How Style is Applied to your Brand: Product Line
Product line. How many of you have a product line you're happy with? Okay. Good. How many of you are lost and don't even know where to start? Okay. How many of you kind of have some products but you're not sure they're right? Okay, so we have a big mix of people out there who aren't sure. Remember your product line is a huge component of your business. It's what the client walks out the door with that has your images on it, okay? Your work is what they're investing in. The product line is what they're leaving with. That is so critical and you have to match the product line to your work. For example, I hate shiny things. That's not quite true. I mean, diamonds are really pretty but (group laughs) I don't like glossy. I don't like metallic. You know what I'm talking about? I love, I'm a paper snob. Any of you paper snobs in here? I'm a total paper snob. Like you put me into Paper Source, the store, and I will literally spend hours like fingering the paper and smelling it. My first job wa...
s at a Hallmark card store and I had to stock the cards and match the number of envelopes to the cards and I would literally sit there and go (inhales) and smell the paper. (group laughs) My boss probably thought I was a total lunatic. (laughs) Remember in Legally Blonde and she pulls out her resume. "Here's my resume!" And he goes, "It's scented." "Yeah, I thought it'd give it something a little extra." (laughs) I'm like, oh my God, that is so me (laughs) to hand a pink scented resume to somebody. It's just, don't make me laugh. Anyway, paper snob, okay? I love matte papers, Hahnemuhle makes, Moab makes some beautiful papers. Even Epson Velvet Fine Art paper is stunning. Lex Jet makes incredible paper. So I learned to print on matte papers 'cause it's what I love. There's a Japanese company that makes like filament papers and see-through papers and cozy papers and they're so cool to print on 'cause it just makes your image magical. So to me, being able to print on a matte surface totally matches my work and my heart so ask yourself even down to the finish of what you produce. Are you producing lustre paper prints because that's what everybody does? Why are you doing lustre paper prints? And that's fine, they're beautiful, don't get me wrong, they're gorgeous, but ask yourself if it's (clicks teeth) with your style, (clicks teeth) with your brand, okay? Then when you start doing this and analyzing your product line and asking yourself if the textures, tones, product itself, framing, the way it's displayed actually works with what you do as an artist, then all of sudden when you think of new products, you're thinking along those lines, not just what the lab is telling you you should get. One of the products that we do is this deckled edge print. So what I'll do is take a matte print, okay, tear the edges and then hand paint it with a little metallic paint. So I do like some shiny and then fabric behind it to create a deckle edged, float mounted product that's framed and under anti-glare glass, okay? So to me, that matches my work in these monochromatic tones and that soft matte paper which is the little element of surprise, it's kind of a low res image, I'm sorry, little element of surprise with that champagne colored metallic paint on the edges. It's labor intensive stuff right here but we also charge an arm and a leg for it, too. These are higher end products in my studio but they go so well with our brand. That Joanna Gaines look, that country home, that I don't wanna say country 'cause that's not really the right, it's farm-, industrial farmhouse feeling I love so much and so we started combining word canvases with imagery. We call it word walls. So we will match a client's images to a word canvas and it has that kind of textural, farmhouse feel to it like you know how they have the signs on the walls in farmhouses? Everyday I love you. In this house we say we're sorry, you know those little sayings that are in, that's basically taking that and combining it with imagery. How many of you have a Hobby Lobby in your town? Hobby Lobby is like, what about Michaels? Does anybody know what Michaels is? Yeah, okay, well, Hobby Lobby is Michaels on steroids. It takes like four hours to get through Hobby Lobby and they have a whole section, probably three times the size of this room, with signs. You know, just cute signs you can hang on your house and that's where I actually got the idea. I was like, oh my gosh, what if you combined these with prints and imagery? So we'll do matte canvases, some framed, some as gallery wrap and create a wall series that has a special quote or meaning and we can do them completely custom. Like that saying "I love you to the moon and back", well, for my husband and I, it's I love you to the sky and back and the sky never ends so to us it's, we took a spin on a famous quote and so that's what I put on ours and people love it 'cause that's custom, it's a new take, it's your family thing. I love you more, I love you most, that kind of thing, you can take these comments and phrases that you hear in movies that you take on your own that's your own family little saying and turn it into something custom. Wall galleries. Wall galleries are always layered. I love combining shelves with, a print sitting on the shelf with layering on top of silver frames versus barn wood frames, adding ampersand signs, something that's kind of off kilter and looks like it was layered over time, a unique product that matches the brand. We just started doing these industrial proof boxes, okay, from photo flash drives. Engraved