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How To Build, Grow, and Maintain a Brand | Laura Morsman Photography

When Photographer’s Supply Co. asked me to share my perspective on How To Build, Grow, and Maintain a Brand, it was honestly the first time I had ever sat down and considered what made my own brand or how it came to be what it is today. How did this business grow from a place that felt like it wasn’t going anywhere at all 3 years ago, when each Instagram post gave me an anxiety attack worrying about how it would be perceived and considering the task of building a clientele, into something that keeps us constantly on the go and connecting with people not just where we live but all around the United States?

 

Brands are as unique as each person is. Different in their own way, different in ways that can’t be replicated, and sometimes can be, sometimes even mimicked. What works for me may not work for you, or anyone else, and that’s the beauty of an authentic brand. There are some bottom line suggestions that err on the side of business strategy, but so much more of what I’m about to share has to do with anchoring down on knowing yourself, knowing your people, and combining the two to create a space where people just want to BE a part of your brand.

 

Let’s get started!

 

Brand Identity is YOUR identity
Your tone in social media IS YOU to your followers and clients whether they have met you in person or not. Combining your true voice with whatever level of filter of professionalism or non-professionalism can truly impact the type of clientele or followers to your brand. Making that choice by refining what verbiage, wording, tone, perspective, and emotion that is shared through your brand will influence and truly impact the audience you find gravitating towards you. Keeping this in mind when sharing to any social media platform really helps in communicating the soul and personality behind your brand.
Be AUTHENTIC
People want to hear YOU, which is hard to differentiate when you’re sitting there asking yourself “should I say what THEY want me to say like something on trend and widely used, or a current event quip…or should I say what I would actually say.” That is totally up to you, and neither answer is right or wrong, maybe both are right. As long as it’s communicated through your authentic voice, that’s the important part!

 

I don’t think following do’s or don’t’s for yourself is the way to go when approaching your audience or using your voice. Trial and error are definitely how I found myself taking a step back and seeing the audience that were naturally attracted to my content and who wasn’t. Some things worked, some things didn’t, but for my own business, the hardest lesson for me then and now is to accept that people genuinely liked hearing more about my personal perspective and life, rather than listening to me horribly attempt to be overly trendy with social media verbiage or popular subjects.

 

Ask yourself the type of media/blogger/business/brand that you like to follow or find yourself gravitating towards. Is it the uplifting yet sarcastic writer who can laugh at themselves and make you feel hopeful about even the hardest days, or is it the consistently volatile person who is constantly negative but has a great sense of humor? Maybe it’s a stay at home mom, maybe it’s an ethically focused fashion designer. Either way, they both have an audience and attract a specific follower that gains something from their content.
COMMUNICATION is Key
Your clients are your people, or the ones that stand behind your work truly want to be. They don’t want to have a sterile, holier than thou professional telling them what they are “allowed and not allowed” to do, to wear, to go, to be. They want a genuine and clear direction from someone who is open to questions, flexible, and possible special requests that you can work on together to achieve if possible if it fits their needs. These photos are in fact for them, not you, depending on the type of photography you find yourself focusing on.
Be TIMELY
Timely responses to inquiries make such an incredible difference in the credibility and dependability of your brand and business. This was definitely one of my weak points and down the line, I had to end up investing in a personal assistant for this task alone! With the amount of time I am out on location doing photo shoots, I come home and am either in total catch up mode with edits, and can possibly get to a handful of emails/IG messages/FB message, but when you know you need someone to step in and manage your communications for you, it’s one of the best investments you could make for your own sanity and your business’s livelihood. The shorter of response time you have to an inquiring client, the fewer clients you’ll lose when they look elsewhere after waiting for your reply. I’ve been there myself and when I was able to add in an assistant’s wage to my budget, I went for it!
Be CONSISTENT
Consistency in the delivery of your products, in your communication style/tone, and the consistency in the quality of what you are delivering to your clients truly matters. As business owners, we know this, but during the busiest seasons, there can be some waning in standards if you get overwhelmed. We all go through this at times.

 

Imagine going to your favorite coffee spot to grab your daily sips. If they made your drink perfectly for 3 weeks in a row, you’ve developed trust that they are making what you love, you trust that it will taste the same each time, and it makes your day that much better. Now imagine one day you go in, so stoked for your coffee, and they hand you a cup of something vaguely familiar, but not your drink, and not what you anticipated. They wavered on their delivery, in turn causing waves in your trust with what was usually the perfect start to your day, and possibly even questioning their amount of attention to you, and their customer service.

