Skip to main content

photo & video

Start and Grow Your Photography Business

Lesson 8 of 27

How to use Keywords to Define your Brand

Kevin Kubota

Start and Grow Your Photography Business

Kevin Kubota

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

8. How to use Keywords to Define your Brand

Lesson Info

How to use Keywords to Define your Brand

Alright. So, let's talk about branding! First of all, what is branding? You could say, who do you think you are, in a sense. What... What you're about. So, branding is different than marketing. But, it ties into marketing, of course. But, branding is really, very personal. It's all about you. Here's a great little quote, that I found. "A brand is an idea, an ethos, "an image you wanna portray, to your customers. "Your brand should be evident, "in the way you interact with customers, "the language you use, in association with your company, "the products or services you sell, "and even the way you answer the telephone." So, remember those points of contact we talked about, at the very beginning of the day? All those are part of your brand, and each one of those communicates to your client, or your potential client, what your brand is. And that's why brand is so important, and why you can build a really powerful business, with a great brand... Even if your product, your photography is ave...

rage. Which it gives hope, to a lot of photographers out there. (all laughing) And I'm not saying this, in a bad way. There's nothing saying, that if you're an average photographer, you're like below the rest of us, or anything like that. It's not true! You know? You could have an average product, and that is totally okay, but if you're good at branding, you're good at the sales, you're good at the marketing, you can be very successful, make a lotta money, and be just as happy as the... Crazy, eccentric artist, who has no money, 'cause they don't know what they heck they're doin', as far as the business. So, which would you rather be? The eccentric artist, that everybody goes, ooh, you're so amazing, who's starving? Or, the average photographer, and people go, I like your work, and... You're makin' tons of money? (laughs) That's probably a better place to be, you know? I mean, unless your ego's more important, than your pocketbook. It's up to you. So, let's talk about how do we define your brand. So, one of the exercises, that I came up is, actually came up by accident, years ago, when I was starting in my wedding business. And what happened was, I was... I used to have albums, that I would place all around town, like my wife worked at a women's gym, so she took albums to the gym, and put them on the table there, and I had a... For the woman, who cut my hair, the hairdresser lady, we became friends, so she said, "I'll keep one of your wedding albums "on my counter." And people come in, they always talk to the hairdresser, right? So, any place I can stick an album, I did. And I was sitting there, gettin' my hair cut one day, and I, we're talkin' about wedding photography, and she says, somethin' about, "Oh, well your style is perfect for it." And it kinda hit me. The question is, what is my style? So, I asked her, well how would you define my style? And she said three words. She just blurted them out. I don't remember exactly what they were, 'cause it was like 20 years ago, but she said somethin' like, "Fun, romantic, sexy." And I was... Thought, oh, that's interesting, because I never thought of it that way, and my logo, at the time, my website at the time, my points of contact, at the time, did not say fun, romantic, sexy, but apparently, my images were saying that, to her. So, I went home, and it got me thinkin', so I went home, and asked Clare, my wife. I said, hey, give me three words, to define... What you think of my wedding photography. And she said three words, that were almost the same. Some of them may have been the same. So, I said, shoot, I think I'm onto something here, so I started asking other people. Here's my portfolio. Give me three words. And people would start blurting out words. And it turned out, that somewhere around, fun, romantic, sexy, tended to be what people said, about my work, at the time. And... I sorta look at my... If I showed ya, I shoulda brought my old logo. (laughs) Anything with that, woulda been really funny! If you guys saw my old logo, it's very industrial, very manly man design. It's slick, and black, and gold, and all that stuff. I'm like, ooh, so slick, you know? 'Cause in my head, I'm like, I wanna be the slick photographer, but my images are not that. When I went out, I had a whole different... Personality that came out, when I shooting weddings, and portraits, and all that, which was more why I think I'm more about. And so, there's images I had, in my head, of what I should've been, when I wanted to be, or thought I wanted to be, was not really in line, with what I was actually doing, as a photographer, or actually really wanted to do. And so, I went through the process, of redesigning my entire everything. (chuckles) I hired a woman designer, to design a logo, that was more feminine-looking, 'cause I knew that was... Fun, romantic, sexy. I was appealing to women, as a wedding photographer, and portrait photographer. So, I had to take myself out of the equation a little bit, and get a logo, that represented that. I went through everything on my site, and my site wa all black. I said, well, black is nice, it's elegant, but it's not fun, romantic, sexy. That's not, you know, it doesn't work. So, I changed that, changed the font, changed everything, changed my brochures, changed pretty much everything I had, and over the course of a year, which it took me about that long, to really get everything switched over, all of a sudden, my business just transformed. And what things had happened, was I would get... I talked to you earlier, what are those questions you ask yourself? Do you get calls, from clients, that pretty much know what they want? They know they want you, to basically seal the deal. And... Do they call you, for the certain type of photography that you do? And if your brand is on point, if you got everything, all your messaging out there, in the world, tells pretty much exactly who you are, that client will come to you. And that's what started, happened for me, is all of a sudden, I stopped getting the, I would shoot weddings, before this, and I'd have people that come... They booked me, because they just, maybe they liked me, or they saw some beautiful images, in my portfolio, but when the wedding was done, they would always be like, oh, but where is that... The full-length picture of the bride, from the back? And where's the family picture, with everybody standing, and smiling, and... The very traditional stuff, which I didn't typically do a whole lot of that, back then. And so, I was kinda frustrated, that people seemed to love my work, but at the same time, I was getting clients, that were expecting something different. And as soon as I got my brand on point, and my keywords, and my marketing, all that, I would start to draw in the brides, that just said, "You do what you do." At the end of the day, they're like, I love everything. And... It's crazy, how the difference between what was happening the year before, and the year after, I got myself on track. So, I started to draw the people that, 'cause would see it! They could see it, in my points of contact, and my keywords, and my branding, everything. This was who I was, and that's who they were, and that's why we connected so well. Alright? I've done this exercise, and I'll walk you through it real quick. I've done this exercise, with... My workshops. I do week-long workshop, in Bend... The grill photo workshop. And in that workshop, we do this, with the students, everybody gets to do it, and people, we actually walk them through the transformation process, applying this to all the pieces of your business, and I've seen some crazy things happen, in people's business, from going where they, my favorite story, well it's