A brand identity represents everything about you as a photographer, and how the world perceives your business and you. I spent a great deal of my career in brand development, and I co-wrote the book From Bricks to Clicks: 5 Steps to a Durable Online Brand (McGraw-Hill Companies, 2001), currently in use by numerous MBA programs. A brand is far more than just a logo or a name; it encompasses and touches virtually every part of your business.
Many photographers use their own names for their businesses; this can be a pitfall unless you have an extremely memorable or well-known name. More often, using a regionally relevant name (such as using a city or local geographical landmark) works better, and perhaps using one that’s combined with what you specifically do (for example, Green Lake Aerial Photography).
Having a tagline, which is the permanent subref-erence to your name, is most important and useful when it helps identify a less descriptive company name. If your name is “Bob’s Shots,” then a tagline might be “Professional Portrait Photography,” or something similar that helps people understand specifically what you do. Don’t be redundant: If your business name says “photography,” for example, it doesn’t make sense to repeat it in the tagline. If your business name is descriptive, then you can be more abstract in your tagline. A slogan is different from your tagline — it is a short-term advertising or Web statement that gets people excited about something you’re doing.
Having a logo is not a necessity. In my opinion, many photographers spend too much time and money having a logo developed, when building the name of their studio (whether that’s their personal name or something else) is far more important. It’s your name and reputation most often (not a logo) that people will and should remember. Your name, not the logo, should be placed on your highest-quality images, providing a permanent signature for your work.
Remember that your brand identity is a valuable asset and you need to be ever-vigilant in staying on top of how it’s represented and perceived. Something as simple as a misspelling in an ad can deteriorate people’s perception of your brand quality. Frequency and familiarity are the biggest elements in brand recognition and recall — just because you’re the best doesn’t mean you’ll be the first name that comes to mind with random consumers in your market. It takes time and effort to build a name and keep it fresh.
Branding is a big part of your business, and is worth spending time studying and understanding it in order to make it work for you. In a small business, often you are almost synonymous with your business and brand, so bear that in mind. Try to create an image for your business that is in-sync with your personality.