 

With the coffee analogy, I feel like we can directly correlate that with our brand and how our audience is anticipating our consistency, whether they realize it or not.

 

Your loyal clients and followers love coming back to your feed, your photos, your YOU because they love you and look forward to hearing your perspective and always seeing what you will be up to next. Of course, brands will ebb and flow with the tide and flex and change as they live on, but be sure to hone in on what is making your people keep coming back for more, and do.more.that.
Final Thoughts on Brand Building
One of the hardest things for myself when starting a business was to realize that when I started photographing full time, it was truly a business and needed to be treated as one. This didn’t mean losing passion or giving any creativity up, but rather to think like a business owner in parts of the brand and business that before launching full-time, I didn’t think of quite as much.

 

Branding, marketing myself, presentation, and confidence behind the brand all came together as I saw that what I was making was bringing people in. It took ME to convince myself that it was worth working for and my photos were worth purchasing.

 

Before you have a crowd around you, following you, subscribe to you, you must be your own cheerleader. As it’s said, “if you don’t believe in you, who will?”. That fake it ’till you make it mentality was honestly what kick started me in my career. Moving forward with the notion that you’re already successful, you’re already growing and growing as a brand and a career. That positivity and motivation within you will, in turn, make you work to reach that mentality.

 

Start before you are ready, don’t wait for perfection before you hit the go button on your brand or career. It’s going to be pliable at times, where you change the feel of it or change the look, allow yourself to make those changes!

 

Failure is given the most negative of connotations, but can actually be the best thing that could happen to aide in the process of building a brand. If you never had proof that something worked, or didn’t, you may be functioning your brand in a way that truly isn’t working, but you may never know until it proves itself to be in fact, not working. Embrace failure/re-starts/clean slate as a chance to get what you’ve worked so hard on and to make it even fuller, even brighter!

 

Invite change in. Embrace it. You never know how it could positively impact you unless you open your mind. Be vulnerable to change, and grow from that.

 

Happy Branding!

 

Laura Morsman is a photographer with Austin and Kansas City as her shared home bases. She travels across
  the US for her lifestyle and editorial photography business which started from the inspiration of documenting her youngest siblings after their adoption from Ethiopia 10 years ago. Combining editorial aesthetics with the rawness of lifestyle photography is what Laura loves most about documenting life, along with creating and maintaining a close personal connection with her clients in order to catch their true emotions through her perspective.

 

 

 

Photographer Spotlight | Aanna Chase Photography

Business Name:   Aanna Chase Photography
Website:   www.aannachasephotography.com
Where are you based out of?   Chicago, IL
Are you currently a part-time or full-time photographer?   Full-time photographer
What is your predominant photographic specialization?    Weddings, Engagements, Families
What camera(s) do you currently shoot with?    Canon 5D Mark III

 

How would you define your style?
My style is founded on story-telling–an intentional balance between refined and classic as well as candid and journalistic, all working together to encompass the unique milestones and personalities involved. I strive to create fresh, bright, and invigorating photographs–in both emotion and aesthetics. I am constantly exploring and embracing minimalism, intriguing depths of field, and emotive light.

What motivated you to become a photographer?
When I was 7 years old, my parents gifted me with a tape recorder (yes, a cassette tape recorder!). It was then my aim to document life in my home. An ongoing narration. When I was 12 years old, I spent my carefully saved money on a digital camera and took my story-telling to a new level. I created visuals to go with the stories I was experiencing and observing around me. I was–and continue to be–fascinated by people and that which drives them. In college, I combined these two loves of mine and studied both journalism and photography. This worked as a catalyst to turn what was once a hobby into a career–a career that combines my love of people with my desire to create and tell stories.

What is it that you try to convey with your work?
With every session and wedding that I photograph, my aim is to create images that accurately capture and express the relationships, experiences, and emotions involved. Whether it’s a bride and groom’s first look on their wedding day or a family welcoming a new little one into their home, I strive to take photographs that not only embrace the present moment but will also be images that my subjects and subjects’ family cherish for generations.