not favorite. It is my favorite. She came in, and said... She was ready to quit. She was basically in tears, when she came. She said, "This is my last ditch effort. "I can't make any money, as a photographer. "If this doesn't work, after this workshop, I'm done! "I'm going back to waitressing," or whatever it was she was gonna do. And so, one of the big things that we did for her, was we looked at her, we took to the keyword exercise on her, and she was this fun, playful. She drove a Volkswagen, an old 60s Volkswagen bug, with yellow sunflowers painted all over it. But, she was this crazy, funny, just quirky, beautiful young lady, and yet all of her marketing materials was this elegant, beautiful, bridal... Swishy cursives, and all that. It was really nice, but it was just totally not quirky, playful, funny, like she was! Her personality just reeked of funny and quirky. So, we totally re-branded her, refocused her, on exactly who she was. She transformed everything in her business, and went from going, long story short... Six months, almost a year later, she had gone, from going almost out of business, to being full-time, bringing her husband in the business, to help her, and she found two, actually at the end of the year, having to hire other photographers, to help her shoot weddings, 'cause she couldn't keep up. And it was all because she, I mean, there was other things that she did, but this was one of the key things, that transformed her business. So here's what we're gonna do! And what you guys at home can do, you guys can download this exercise, and this is what you should do, when you are sharing it at home. We're gonna do it live. You're gonna take 10 of your images, and this is the important part. There should be 10 images, that represent who you truly are, the style in which you love to photograph. This is those things, that you would love to do, if you could. Not images, you think will sell. Not images, that have sold, necessarily, unless they are particular images you love. They're not images of things that you love, got people bringing images of their kids. "Well, you said images of things, that I love." Not your kid. The images that you love, the style, right? So, it should represent, really, in an idea, where this is me, as a photographer. This is what I love to do, and it could change over time, and it will. And that's something you can reevaluate, come back to this exercise, maybe annually, and just see if your style's evolved and change, okay? So, you take those 10 images, you show them to at least 10 people, and you're gonna show them a list of adjectives, which I'll show you in just a second. And from those adjectives... You can use mine, you can make your own list. They will describe what they feel, immediately, from your presentation. And that certainly gives you a pretty good idea of what you're about, because you tally them up. The more people you do, the better. Now, we have a tally, from quite a few people, for our example, which is really kinda cool, and you'll get your top three words, and that gives you guidance, into creating your marketing, everything else that you do. Alright, so let's look at our example list. So, for those of you in the class, you can see it's on the wall. At home, it's over there as well. And this is a... A collection of words, that I put together, that kinda covers the gamut. The problem, if you try to create your own list, is you'll put words that you wanna see, (chuckles) about yourself! You know, there's no bad words on here. There's nothing that says boring, or dumb, or whatever. They are all positive adjectives, and a wide variety of them, and that's the point of this, is let people really go where you may not expect them to go. You may find, a word comes up, and a lotta times, people do this, and they go, "Wow, I'm surprised." And sometimes, you do it, and you're like, "Yeah, that's me. "Totally get that, and I'm on track." So... Should we try this? Should we try it? Somebody's submitted some images. Alright, so we're gonna try it. And I'll bring the images up. I can't remember now, who's images, Jim, did we... Michelle's. Michelle's images, right? Yep, okay. So, I'll bring the images up. You guys here, can vote. And we're gonna give you the magic voting machine. Ready? (Kevin imitating machine whirring) You got your magical voting machine. You're gonna vote on your three keywords. People at home, you guys can follow along as well, and pick your words. So, here's the first. There's gonna be two slides of images. And what you want to do, is just get a feeling, from these images. Alright? You don't wanna analyze 'em too much, you don't wanna think literally, but what feelings do you get? And can you pick a word, out of our words, to go along with the feeling... That you're getting? So, I'm gonna flip back and forth, to the next slide. This is the second set of images. So, this is her 10 images. Beautiful images by the way, Michelle. Thank you for sharing those with the world. If anyone needs a wedding photographer, here we have! (chuckles) What's your website, Michelle?! There you go. You'll have a bunch of people waiting at your door, when you get home. And we're just flipping back and forth now. These are her two sets of images, that you're gonna apply your keywords to. Alright. You guys feel like you got it? Got some words? And I want you now, to think of your words... Nothing up my sleeves. Think of your words, and project them here, into these fortune cookies. (audience laughing) Alright? Come on, bring it in! (Kevin babbling) Oh, I got 'em! I got... Ooh! One of the words was... Can you see that? "Joyful." Joyful. I see that in her images, for sure. Alright. Next one was... "Loving!" Loving? That's a good word to have, for wedding photography, I would say. And her last word was... Michelle, you've never seen me before, in your life, right? Okay, thank you. (Michelle chuckling) We're not friends on Facebook, or anything, right? Nope. "Romantic!" Romantic is the last word. Cool! So, this is it, her three words! Joyful, romantic... And loving. And if we... Actually, we... We actually did do this, and I am magic. I got these words on here. But, this is her tally. And we can see that, on your screen here, of all the words that people picked, and this is really interesting too. You can see what might be your next choices, in the line, but man, romantic was way out there. Look at that. 21 people, 51% of the people that voted on your thing. I don't know how many votes we actually got. Essentially, we don't know that. 41. 41 votes on it. Okay, so 41 people voted. And this is, by far... Your leader out here, romantic. And then, we have, here's your loving, and your joyful. These are pretty close, too. Classic and stylistic, which is really interesting to kinda think about how that integrates. But the idea here, is romantic... Joyful... And loving. How does that work into... Who you feel you are? And more importantly, is your current marketing efforts, your current branding, is everything about you right now, that's out there, in the public, say that? Well, I think the first one, romantic, is probably... What everybody picked, the majority picked, is my favorite too. Yeah. 'Cause, I love romantic photographs, and that, sometimes, doesn't naturally happen, at a wedding. Okay. And does, do you think that your branding materials, and all that, we don't, I don't know if we're gonna take a look at any of your particular branding materials. We don't have that one. But, it'd be a good question, for you to ask yourself. And generally, what we do, is these exercises, and you pull out all your marketing things, and you lay them out, and you say, okay, joyful, romantic... Loving. Do my things say that? Does your sales environment say that? Are you making it romantic? Do you have candles and things burning, when people walk in? Does it feel romantic, your environment, that you sell? And that's where you wanna start. Start applying these three keywords, now, to everything, in your marketing, in your branding. Does that make sense?

