Creating Your Brand
So now we're gonna talk about creating a brand. Creating your brand. Look, who are you? Clients hire you for your style. But also, you as a photographer, you need to have a kind of a brand. That seems weird. You think that you're not the brand. Your the photographer, you're gonna shoot for the other brands. But you yourself actually, I think, need to have a brand these days. Branding yourself the way you are, the way you look, the way you sound, the way you shoot, it's all those things. And that's kind of-- People are like, "Oh no, I don't wanna..." The way, and I am not pointing at you 'cause I'm pointing you out, but it's sort of like-- I say to people, "Every time we wake up in the morning, "we make a fashion statement." Whether we like it or not. The way we get dressed, the way we brush our hair, the way we do our hair, the way we color our hair says something about who we are. And people will read you for that. Just like they read-- You see a book cover and you're like, "Am I gonn...
a pick up this book? "Do I like this book?" Literally, everything you do, I, this morning, put this jacket on put this white shirt on, and all of a sudden you have a sort of a more formal look. I'm thinking to myself is this my school teacher look? You know. But as silly as this sounds, that is a part of the brand that you have started to create. So, when you go for jobs and people meet you and see you, the way you look and present yourself becomes also, a part of what they think you're gonna be doing. And so, I'll tell you a little story. When I did America's Next Top Model, how I actually got that job that day, it was Jay Manuel who was the stylist on the show and became a good friend of mine, had called me in and I had worked with almost all these people before, but they did tell me, like, the producers are gonna be at our house. And they're gonna be filming you and you're gonna be in a little bit of a critique. And we'll see if they like you for, you know, so you can be a photographer for an episode. And I thought, okay, well, I'm gonna need to do something about the way I look, I'm gonna be on camera, you know. And this stylist, who's a good friend of mine said, "Come shopping with me." And, I remember, we walked past this Prada store and inside were a pair of these red Prada shoes. Bright red Prada shoes with a huge point. And I look, and he's like, "Oh, that's for you." And I was like, "Whoa, no, no, no, I can't be seen in those." And he's like, "No, no, take a risk." And I remember when he said that and it just, again, I was like, "Okay, you're challenging me." And you know, I'm like, 'cause I hear the word risk and I'm like, (mimicking rattling), okay, you know. And I'm like, "Let's do this." And I put those red shoes on and I remember feeling slightly awkward, but, I'm like, "My father had always told me "you can judge a man by his shoes." And, I went to the interview and I did this whole interview and at the very end, there were like a whole bunch of producers there, they said to me, "You know, we really love your shoes." And I'm like, "Oh, that's so nice." They're like, "Yeah." And the whole conversation for the next ten minutes revolved around my shoes. When I left, it wasn't for a month later, I got a phone call and they told me that I was gonna be on America's Next Top Model and I was, you know, not just as a photographer for one episode but as a more permanent role. But they said, "And can you bring those shoes." So, it became a thing, so, I guess taking a risk sometimes and, but again, creating that brand-- That was also the beginning for me to realize where I was being judged by the way I looked as well, and my personality, and when I'm on set how I handle myself. It's all a part of that bigger brand. Now, obviously, clients hire you for your photographic style. But, you know, I guess what is the bigger vision. Your personal style has to be a part of that brand. And so for me, I'm always thinking to myself, you know, no matter if I'm shooting big or small, I have to have that look and feel. And it's not easy always. Sometimes when, you know, you're shooting one person or one scenario, it has one look and feel, but when you're gonna do something that's sort of monumental how do you make it even bigger? Now, this is my website actually and I took a screenshot of my website. Because, your brand has to be everywhere. The way you present yourself online, the way you present yourself in person, the way you talk to people. There's a certain look, a certain elegance toward the things that I like to do. But, no matter who you are, you know, are you the rock and roll guy, are you a wedding photographer and you have a certain clientele, are you, you know-- What type of photography are you into? And who are your clients? And who are you after? 