How do you accomplish that?
I believe it is important, and critical, to be truly invested in my subjects and who they are as individuals. When people are placed in front of a camera, it is often a very vulnerable place. All focus is directed towards them and that can be very uncomfortable for many people. In order to accurately and sensitively capture my subjects, I see it as a mutual creative collaboration. Before weddings and sessions I have consistent and various forms of communication regarding who they are, where they are at, and what they’re looking for, as well as who I am as a photographer and individual.

Have you had a photographer inspire your work, and if so, who and why?
I am constantly inspired by artists, both local and global. It can be hard to keep track of my favorites. I’ll share two long-standing favorites. Henri Cartier-Bresson has inspired me ever since I first poured over his work in my art history course. His commitment to capturing the perfect shot to encompass a specific moment is a quality I strive for in my work as well. I also appreciate how he paved the way for a more journalistic approach to photography. I have been avidly following Tyler Branch of Tyler Branch Photo. His work is stunning, emotive, and spot on with lighting.

What is your most memorable accomplishment so far in your photography career?
I’ve sat long and hard thinking about my answer to this question. I keep trying to think of big accomplishments that would wow anybody reading my words. However, I keep coming back to the countless little things that add up to the biggest reason why I’m in this field. The people. I have gotten to meet so many incredible individuals through my work. I have photographed a mother as she marvels over the miracle of life and prepares to welcome a baby into this world. I have photographed a couple on their wedding day as ” ’til death do us part” sinks in. I have photographed individuals as they process past seasons of their life and prepare to embark on a new journey. All of these instances are pivotal and vulnerable places in a person’s life; it is my biggest accomplishment to create images that my subjects can look at and see the beauty that I have the honor of witnessing.

What is one thing you have learned during your career?
Deal with the what-if’s as they come. Don’t allow them to paralyze you before you even begin. Transitioning from hobbyist to full-time photographer is a big leap of faith. And I was no exception. I created lists–okay, honestly I created lists of lists. Yes, organization and brainstorming are key, but I eventually got to a place that a list in and of itself wasn’t enough anymore. As I was asking hard questions and taking real steps to make the change, I had to stop asking the what-if’s and start realistically dealing with them as I pursued my goal. I had to get up and DO. I had to start making those checkmarks and if obstacles came up along the way that wasn’t on my list, I would deal with them as they came. I will never forget the first time I woke up as the official owner of Aanna Chase Photography with the whole day ahead of me to pursue my business. I would never have launched my own business if I had continually dwelled on the what-if’s without taking action.

Which Photographer Supply Company products do you currently use?
I use Photography Supply Company’s beautiful wooden custom USB’s.

How have Photographer Supply Company products helped your business?
Consistency in branding is so important. Photography Supply Co’s option to customize products is so great–it allows me to get high-quality products that line up with my brand. And in doing so, my clients are provided with a beautiful and long lasting product.

 

PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT | MELISSA CLAIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Preferred Name: Melissa or Mel

Business Name: Melissa Claire Photography

Website: www.melissaclairephotography.com

Where are you based out of? Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex

Are you currently a part-time or full-time photographer?
I am a full time photographer but also have a part time job editing for another local photographer.

What is your predominant photographic specialization? Weddings

What camera(s) do you currently shoot with?
Canon 5D Mark IV/5D Mark III (with lots of backup gear!)

How would you define your style?
My style is artistic, genuine, and romantic, and I provide both traditional posing and candid moments.

What motivated you to become a photographer?
Photography found me when I was around 16 years old and enjoying a Jones soda. I noticed all of the different photos on the bottles, and for some reason, the idea struck me that people actually take photos for a living. I was on track to become a professional musician but did a complete 180 when this simple realization occurred; it was like a whole new dimension opened up to me. I went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in fine art photography.

What is it that you try to convey with your work?
I aim to capture people at their best. One of my sweet clients’ moms wrote this in her review, and I think it sums it up: “Her photographs capture the essence of her subjects and the spirit of the moment.”

How do you accomplish that?
My clients have said they enjoy my easy-going personality and ability to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera. I feel my strong empathetic nature helps me more than anything.

Have you had a photographer inspire your work, and if so, who and why?
Yes! I have had a wide variety of fine art and wedding photographers who inspire me: Duane Michals because of his emotion, Philip-Lorca diCorcia for his lighting and ability to convey a powerful story in one image, and Cindy Sherman for her conceptual approach and rawness. Susan Stripling and Roberto Valenzuela are wedding photographers that inspire me, too. Their online classes are incredible, and their unique ability to see beautiful light in unexpected places has really influenced my work.

