Authenticity as Branding *For Photographers*
I feel like this is something that’s been on my heart for quite a while now and I just feel like it’s worth saying. Just to clarify before you feel like I’m pointing a finger at you. I’m really writing this post in many ways as a rebuke to my former self and the way I approached the business early on and how foolish it was.
So please hear this coming from a heart that made these same “mistakes” and didn’t do a good job of this at all but maybe in writing this I can stop you from being as foolish as I was.
The story goes like this.. guy buys camera.. goes, ‘I like taking photos’, I’m going to make a website and show everyone what I can do. *goes off into photoshop types his name and photography afterwards in a semi terrible font and registers a domain*
Now here is where the trouble starts. Because wordpress will just come on out and ask you for a bit of a description of what you do to help people find your site. Same thing with instagram bio area or Facebook.. And we all think.. ooh.. wordpress doesn’t know me… this is the internet. I can be whoever I want!
And so we start typing those fateful words… “Destination Wedding Photographer” STOP! stop right there.
I remember the day I thought that would be a good idea.. Jonas Peterson had that written on his website so I thought well I’d like to do that so I’d better throw that up into my bio… (At this stage I’ve got a Facebook and instagram account like many of you probably do with about 100 followers, all your high school friends and a few women in their forties at that stage. You’ve shot 10 weddings in your local area and thats about it.
Now you might be thinking as I did. I don’t want people to know I haven’t shot many weddings, I don’t want people to think I’m new, I definitely don’t want them to think I’m not a superstar international sensation. (even though I’ve got no international weddings on my blog)
We’re afraid, I was afraid. If people see me for who I really am, they’ll never hire me.
But I’d like to propose a counter argument. I think that being really authentic with where you’re at in your photography journey, particularly when you’re starting is actually the best way to book clients and not only to book any clients but to book the best clients for where you’re at. As I’m drafting out more of these posts for later in the year I’m realising a common thread of working out who your ideal client is and working at how you can get them to hire you. It’s really important and it’s been a huge part of my short journey so far.
I’m going to make a big assumption here and say most of you reading this are probably those who are more on the photojournalism side of wedding photography, you appreciate the raw honesty of it and you think that honest story-telling is really moving and anything else is just not cutting it.
(I’d in my personal opinion I’d agree with you)
So if you’re going to try and communicate that to prospective clients through your website… starting off with anything less than authenticity… isn’t something I’d really recommend. If you want to draw in couples who appreciate your raw, honest, story-telling, then be authentic and raw about your own story. That’s what they’ll be drawn to.
I was so concerned with trying to make people think I was more experienced than I was when I first started. But the more I met with clients and spoke to them I realised they weren’t interested in my credentials.. or my fancy “destination wedding slogans” They were interested in my story-telling. Which has been with me long before I ever picked up a camera. Clients really want to trust their photographer. And I think that most people are smarter than we give them credit for when it comes to seeing through advertising and branding tricks. We live in a world so saturated with brands trying to seem impressive.. people know what you’re trying to do and they’re not buying it. Be different, be real, stand out from the pack and be really honest with people.
One of the best things I ever did when I first started putting myself out there was say to couples, “I’ve never shot a wedding before, but I’m so excited to shoot weddings, would you give me a chance?” I truly believe that the first few couples to ever give me a shot did so because they saw my passion and excitement to be involved in their wedding and that it was all just on the surface not hidden behind any marketing scheme. And they trusted me. And I like to think I didn’t let them down. Partly because I worked my ass off to do the best job I could… but also because they were under no illusions about my experience level and they’d taken me on, knowing full well that I wasn’t a big-shot destination photographer.
I’d like to suggest, “Authenticity is the new branding strategy.”