Hanoi, 2017
Hanoi, 2017

Okay friend,

To continue PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101, realize that nowadays, everyone is a photographer. How do you stand out from the masses, and differentiate yourself in a meaningful way?

What is “branding?”

Okay, so branding is not necessarily a good thing.

In ancient times, an owner would “brand” their slaves by using a “branding iron” to imprint their property with a certain symbol or crest.

So in today’s world, a “brand” is typically a logo, symbol, or saying which makes a company instantly noticeable.

For example, Apple is a company and they have “branded” themselves as the creative rebels. “Think different.” The classic “Mac vs PC” advertisements. The classic rebellious colorful silhouettes of youth dancing to music for the iPod commercials. The 1984 commercial, of Apple vs “evil” Microsoft.

Tesla is another company I admire. Elon Musk has imbued the “brand image” of Tesla electric car drivers and owners as being “eco conscious” yet cool. The Tesla cars look sleek, sexy, and are very fast.

To me, “branding” is about building trust. Also, “branding” is about imputing or embedding certain values into a company, or person.

Personal branding

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re an individual, trying to build your own photography business. You’re probably not trying to make the next Apple or Tesla.

However, you can still apply this concept of “branding” to yourself, to set yourself apart from the millions of other photographers out there, trying to make a living.

Some basic ideas to brand yourself as a photographer:

1. Design yourself:

Try to be consistent with your aesthetic. What kind of values do you uphold? If you’re trying to appeal to the minimalist and aesthetically oriented audience, you probably want to have a simple, and functional wardrobe. Also, your website, business cards, and portfolio images should reflect your personality.

For myself, I preach the gospel of minimalism and photography. I keep my website clean and minimal, just one column, no annoying pop up advertisements or distractions.

Question: What values do you believe in, and how would you make your website and photos reflect your values?

2. What don’t you believe in?

A good way to brand and differentiate yourself: ask yourself,

What do I not believe in?

Or,

Who am I not for?

Sometimes, knowing who isn’t your audience is more important than knowing who is your audience. And a good way to brand yourself: distance or alienate yourself from values or other companies you don’t believe in.

For example, Sprite was the “un-cola”. Vespa’a slogan is, “We are not for everyone.” High end luxury goods know they’re only trying to appeal to the ultra wealthy, not the working class.

Just as Nassim Taleb says, perhaps the best way to do online dating is to say what you dislike in your profile page. I know in my personal life, it’s better to find a restaurant to eat at with a friend by asking them what they dislike eating.

Question: So who isn’t your target demographic?

If you’re a “lifestyle” photographer, who are you not trying to appeal to? If you’re a modern living person who likes minimalism, you certainly don’t want to appeal to hoarders, or people without aesthetic taste.

For myself, I have distanced myself from other photography bloggers by intentionally not blogging much on camera and gear reviews. Rather, I focus more on photography education, and books. A meaningful differentiation, especially in today’s gadget obsessed world.

3. Go opposite

Another way to think to brand yourself: go opposite from the crowd.

For example, Kinfolk magazine did a good job of promoting “slow living”, especially in today’s hyper fast world. They went opposite.

Whole Foods went opposite from typical grocery chains by going full organic, and focusing on quality of their products, not just constantly slashing prices as did Wal-Mart.

Of course, you don’t want to simply go opposite for the sake of it. My suggestion: think of how you are different or contrarian from the crowd. Highlight that difference in yourself.

Consistency.

To brand yourself, you need to be consistent. Nike’s logo, “JUST DO IT.” has existed forever. They don’t keep changing their mission statement or motto.

Consumers and regular humans get confused with too many changes. They like repetition. We learn via repeated messages, slogans, and ideas. If we’re always changing who we are, what we do, or what we believe in, we will never gain a dedicated following.

Of course to never change is death.

So my suggestion is this:

Be consistent for a period of time, before deciding to change or move on.

For example, I have said, “Hey what’s up streettogs this is ERIC KIM from the ERIC KIM STREET PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG” in the introduction of my YouTube videos for the last 500 videos or so. That has become sticky.

Also, I’ve blogged consistently on street photography from 2011-2017, so I’ve branded myself as the “go to” guy for street photography. Writing 2,700 blog posts on street photography has helped brand myself.

So know building a brand, and a name for yourself will take a long time. At least 5 years of consistent work. It don’t happen overnight.

Another suggestion: build up your first and last name as a “brand”, not something cheesy like “Dark Shadow Photography Imagery” or something like that. For your website, make it: firstnamelastname.com if possible. If not, firstnamelastnamephoto.com.

Conclusion

Building your brand and name is one of the fundamentals to making a successful photography business.

Just remember, trust is the most important currency in building a brand. The reason I buy Tylenol when I have a headache is because I have used it for a long time, and I trust it. I also generally trust Apple devices, and Nike shoes, to help me create more, and help me become stronger, while looking cool.

So friend, if you haven’t, make your own website. Less time wasted “branding” yourself on social media (Facebook and Instagram). More time building your portfolio of images, making real life connections, and blogging on photography as free marketing for yourself. I personally use 1and1.com with wordpress.org, in the “Genesis” theme.

In the next chapter, I will discuss on how to build confidence and an appetite to take risk in building your photography enterprise.

BE STRONG,
ERIC


PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101

ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP // Portrait by Benjamin Thompson

Learn how to make a living from your passion:


How to Make Money with Photography

Photography Marketing 101

How to Hustle.

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

Photography Blogging

How to Teach Photography

Social Media

How to Save Money

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