What is your most memorable accomplishment so far in your photography career?
My most memorable accomplishment is all of my happy clients I’ve been able to serve!

What is one thing you have learned during your career?
One thing I have learned is you have to be an advocate for your couple on their wedding day and more than anything, be flexible and QUICK. Wedding days are their own kind of special chaos, and you can’t buckle or show that you’re under pressure (even if you are). Smile, be cool, and do what you have to do to get the shot!

Which Photographer Supply Company products do you currently use?
I use the wooden flash drives with engraving. I’m very pleased with my purchase so far and am so happy to use a local company. The T-Rex in the packaging is a delightful bonus, too!

How have Photographer Supply Company products helped your business?
Photographer Supply Co has helped my business by making it quick and easy to deliver files to my clients! They also provide top notch customer service. I’m looking forward to utilizing more of their products in the future!

PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT | LAUREN JOSLEN PHOTOGRAPHY

Name: Lauren
Business Name: Lauren Joslen Photography
Website: ww.laurenjoslen.com
Where are you based out of? Longview, WA (a small town 45 minutes north of Portland, OR)
Are you currently a part-time or full-time photographer?
Full-Time

What is your predominant photographic specialization?
Senior Portraits & Couples

What camera(s) do you currently shoot with?
Canon 5D Mark III

How would you define your style?
My style is a little all over the place right now, but I’m trying to evolve into a film-looking, moody, photojournalistic type style. That’s my overall goal for 2017.

As of right now, my style is kind of lifestyle-ish. At least with my couples I try to be that way. With seniors, that’s more posed and kind of an airy look.

What motivated you to become a photographer?
I’ve always loved looking at pictures in scrapbooks my mom put together back when my sisters and I were younger. I think that’s where my love for photography really began. From there, I would ask my sister to model for me when I received a point and shoot digital camera for Christmas back in middle school. I learned that I love taking pictures of people, and I told myself that’s what I wanted to do for “work.”

What is it that you try to convey with your work?
With my seniors, I try to convey happiness and carefreeness. I like to capture them in a time when the world is theirs to grab. With couples, I try to convey the love they have for each other. I get the best shots when they aren’t being posed, but interacting with each other and I get to capture that moment in time.

How do you accomplish that?
With seniors, I often ask them to fake laugh – which typically gets them smiling, often turning into a real laugh, and I can capture it.
And with couples, I tend to ask them questions about their relationship or each other to get them comfortable around me.

Have you had a photographer inspire your work, and if so, who and why?
Oh, Yes! Ben Sasso! Reading his blog and just learning from him inspires me so much! Also, Taylor McCutchan. His work is incredible! I had the chance to meet him at a workshop I attended a year ago. He’s a super nice guy. I love the way he captures his couples. Seeing his work just makes me want to be a better photographer. There’s a ton of other photographers that inspire me, some I know personally – Natasha Dahlke, I’m looking at you! And some I don’t know at all that I follow on Instagram.

What is your most memorable accomplishment so far in your photography career?
I would say being able to leave my comfortable day job and going full-time. I love being my own boss, on my own schedule, being creative, and doing what I love. Sounds easy enough, right? I’m learning that being a business owner isn’t super easy. Some days aren’t so creative and fun. I love it though and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What is one thing you have learned during your career?
I’ve learned that YouTube is my best friend. If I ever have a question about my camera, or how to manipulate a photo in Lightroom, I look to YouTube.

Which Photographer Supply Company products do you currently use?
For regular sessions, I give my clients their finished images on the Mahogany Wood USB in a Mahogany Wood USB Delivery Box. I love my clients’ reactions when I hand them their boxes. They are always blown away with them. For weddings, I give my clients the Mahogany Wood USB inside the 4×6 Print & USB Box in the unfinished Pine. Again, they’re always happy with their box.

How have Photographer Supply Company products helped your business?
With my clients so excited about their pictures being delivered in cute wooden boxes, they often post pictures of it and tag me in the pictures. I feel like this gives me a unique style in delivery that sets me apart from other photographers. The last touch on handing over the photos in a fun way promotes clients to spread the word and get my name out there.