Personal Brand Photography – It’s the new thing, apparently. I’ve been doing this for ages, but this week everywhere I seem to look, I keep finding articles and photographers promoting a new “niche” – Personal Brand Photography. With the rise of authentic branding, and with so many life and business coaches out there, it makes sense that this would definitely become a thing.
Upon stumbling across all of this stuff this week, I realised that actually, I’ve been doing personal brand photography over the years for many of my clients. My own brand is all about being personal – duh, it’s my name, yo! 😛 But also, since kicking off Tanya Love Creative, this aspect has grown for me. My journey through this year has emphasised this even more, and I will write more about it when I launch my Tanya Love Creative website (I just have to finish building the thing first, you know, like if there was another 10 hours in each day).
My businesses were all established during the “appear bigger than you are” era. Over the years, I have marketed in that direction, on and off, however, I have always struggled when doing this, and so have my businesses. 2 years ago, when I began working with my then partner (which went totally pear-shaped – read: never, EVER work with somebody you lovely deeply), and chose to pretty much abandon my own brand to work on our joint brand, Pixelove, I was effectively abandoning who I was.
I struggled so much over those years both on a personal and business level. I wanted more than anything to make it work. I had this romantic vision of us becoming an industry “power couple”, and I had so so much respect for him and his approach that I took on everything he suggested. I became known to our clients as “Tanya from Pixelove”, where I used to be “oh, that’s Tan, our family’s photographer”.
I wasn’t being authentic. Not one bit. The dynamic in our studio was tense most of the time. I felt like a fish out of water. I adored our environment and the changes we made to it. We were working in a high end facility with everything I had ever dreamed of in terms of a studio, at my fingertips. Two big cycloramas, lots of different scenes and backdrops, a custom build bedroom setting, an awesome makeup and change room area. It was so cool. But I wasn’t. I was chasing “leads” to convert clients, which I had never had to do before. I was “selling”. Even worse, I was UP selling. *shudders*. I was shooting glamour, and making people feel great, which I did love, but our company needed a huge volume of client turnover, and a huge volume of sales for us to be successful. This meant sacrificing the very personal connection and touches that I had always been known for and were what I loved so much about my career. It was killing me.
I was also learning at an astronomical rate. It was the biggest and fastest learning curve I have ever been on. In that 2 years, thanks to my then partner being such a great teacher, I mastered lighting and shooting techniques that I had never even thought of. I learned to run marketing and lead generation campaigns that were highly successful in bringing in the kinds of numbers that we needed. The styling techniques that I had learned over the years and become comfortable with were turned on their head. I learned to never judge a book by its cover, and I learned to SELL, and I mean SELL. I rock sales. And I freaking hate it.
Selling is not me. Glamour is not me. Cold calling, lead generation. Nope, sooooo not me. I felt constant anxiety doing that stuff, and I felt guilty that I was so good at it after such a short time. I felt like I was lying to people and deceiving them. Of course, I wasn’t, but just for the fact that I wasn’t being true to myself, I developed anxiety that left me feeling this way. My anxiety grew to a point where I could barely pick up the phone and so our bookings dwindled and our business started to die. I have a very dear friend who was struggling with the same thing at the very same time. We had both adopted business plans that simply were not “us”. And we both failed. We hung on for way too long, never wanting to give up, because so many in the industry were (apparently) succeeding with this business model and we’d been told that “this was the way to do it”. In reality though, we were just digging ourselves further into the ground.
In addition to this, there was also a crapload of extremely intense personal stuff going on in the background that was resulting in my partner and I being barely able to function too. Here we had two of the most highly effective, driven and skilled people in the industry, who upon meeting, thought we could conquer the world with our combined talents. And in a perfect world, we could have. But, in actuality, our deep hopes of success were destroying each other and our families, both in a business sense and on a personal and emotional level. We knew we were flailing, but we hung on to Pixelove for way too long. We had stars in our eyes, and we wanted it to succeed SO much. But there’s no way it ever would have. Because neither of us were being true to ourselves, not one bit. Throw a broken heart or two into the mix, and well, you can imagine the result there.
Finally, we went our separate ways, and I have spent the last 6 months trying to breathe life back into Tanya Love Portrait. I have been so very blessed that there have been a number of long term clients who have encouraged and supported me through it all. They followed me from the early days of Love Bytes, through to Tanya Love Photography, over to Pixelove, and now back to Tanya Love Portrait. Without these guys, I would have been so so lost. I am not sure why, but they seemed to have some faith in me where even I didn’t. They kept reminding me of my older more creative work, of my storytelling birth photography, and of who the real “tan” is.
I realised that I am just one of those people who has to live their truth. I simply cannot live behind a facade. Whether it be through my business endeavours or through my personal life, I have to be myself, warts and all. I truly am a perfect example of why a personal brand works. I simply CANNOT appear to be someone I am not. It just doesn’t work for me. At all.
Of course, I can’t claim that “my” brand has always been purely mine here – over the years I had 2 husbands who supported me and allowed me the freedom to pursue my work with a large family to care for. And now, I have my eldest son, and his partner, and even my youngest kids working behind the scenes. Everybody contributes in some way – whether they are being models for a product shoot, or they are writing web code, staying at home with the younger kids as I go to shoots or meetings, or they are sticking crystals onto thank you cards on our kitchen bench- my kids all contribute in different ways to make our businesses a truly family affair. Overall though, it is truly “us”.
HERE IS A VIDEO OF US just before Christmas, with our little production line, all contributing to the special parcels that I sent out to my most supportive and loyal clients. And this is some pics as we were working:
Anyways, I digress (as per usual 🙂 ). I realise now that my “gift”, if I have one, is that of connecting and truly seeing people and using this connection to tell their stories. Quickly connecting with people can sometimes be too confronting in personal circles and often it has gotten me in trouble in the past as many don’t understand it. But in my business, it works. Within a few minutes of meeting a client, I am usually able to really see them. To really feel their story and what it is that they have to share with the world. This is a great gift when I am telling the story of a family whether it be through a grand year-long production in a meticulously planned concept shoot, or it is in raw, emotional birth photography, or in one of my new express Shoot and Burn sessions, I adore sharing your light through my connection with you.
So, when it comes to personal brand photography, I guess it is only natural that would be another element I would enjoy. Now that I have rediscovered my need to be authentic in all that I do, and with the growing rise of personal branding through-out all industries, it is a really natural thing, really. It is simply about showing the world who you are, what you love, and how they can connect with you on a true, authentic level.
I have really prattled on in this post, as any one who knows me will testify that is a true Tan trait that I am known for. One minute we are capturing some gorgeous family photos, and 6 hours later I am sitting at your dinner table talking Mine Craft with your kids. But, I HAVE to be me. I spent the last 2 years tortured, struggling, and sometimes wondering if it was worth waking up ever again, purely because I wasn’t being me. I was trying to be something that I thought would be successful. Something that I pinned way too many hopes on, and something that damn near destroyed me and my family as a result.
I am going to spend at least another year, trying to recover financially and maybe even longer, on an emotional level, but I am finding so much more peace with every passing day. My confidence in my abilities is returning. I no longer feel like I am being deceptive or manipulative by trying to “convert leads” into clients. I am confident that the people who “get” me, will continue in the journey, and that by being true to myself and the way I run my business, it will continue to grow, and share light with the world. I have even established Tanya Love Creative on this basis – helping other businesses to become truly heart-centred and to follow their “why”.
Here are some shots I have done in the past for clients – personal brand photography – where I was able to use my connection with them and their brand to tell their stories to the world. Many of these images are still being used over and over, and all of which I realise now are exactly what I should have been doing all along. tan.x