Class Description

It’s important to plant the seeds to grow your photography business the right way. Whether you are transitioning from a hobbyist to a professional, or have already launched your new business and don’t know what to do next, Kevin Kubota will show you the key and essential steps to getting your business growing in the right direction. You’ll learn who you are as a photographer and how to position, brand, and market yourself to the perfect clientele. 

Kevin will show you:
  • How best to brand yourself to attract clientele that hire you for you 
  • Pricing and packaging strategies to maximize your sales 
  • How to perfect your sales techniques without being pushy 
It’s time to start or build up a photography business that will allow you to be creative and make money at the same time. Kevin will help you achieve that goal.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Branding Statement

Contract Do's & Dont's

Evaluate your Business

Keyword Exercise

Points of Contact

Sample Portrait Session Contract

Startup Checklist

Photography Pricing Calculator

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Lauren Scott

Super great class. I've been in business full-time for 5 years, and I'm just now starting to get my "act together" I have spent so much time shooting, it has taken away from the business aspect and actually identifying myself as a brand, this was a good way to get the basics, learn, lots of good info. NOT boring at all, he is super funny and super personable, not pretentious and speaks to you in a way thats easy to understand... sometimes I feel like entrepreneurs come off a bit "nose-in-the-air" with all these terms myself as a creative cannot understand... but not with Kevin, down to earth funny guy! I also emailed him with a few questions and he was so kind to email be back right away! Thanks Kevin and thanks creative live! Bring him back!

KIS Photography

This was an amazing class to be a part of! I knew it would be good, from watching Kevin Kubota's previous Creative Live classes, and this course far exceeded my expectations! Kevin is a fantastic teacher, giving sound advice, presented clearly, with a down to earth, caring & humorous touch! I've watched it over on the replay, picking up on more things each time. This class will help me to get my photography business off on the right start, and I am looking forward to implementing all of his fantastic advice! Thank you Kevin & Creative Live!