in the top it says "Love is all you need" and then on the inside is our crystal USB flash drive and our logo on the inside there with all their proofs in there. So if they buy the high res files for us, from us, they get this for free and photo flash drive came up with the custom box for me 'cause I was looking for something that had that kind of industrial feel but still the textural wood, organic feeling to it and they totally hit it out of the park and created this for me and it's absolutely perfect and ever since we implemented this, no client has bought the small files. They've all bought the large. So it was a huge coups 'cause it upped our average sale by about two or $300 per client for the investment of the box which to me was a great return on investment but again it still has, it has an industrial farmhouse feel, that Joanna Gaines, you could see this on Joanna Gaines', in one of Joanna Gaines' houses. You could totally see this and oftentimes that is what I will ask myself when I come up with a product line. I love her interior design look so much that I will say would this fit in a Joanna Gaines house? And it's quite effective actually. So if you find a designer that you love and want to go with it, then by all means, grab it an go. Albums, we use are Millers but again, soft tones, organic fabrics, it's only specific colors are offered. So think about that. Millers offers a bunch of different colors. I only pull out those colors if the client's really a whack job (group laughs) and they want some random like metallic purple or something like that, then I'll pull it out. For the most part, I pull out the neutrals that match our brand so that any album they get is going to be suited to the brand of the studio. Linens, I love linens. This is classic our style, our brand. So be thinking about this when you develop your product line. What is your style in your imagery? And does your product line match your style? The final product that we've been doing lately is our encaustic wax prints and this is a little hard to see and Haley, you'll have to, I'll kind of put it on a light. There's painted metallic wax on here and this image was actually shot in Creative Live a couple of years ago and so I print the image on matte paper and then I heat encaustic wax and paint it on top of the image and what's super cool is we frame these, I didn't bring it like this for studio, for this, but we frame this with two pieces of glass because when you put light through it, it's translucent 'cause the wax heats the paper and makes the paper, I don't know if you can see this or not.
Yeah, when you put your hand back there.
When I put my hand back there, like that? You can see that it's translucent so when you put glass behind it and then pop it on an easel like that in front of a window, the window lights up the image and makes it glow from behind but that's only because the wax is on it. So organic, textural, authentic, still clean, simple, but suited to the style and the brand of my imagery. Make sense? So I'm constantly hunting for products that satisfy those parameters and you will too once you begin nailing down your style. Okay, I wanna show you a photographer whom I think has done an incredible job at marrying her style to her product line and her brand and that is Jenny Cruger. Jenny is in Tennessee and her work is just delicious, don't you think? It's a totally different style than me but so stylized. I mean, you just know a Jenny Cruger image when you see it. I wanna show you her company video. It's about three minutes long and there is audio with it so hopefully audio knows that in the back. She talks about who she is as an artist and a style. It's almost like her video is her artist statement and she shows her studio. I want you to be very cognizant of how the imagery matches the space, the style matches the space and the style matches her product line, okay? So this is Jenny Cruger. (children laughing)
Coming from the chaos of home and your home looks like a tornado went off and coming here and just being able to let all of that go and just relax and even just for an hour to be calm and see calming colors and beautiful light and enjoy that experience with our family. I just love stuff that looks organic in a way that happens without interference, tones and textures that are just subtle but still really beautiful and feminine, luxurious without being over the top, still natural. You know, simple colors and simple things like that. Just letting babies be, giving them some directions and giving mom some direction but letting them stand how it's natural for a mom to stand or how it's natural for a mom or a dad to hold their new baby and make little adjustments here and there but without really forcing like unnatural things. Just letting everybody be comfortable and calm and happy. (soft relaxing music) So it's not just about pictures at the end, just about throwing pictures up on social media. I want them to have like an all around experience and feel good about it. So we have the full clothing line for moms and kids and babies. I want my clients to feel super pampered, super appreciated, and just super loved. (soft relaxing music) I feel like when you put who you are into your career and into your art and into what you do, everything comes out so much better. (soft relaxing music) Everybody tickle somebody you love.
Tickle, tickle, tickle!
Boo! (soft relaxing music) I love albums because you can flip through them over and over and over again and they last years and years and years. (soft relaxing music)
Look at this one! He looks so big!
Oh, he looks so big.
