These last few weeks (months? I have no idea of time scales right now) have been an immense ball ache. Mostly in terms of my photography, but it seems to have spilled over into this world too. I went through a mahoosive rebrand of JMP, completely changing my logo, my site, my design, even my style of photography, EVERYTHING. In fact, the only thing which hasn’t changed, is the business name (although that might not escape quite so easily in the future).
It shouldn’t have been so difficult, but it really was. Why? Because I was trying to reflect me, in the entire brand. I didn’t want to give it to someone else to do, a) I can’t afford it, and b) I’d have been the most pernickety bastard and never been happy with it. (And c) I only have myself to blame when it does all go to shit, instead of contemplating yelling at someone else. Which is never pretty.) And the hardest thing in trying to reflect my entire self and true personality in my brand, is I have seriously had to remember who the fuck my target audience is.
I spent ages asking other photographers “what do you think of this?” and ” does this work?” without actually appreciating the fact that THEY ARE NOT THE ONES I AM TRYING TO APPEAL TO. I took far too much time telling myself “be different, be yourself” and then panicking over the fact that my site looked very little like other sites (and even more ironically, spending ages looking at other sites and becoming bored because they were all starting to look the same to me).
The thing is, people, including myself, often fear something different; are scared of change; don’t like when someone sticks out. It’s human nature, innit? I get that. This blog right here is fine example of that. I’ve had my moments over the years I’ve been blogging where people have a dig because they’re scared of what I do. But that’s fine! I’m not writing to please them! But it turns out it’s a similar scenario with my wedding photography.
I’m trying to appeal to a particular type of bride, one ideally similar to myself. Now, that should be quite straightforward, but um, I’m not entirely sure who I am. Still. No, this isn’t some kind of deep and spiritual shit, far from it. Seriously, I have no idea who I am. I know who I want to be (stylish, funky, cool and manageable crazy) and I know how I come across (fucking insane and slightly messed up with little sense of anything), and I have no idea idea how to merge all this into one, acceptable, feasible ball of appeal.
The logo I have created is manageable, for me. Big bold colours, yet simple and easy. And obvious. And flexible. (Name, camera, done. Obvious, no?) The site isn’t quite where I want it to be, but I don’t think it ever will be; I think it will always change, much like myself. And that’s ok. But trying to convey myself through a real business? Fucking hell, that’s no easy shit. but it has to be done. I’ve been very aware of the brides enquiring, and whilst they’ve all been lovely, many of them are soooooo different to myself. Not necessarily in terms of styling, but attitude to photography, life, fun, everything. All the other stuff. One thing that I do think is awesome, is that some of my best couples have come from twitter. Not my stuffy old @JayMountford account, but actually my @cosmicgirlie account. Why have I enjoyed them so much? Because they’re booking me for ME, AS WELL AS the work I do.
I’m a package. When you book my business, you book me. My personality. My attitude, my energy, my enthusiasm, everything. Not just my camera. And sometimes that’s hard to remember, as I keep thinking I should go into some kind of “Professional Mode” whereby I’m really sensible and serious, and trying to Do The Job Properly. Thing is, I do an even better job when I’m being me. Or at least, when I’m not trying to be who or what I think other people think I should be.
Holy shit this is way more confusing written out, than when it’s in my head, not helped by Isaac reading Thomas the Tank really loudly, complete with sound effects.
Anyway, I’m wary of my identity. I’m wary of people saying shit like “no you shouldn’t mix your business and personal world”. I’m conscious of working in a certain way and turning off clients. Thing is, clients are booking me because of ME. And I won’t book them all. And that’s fine, because if I WAS booking them all, I think I’d be doing something wrong. But I guess this is one of those “leaps into the unknown”, where I slowly but surely let more potential clients know who I am, and what I’m really like.
It’s time to stop pleasing other photographers, and time to start giving more of a shit about what my clients think. Because ironically, that’s the time when I’ll start to enjoy my work even more, and start to please myself. I tiny group of other togs have been helpful as anything, and there’s no way in heaven or hell my business would have come this far without them. I wish I could offer the same to them, but as they’re all already way ahead of me, I guess I’ll just have to pass it down, rather than pass it back up. I don’t know if others agree with the whole thing of trying to be yourself rather than being an industry standard; I’m trying to shake that off now, mostly because it sucks.
Maybe I’ll stop sweating this shit, accept that I should indeed just be myself, and stop listening to the noise of everyone else. Especially as the variables from everyone else are infinite. AND THEY ARE NOT ME. Filter the advice needed, shake off the bits I don’t need. Everyone has something to say. But they are not me. Of course, when my business falls on it’s arse and I have no bookings at all in a few years time, I’ll come back to this post and eat it, no?