the line? Got a question from online. I'd love to answer a couple questions. Yeah, how long did it take you to narrow down your brand and know what it would be? I, that's a really interesting question. I've been in the business, let's see. In January, it'll be 11 years in business and I probably, I moved to Bend in 2009, and it probably took me at least three years from there to feel like I had some definition in my style and brand. But I would not say my brand was fully, fully formed until we began our remodel on my studio exactly a year ago. So that's 10 years of exploration before I felt absolutely confident, yup it's me. Do you know what I mean? There was always that, I mean I had a good feeling, but there was always that little bit of, is this really me? So there's almost two phases it sounds like. When you establish it, that takes a whole bunch of work, but then every day you have to make, when you're on Pinterest you're making a call every day. You refine it, and it's a constant refinement process. And that's why I say don't worry if your style changes a little bit over time. I mean, look at the great artists. I mean, Dali for example, Salvador Dali. He was a realist, he started off as a realist and then, you know, doing things exactly as they were, almost photographic. And then he turned into a surrealist where he's doing crazy stuff going, "Oh, that can't exist but in your dreams." you know what I mean? So everybody as an artist goes through a tran, there are no artist out there has stayed the same their entire careers. And your style is so much a part of your brand and integrated into what you do that, Be willing to let your brand evolve, but don't be all willy-nilly change-your-logo-every-six-months, okay? Think of your logo as the face of your company. Would you do plastic surgery every six months? Do you think people would trust you if you did that? Whoa! What happened to Julia? (groans and mutters under breath) Remember the whole Renee Zellweger thing? When everybody kept accusing her of having plastic surgery because she looked so different? There was huge issues with her personal brand. People are like, "It doesn't look like her anymore." And they didn't like it, like they didn't trust her. Same thing with your company. If you try to flip things too much, or you get sick of your logo, then people are gonna go, your customers are like, "Whoa. I don't know if I trust this company." "They're all over the place." You'll look all over the place, and that's not professional, right? You wanna look like you've got your stuff together, okay? So I know this can be frustrating, but be patient with yourself. Give it some time, let it evolve. Know that it takes people years to finally nail this.

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Ratings and Reviews

Courtney Ranck-Copher

I own I think all of Julia's classes. This is probably my favorite. I will say that it's because its exactly the type of photography I have been wanting to focus on. So the information was extremely valuable to me. But I do love all of Julia's classes and you can learn so much from her as a mentor regardless of the type of portraits you shoot. Thanks Julia for a wonderful class I have watched it multiple times!


As always, Julia never disappoints! It has been so awesome to watch her work with such incredible intention, from concept to session to sales. Her energy and strategy are so motivational and very, very creative! This class rocks from start to finish, and is a perfect addition to my Creative Live business arsenal! Five stars all the way!!!!!

Amy Vaughn

My favorite part was seeing how Julia's business evolved over time and transformed into what it is today. Good tips for finding inspiration to develop a niche and practical marketing advice. I'm glad I took this alongside Tamara's business class - the two photographers had very different approaches to their business and shooting family photography in many ways, but it really illustrators how there's no one way to do everything. I learned so much from both of them.

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