Oh my gosh, he looks so big! (soft relaxing music)
It's really amazing to be able to do something that you love, get to work with awesome, awesome moms, and awesome families and kids. Every mom thinks their kid's crazy and they're like, oh my goodness, I can't believe he's doing that and every kid is that way and it's fine and it's normal. I really appreciate every time somebody sends me an email and considers using me or decides to have sessions with me. I would not be able to do any of this without clients that keep coming back to me. (soft relaxing music)
Isn't that amazing? I feel her style when I watch that. It almost makes you emotional and cry because you're like, (exhales). When I go to Jenny Cruger Photography I am going to (exhale) and feel loved and I'm gonna experience the love of my family and she basically put her artist statement and her brand and her style into a promotional video. It's very touching, it's very moving, and it tells the client exactly what they are going to get out of their experience with her and how much she cherishes what she does but in a way that benefits them, not her. Did you get that? She's also incredibly forthright about her product line and how important that is. She, her product line reflects her style on every way, shape, and form. Every product you saw in that video, every one that you're seeing here now, is Jenny Cruger style. Even her studio and the clothing choices, the location choices, everything that she does, even the way that Jenny dresses in her studio reflects her style and her work and her statement as an artist. Consistency, consistency, she is a genius at consistency. She is a genius at disciplining herself to staying true to who she is and she even said that in the video. There's something special about being authentic and to who you are in your art and the client hears that and goes, yeah, they know that. Okay but when you vomit that in their face, they're like, yeah, I mean they need it to be bopped upside the head, to be told that and she did that beautifully with her video and I thought she was such a good example of, number one, someone who has style, a very beautiful style and, number two, someone who's taken that a step further and put it into their brand and their marketing and their collateral and their promotions 'cause this video is essentially a promotion for her studio and it lives on her website and anybody who wants to go to her website can go see what the experience is gonna be like with her. I did the same thing, totally different way in my own studio last year when Ben Hartley came to do a video with us. For me, we didn't highlight what we do at all, it was all about the mom which was successful in a different way but I think Jenny is actually doing it better in that she's giving the client who the artist is because your clients want to connect with you. They want to know who you are and they want to know in the simplest form that you're normal (laughs). You know what I mean? They wanna know that they can deal with you, that you're connectable with. So I strongly encourage looking up Jenny. Her work is just beautiful and she's so consistent and disciplined in what she does and I think that really is the hardest part about style and your brand for that matter is keeping the two consistent. It's about that discipline to edit. Consistency though is also what defines and contributes to the style. If you're not consistent, you won't look like you have a style. So like Lindsay said earlier, she said, "I basically stopped doing all that stuff." Allison said the same thing, "I stopped doing weddings. "I didn't feel it was me anymore," and if you're still asking yourself, I don't know if I wanna stop doing that, I still like it, then you need to still discover more. You need to be in that discovery phase more and more and more and it will come as you do that more and more and more. So where are you in this phase, in this cycle, I should say? Where are you as an artist in this process? You will be somewhere in this circle your entire career. Right now, I'm in here with my family work. I'm kinda just graduating from here to here and in my newborn work, I'm still in here and actually doing work that I love and that's totally my style. You will find yourself on this, many places on this circle your entire career and as long as you keep revolving around the circle you're doing awesome. It's when you stop moving on the circle when you should worry. That's the beautiful part about style and finding it is that it's an ever evolving process. It will never end. There will be peaks and there will be valleys. You will find yourself on different spots of the cycle at different times of your life and you'll be, you'll change as your life changes and as your skillset changes. Style is not something you strive for guys. It's already stuck in you. It's already there. You're just letting it come out and I think that's what's so frustrating for me to see students like, "I gotta find my style." It's there already! Just dig it up! Easier said than done, I totally get it. But still, my favorite way of putting this is: "Creativity is the soul's voice. "Style is its vocabulary." All you're trying to do is let your creative voice speak in a different way with different words or the words that are right for you, right for your soul's voice. This image was one that helped me define my style as an artist in the painting aspect and it was done actually in a workshop with Heather but when I did it I was like, Heather Michelle Chin, my painting instructor, when I did it I just had that, you know it's that moment, it's like (exhales) this is what I wanna do, this is my work, this is me, and what the point of saying that is is that you'll always be learning new skills. You will always be becoming better at your craft and as you do that you will