For years I’ve been collecting books on branding as an essential component of marketing and earning money from the business idea of the moment. It was during the CreativeLive webinar with Jazmine Star that I think I grasped what branding really is.
Branding is not creating the logo by which I identify my products. When I properly undertake the process of branding, designing a logo might symbolize what I have arrived at for my brand. The logo is not just something pretty to affix to my work to let others know it’s something I did. Branding may not even lead to the creation of a logo although for me a logo is some kind of Holy Grail. To finally decide upon a symbol that would identify what I do would be the culmination of the sequence of actions that I now know as branding.
Branding is like finding my voice when writing a novel or short story but not the voice I need for a particular work. Finding one’s voice is arriving at a self-recognized mastery of the craft which translates as confidence and the freeing of the creative impulse because the craftsman feels safe within the parameters that he has defined as his style, as the level of quality he knows he can achieve and must achieve to consider that particular work done.
I date the formal start of my pursuit of professionalism in photography when I shot Kaleb, my first model, in May 2008. I remember asking my neighbor’s son to pose for me against my first white vinyl white background and remember how intimidated I was at using studio lights. The lights I started to use then were actually part of a set meant for video lighting. My original idea when I embarked on what I called then a “sabbatical” from my regular profession was to do videos. A few minutes into shooting Kaleb I felt excitement that I had not felt before. It was crazy, a kind of illumination, as if I had broken through a wall into a new dimension. I felt alive; I felt I’d found me!
I didn’t know then what the process would be like. I didn’t know then what I know today, two and a half years later. I had heard Joseph Campbell talk about “following your bliss” but what registered was an intellectual insight. Now, looking back, I see that what I did was follow my bliss. I found something that not only felt magical and exciting but something that seemed to access parts of my personality I always knew I had but never dug up to reach the light of day.
Everything that I’ve done since is my branding path. I look back amazed at what I’ve learned. In 2007 when I decided to take the leap into the unknown I didn’t know what I was leaping into. I told myself I would take four years, the same number of years a young person would take to complete an undergraduate degree and I think I was right. I didn’t have the raw data to come up with the time period but surely there’s a reason that a bachelor’s degree takes four years. I think one must take the time, not only to finish the course work but also to gain the experience both while doing the course work and in-between. The in-between time is as important, the time between decisive actions. It’s when losing our way that we learn what we didn’t think we needed to learn!
At this point I feel my studies and experience have brought me very close to the level of mastery that I call branding. Reaching that would not be the end of mastery but the beginning. I’ll have more to learn about the medium and the technology involved in manipulating and shaping it but it’s enough mastery to propel me into becoming a professional, a professional photographer.
I took this photo of Arron and his new girlfriend, Tara, in color. As I’ve been doing with most of the RAW images I’m shooting, I process the image to the correct white balance and color correction then play with softening the light or creating high contrast derivatives or, in this case, creating a black-and-white image. I liked what I did with this image. The shadows are dark; the two faces stand out as if from primordial soup, two lives floating together. It’s elegant.
Jaz suggested that to find one’s style so clients will know what to expect from the photographer, he or she might choose three words that define what he means to capture and produce. I like evocative images, what one might call romantic in the sense that Beethoven composed romantic concertos. Certainly I like beautiful images, images that a viewer would want to keep around because she enjoys looking at it. Finally I want the image to be striking, a surprise combination of shapes, color, texture and content, an image that clients would come to associate with the work I do.
To find this is to find my brand. Tonight finding that brand feels like just around the corner from where I sit to write this, at Panera Bread on 82nd and Allisonville in Indianapolis!