Photographer Branding and Mark Twain

I came across the following quote the other day and think it’s fitting for this post – “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” I have no clue who coined the quote , but it feels Twainish (or is that Twainian?). Or would that be Twain-like? At any rate, back to the topic which I have not even introduced – branding.

The above quote applies because I was doing things the same old way. When I started, I designed my own business card and found a cheap printer. $19.99 for 1000 business cards is a good deal right? I also created a contract and some brochures in Microsoft Word and print those myself. It all looked kinda professional. Looking professional worked a little, but there was a problem.

I am not a designer…despite my wild imagination! Furthermore, I jumped head-long into creating a “brand” before I considered who I am or who I wanted for clients. The lack of a considered approach really showed. It was time for a fresh start.

The first step was the hardest, but the most crucial as well. I had to consider who I was and who I wanted for clients. A photographer’s brand must speak eloquently to both purposes. Defining this core message was really just a thought exercise, but a tough one. Each idea had to be carefully considered and weighed. Through the process, I asked myself questions such as –

  • Imagine your new brand – what feelings, objects, ideas or people would you associate with the brand?
  • Think of yourself – what 3 words describe your work the best?
  • What are the characteristics of people with whom you want to work?

Only after the above concepts were defined (and a million others) did I feel comfortable moving to the next step. I’m smart enough to know I needed professional help (in more ways than one). Maria Pastore joined the project as a professional designer and business branding ninja. She brought a creative eye for print, which was important. She also brought a great ear for messaging. With a well developed message in hand, Maria and I set out to create some key branding materials including a new company name, business cards, website design and client package. Collectively we realized that the following ideas were critical to the overall message and brand –

  • The services and brand should feel like a gift
  • The design had to be approachable, modern and with hints of classic elegance
  • The color palette should be warm and inviting
  • Feel was important, so papers should be tactile and rich
  • Handmade quality, as with all my work, is paramount

Next was sourcing materials and choosing printing providers. Do you know how many types of paper there are? It’s gotta be about a gazillion! I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s say the results are amazing. The letterpress business cards are to die for. When handed over, every clients gently feels and studies the card. That is how I know we accomplished our goal.

A well-defined and meaningful brand works. The clients who choose my work are exactly the people I want to work with. They are some of the most extraordinary people and I am forever grateful for them. I am also forever thankful for Maria….even when she tells me “bad idea, Home Boy!” (I made that last bit up). The above information should not make branding sound easy. I could have written volumes on the subject, but chose to keep it short.

Below you can see just a small preview of the outcome. With this level of quality, my brand will be my heirloom.

Branding materials for Hunter Photographic, a Cleveland wedding photographer

Above, letterpress business cards nestled among the building blocks for the client package. Below, hand-stamped cover tags for each package (they take forever to make).

Branding materials for Hunter Photographic, a Cleveland wedding photographer

Below is the finished client package, folded tightly and sealed with a love knot.

Branding materials for Hunter Photographic, a Cleveland wedding photographer

The front cover of the client package. In the background are the assorted contents ready for stuffing in the dutch felt folders.

Branding materials for Hunter Photographic, a Cleveland wedding photographer

What clients see when they first open the gift, err package.

Branding materials for Hunter Photographic, a Cleveland wedding photographer
Soon I will have some more information about my brand development experience. I also have a piece coming about our new Heirloom and Whistler wedding albums. They are truly amazing and the best quality imaginable. Make sure to stop back. In the mean time, stop by Facebook or Twitter to say hello.

  • Leah Aubrey said:

    So incredible! You should be VERY proud!

  • Hunter said:

    Thanks so much Leah! Maria really did an amazing job and the results are gorgeous. Now it is time to move on to the next steps, which thankfully will be much easier.

  • maria said:

    The "bad idea, Home Boy!" part kills me!

    Thanks for the great write-up! Very impressive, if I do say so myself!

  • stephanie said:

    Absolute love this! glad I stumbled upon it! :) Love your stamp, where did you get that made at? :)

  • Hunter said:

    Thanks for the compliments, Stephanie. I ordered the stamp for somewhere online. Just search around on Google and you fill find a bunch of different providers.

  • Tabatha said:

    Thank you SO much for posting this! I am cringing at the thought of branding but seeing your gorgeous results is inspiring me to make the jump.

  • Lee said: on website, great post man. Just love the pure elegance of the whole branding approach. Thanks for sharing!! PS.. I too love that stamp, although the thought of hand stamping in volume is daunting! haha

  • The look of quality you have achieved is amazing, hand stamping in bulk must be a pain though. How has the new brand affected your business?

  • Hunter said:

    Hand-stamping is really not that bad. In fact, I pretty much stamp everything. For the client packets, I do make the cover labels by hand and in batches. The stamping is the easy part. Cutting the labels and fixing the eyelets is the pain.

    The branding has really launched my business. It makes a huge difference. Whatever the cost, I highly recommend all photographers really hone their brand. Make it personal and make it count. A good brand will really change the nature of your business.

  • Hi, I was wondering where you ordered the folders for your information packet from. My client was inspired by it. Very classy. Thanks, Mim

  • Abel Espino said:

    Hey Hunter!
    This was truly inspiring, you definitely made a perfect balance of modern and classic elegance. I'm still trying to put together my "gift" :) but i'm trying to figure out how to make it look modern and simplistic. Kind of an apple look to it to be honest and I want the main color scheme to revolve around white and hints of either an orange or blue. But still trying to figure it all out.
    Okay, but anyway! I was wondering what kind of folders are those that wrap the entire contents?