grow in your style no matter what. So when someone, you ask the question, how do I find my style? And someone tells you, "Oh, just keep shooting. "It'll come," which is probably the most frustrating thing someone can tell you, what they really mean is keep mastering your craft and learning the technical skills to get better as a photographer and your style will naturally follow right behind you no matter what, you can't help it. It will happen, okay? Click here, there we go. As you grow technically, it gets easier to automatically get your style right. Once you're not thinking about the technical components anymore it allows your heart to speak its voice easier. So the fastest way to growing your style is to technically master skills that you don't know. I strongly encourage all of you to write down those things that you know you need to learn, that you suck at, I can't get that right all the time and remember when we talked about what is a professional. A professional is someone who can get a consistent image in any situation, any situation. Can you? Can you get a full gallery of images in any situation? When you do that then you start allowing your heart to just create from its own accord and skill no longer becomes the deciding factor on what your style is. Look at lots of different styles. Expose yourself to art. Study your craft. Replicate a skill, mood or element over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until you're blue in the face. This not only helps you get better but also helps you see an emerging style. Lindsay nailed it when she said, "I created an image in class that felt right "and then a few weeks later I created another image "that felt right and then another image that felt right "and I was aware of it. "When I put the images together I saw an emerging style." If you're not aware of it, you're gonna feel all willy nilly and like you don't know where you're going, okay? Always be aware of that moment like, "Yes, that's the image!" Today I got it, the little girl with the books like this going, yep, that's it. You heard me say it in camera, that's it! That feeling, you know that you've all had, you've all had that little diamond moment behind the shutter, we've all had it, when you feel those diamond moments, note the image. Put it aside. That's an emerging style. Go crazy creating and play around. Vicky Pa-pas-vergera is a shining example of this. The woman creates everyday. That's why she got so good so fast is because she's shooting every single day. Be a sponge. Be a sponge to your craft. Let the water soak in and don't let it come out the other side. Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn and of course give it time. It needs time to ferment. It needs time to turn to wine. A style found over time is one that will stay. If you find it too fast then you may find yourself going, uh uh, that's not it. Regroup! You have to let it (clicks teeth) fuse and marinate and grow and foster and ferment and all those, fertilize, you just gotta let it, see if it's gonna stick, okay? So give it some time. Finally, stay your course, guys. No distractions. I know the shiny squirrels on either side are really fun to look at but don't look at them! Okay? (clicks teeth) Straight ahead. You can glance over, oh pretty, but have the discipline to edit. Buy your first class ticket on the no train. Yeah, no, I am going to say no to anything that is not me. You know what's you and what's not you. Sometimes you waiver. Sometimes you're, is that me? I'm not sure. If you get that little not sure moment, just sit on it for a couple weeks. If your mind keeps going back to it then chances are it's a yes ticket but if you get distracted, you like something, you're like is that me? Oh, I'm not sure. If you marinated on it and then 24 hours later it's gone out of your head, that's a no train ticket. It will tap you on the shoulder if it's yes and you have to be listening for it, okay? If you're not listening, you'll never know. Edit what you love but also what you don't. Classic example we heard today, know what you don't like as well as what you do. Look to your inner core for you and no one else and this is only work that you can do. No one else can do this for you guys. They can't. It's your heart, it's your soul, it's your life experience. Dig deep. Go back to your childhood. Go back to those things that made you who you are, good, bad, ugly, indifferent and figure out how they impacted your life and how your soul needs to speak. Remember everybody's creative. Creativity is God's way of letting you express your soul. Your style is simply how you do it. It's the vocabulary. So but creativity is also only your journey. I can't tell you this is your, you should be creative this way. (chuckles) That would be totally moot point, okay? So dig deep, figure out what's in here and use that for your art. No one else has that. Nobody has that and it's your unique selling point. It's how you can make the client fall in love with you and I know it's scary to be you and to own it and be authentic and it means being vulnerable. It means being very vulnerable but when you are vulnerable, no matter whether it's good or bad outcome you grow and learn and become better by being vulnerable to not only your clients but also to your peers and their criticism of your work. Some of the best critiques I ever got are the ones that made me grow the most and they're also the ones that hurt the most. The ones that hurt the most are the ones that are the best for you. So open your hearts to improvement. Open your hearts to growing. Open your hearts to being vulnerable and open your hearts to say, you know, I'm okay if the world doesn't wanna buy what I've got to deliver. I will get better and I will change and I will grow and I can't possibly do that unless I stay true to who I am as an artist.