Youâ€™ve likely heard of people talking about â€œcatfishingâ€ someone in the dating world, but have you ever wondered if youâ€™re catfishing clients with your brand?
Before you rush to answer my question, consider this:
Now, letâ€™s look at my question once more:
Are you (accidentally) catfishing potential clients by showing up visually within your brand in a way thatâ€™s out of sync with who you really are? If you think the answer might be yes, donâ€™t start guilt-tripping yourself.
â€¦ but thatâ€™s jumping ahead.
OK, everybody, weâ€™re going to rip off the band-aid and let the tough love wash all over us first. There isnâ€™t just one answer to that question â€” duh â€” but one of the top reasons is weâ€™re afraid.
Yes, we have people we love cheering us on, but weâ€™re afraid if we stand tall within our brands with radical authenticity, other people will have â€¦ opinions. And sometimes those opinions come with a telegraphed message that we first need permission before we can show up fully.
This is especially true if youâ€™re a woman, a minority, or a member of any marginalized group.
As I wrote about in my upcoming book, Gutsy:
â€œYou donâ€™t need to look through the window of life, watching others run away with your dreams, as you wait for someone else to say youâ€™re worthy and finally grant you permission to rock your own world.
Right now, just as you are, you are already enough.
In fact, youâ€™re more than enough.â€
Even when weâ€™re enough, though, we have to buck up and â€œdo it scared.â€ People will always have opinions about what we do that we didnâ€™t ask for, and weâ€™ll always care to some degree.
I say this, of course, as someone who has battled many of my own insecurities throughout my life, particularly as I embarked upon this rebranding process. Like some of you, I worry about what other people think.
As a result, I didnâ€™t show up in my brand fully.
For instance, I spent years adopting a more academic and serious tone whenever I created content. I was nervous that if I showed up the way most know me in real life â€” passionate, fiery, sometimes goofy, always down for good hugs â€” no one would take me seriously.
Iâ€™ve worked hard to change that, but yeah â€¦ thereâ€™s a reason why â€œdo it scaredâ€ is a mantra. But fear isnâ€™t the only variable in how you show up.
When it comes to your brand, in many cases (including my own), you simply outgrow a brand that was once absolutely perfect for what you needed.
Thatâ€™s not a bad thing! You evolve as a human being (or a team of outstanding humans) over time naturally, without ever trying. So, of course, at some point, youâ€™ll need to ask yourself:
â€œHey, do my branding and brand visuals still work for me?â€
I realized last year that my answer was no.
My old branding and photography were perfect for the Natalie Franke of yore â€” a wedding photographer who was still learning who she was as a human being and a business owner.
Today, I am a fundamentally different human.
Yes, I look different (in a good way), my style has changed, and all of the usual stuff that happens when you get older. But Iâ€™m also more confident in myself and who I am. On top of that, Iâ€™ve â€œretiredâ€ from my wedding photography business, and Iâ€™m now the chief evangelist at HoneyBook and a fierce independent business advocate.
Once I acknowledged how far Iâ€™ve come â€” something I imagine more than a few of you may have to do after reading this! â€” I knew that fresh brand photography would need to be a priority, as part of my rebranding strategy.
Iâ€™ll be honest, as a photographer myself, the last thing I wanted to do was get in front of the camera â€” my safe and happy place is behind the lens.
But Iâ€™m so glad I did. And my experience with Abby and her team only underscored how important brand photography is, as well as how much you need to think about when choosing a brand photographer to work with.
I worked with Abby across two different photography sessions to authentically capture what my brand is today. But our first step wasnâ€™t showing up to those sessions with a loose idea of what we would be doing, open to see where each day would take us.
Instead, we did a ton of strategy work ahead of each session to guarantee the images fully captured the full spectrum of each aspect of my brand â€” like you, your gal Natalie has a few nuances!
We spent time thoroughly answering questions like:
Then we discussed:
Only then did we dig into intentional discussions about location, wardrobe, the stories we needed to tell through our imagery, and so on.
Ten years ago, the answer to that question might be yes. Today, however, this is the level of work you need to do with your brand photographer â€” again, particularly, if youâ€™re offering services rather than products.
So, when youâ€™re thinking about who you hire for brand photography, ask them about their process during the discovery phase. Do they delve this deeply into your audience, your mission, and your values?
🔎 From HoneyBook: How to use brand photography for website photos
Or are they perfectly content to let your photo session be more of a vanity project based on your preferences? Hey, sometimes all you need is a great set of headshots â€” but if youâ€™re investing in brand photography as a differentiator, you need to choose a photographer who has this level of strategy baked into their process.
One of the most important lessons I learned from this experience is that you need to have a clear idea in your head of what is going on with your website â€” whether itâ€™s staying as-is or youâ€™re like I was, also redesigning your website at the same time.
What do I mean by that? Iâ€™m so glad you asked!
While I adore the diversity and range of photos we came away with because we did two sessions, there was a reason why we needed two.
After the end of the first photoshoot, Erin of The Happy Brand Studio (the design mastermind behind my website redesign) said, â€œThese are amazing! And I still have photography needs for your site that I donâ€™t have now.â€
You should always think of your brand photography as a living thing. That means youâ€™ll never walk away from a single session (or two sessions!) with every photo youâ€™ll need from now until the end of time.
🔎 From HoneyBook: Rebranding as a small business in 2023 (my rebrand story)
However, before you go into any strategy session or photoshoot with your brand photographer, think critically about what types of photos youâ€™ll need on your website â€” orientation, style, tone, outfits, plain backdrops, action shots, specific settings, and so on.
OK, itâ€™s time for one last 2-by-4 of truth. When it comes to brand photography, you must never forget that you get what you pay for â€” or, in some cases, you donâ€™t get what you donâ€™t pay for.
Only some photographers will take you through an in-depth process similar to what I went through with Abby Grace. Thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing because not every style of photography requires that level of strategy and pre-work.
When it comes to your brand, though, you need to look at photography with an investment mindset rather than an expense. Youâ€™re paying for their time on set at a photoshoot, and for all of the strategic table-setting you do in advance that will inform every choice you make together once youâ€™re on camera.
Do you need to make a brand photographer choice that makes sense with your budget? Absolutely! Still, donâ€™t cut cost â€œcornersâ€ by choosing an option thatâ€™s only cheaper because thereâ€™s no strategy involved.
Sure, you may end up with pretty photos at the end of the day.
But remember, much like we â€œeatâ€ with our eyes first, your prospects are evaluating you with their eyes the moment they land on your site.
If you took the time to invest in your strategy with a photographer who understands the revenue-driving nuances of brand strategy, I have good news. Youâ€™ll have no problem transforming your investment into a profit center.
© 2023 Natalie Franke