'Cause if you're going to, you know, try and work for Rolling Stone, you know, perhaps you want to look a certain and feel if you're gonna be going on set with bands and you're gonna be shooting them. You can't be seen necessarily dressed like me, right. So, there's that eye concept of actually getting and understanding that you need to be a part of the whole picture. You are also a part of that picture. And I joke that my style is sort of the fashion mullet. I'm sort of business on top and party on the bottom, because nine times out of 10 I'll wear a jacket to set, 'cause I just like it, I feel comfortable with them on, but I have to wear jeans 'cause I'm gonna be crawling on my knees within minutes. And I get to the set and, I, you know, I present myself in a certain way with the clients and everyone feels like their sets under control. "I'm gonna take my jacket off." Hang it up on a C-stand, roll up my sleeves and we're ready to go, you know. But it's that sort of general look and feel of who I am and what I'm producing and my website and everything else that I find important. But, how you handle clients as well. Now, this is a whole series of pictures that you can see, I'm giving away to these clients of mine and these are all designers from Betsy Johnson on the left. A lot of these guys are movers and shakers in the business and I love people to sort of, you know, not just appreciate what I have, but, but giving it to them, I'm also hoping that they're gonna put it on the wall, and every time remember me and remember my work and everything else. So, there's an aspect to everything you're doing where you have to do things to promote yourself, right. You gotta do things that are gonna make people, you know, remember you. And, also, when they remember you, be happy about the fact that you've given them something beautiful. You know, so I actually shoot almost everyone I work with. I'm constantly shooting people and every time I go on set, half the time I ask the fashion stylist or the client and bring them on too and photograph them as well. And that's something that I've always done. I think it's a great idea, because it makes them a part of the shoot as well. And sometimes people are awkward, "Oh, no I don't want to do that. "Oh, really, no, no." But, I always try and make it happen. And it's been one of the, you know... I think now and I look back at all those different people and the prints I've given them. In the pictures that they have. And I go to their house and it's hanging in there. And they're like, "Oh, I really love that picture, thank you." And it's-- And they have, no one else has done that for them. And it's a reminder, obviously, for them that I shot this of them. But, it's also, it's a nice thing to do, it's a good thing to do. But, it also helps promote you, as well. So, it's sort of doing things that are a little unusual. And, you know, perhaps spending a little money, or doing that kind of thing. Website and social media. We all live in this world of social media these days. And, I know there's a lot of people out there, there's a lot of photographers out there who are not in love, necessarily with Instagram. Guess what, I love it. I do. I am thrilled that there are sort of a billion people out there taking pictures or appreciating pictures and involved with photography. Yes, many of them are taken with phones. Is that problem? I don't think so. It could be, it might be. But that's really up to you, really, if you're bothered by it or not. But, what I do think is important about branding, specifically, is understanding Instagram as a photographer. A lot of people think that they should only promote their best work. That sort of finished final pieces. I don't think that's a great idea on Instagram. And people use it as a portfolio. And, if you really understand social media, and listen, this is my perspective on it, I think it is about-- It gives people the opportunity to see you as a brand and all aspects of it. So, I put up my final pictures, like the finished polished work. But, I also display my personal work, I also put up pictures of my kids, and my life, and things that I'm doing, the behind the scenes. Because it tells that whole story, it tells the story of Nigel Barker, the brand, the lifestyle. (sneezing) Yeah. All the different things that I'm doing. And if you use it that way, it really, I think, that's the most useful tool it can be. If you put only your final pictures up, people who are viewing Instagram aren't looking at it to see-- You know, you have a website where you can do all of that and you can put all your final pictures up. Those numbers, if you're trying to grow your numbers on social, they have to see you as the person. And models have actually made a comeback in the fashion industry, in large part, because of Instagram. It sort of seems bizarre, but for a long time, actors and actresses and celebrities go on the covers of magazines, were doing all the stories because you love them because they were people that were being, that could act and perform and that you could identify with them a bit more. Models, even though they are quite often not that I, you know, it's not easy to relate, because of social media they're putting all the behind the scenes, them laughing, giggling, getting dressed, getting ready, you know, how I did this photo shoot and people are fascinated with them all over again. And it's like their having a sort of a renaissance almost. So, you know, understanding social media for what it is, and utilizing it to help grow your brand is very important and I recommend, personally, showing it. And I don't think that you should hide.