Branding Your Photography Business - Part 1: Logos

Branding Your Photography Business – Part 1: Logos

As a former PR person, the importance of branding was always a topic I was harping on with clients – from individual authors to multi-million dollar corporations and non-profit agencies. How a business presents itself can be the difference between success and failure. Photographers are no exception to this rule. How you brand your business – from logo to business cards, website to social media pages, portfolio to promo piece – all affect a buyer’s decision whether to work with you or not.

Let me caveat this entire series first with a contradiction. Branding is irrelevant in context to the quality of your images. No amount of money that you dump into amazing branding will make a difference if your images simply aren’t where they need to be for a particular client. Your images always come first.

That being said, photography is an incredibly competitive industry, and there are many shooters out there with comparable levels of work. This is when branding comes into play to help give you the advantage over another photographer. A buttoned up package and production shows a client that you value every part of your business.

The first post in this four part branding series dives into logos, chronicling my own journey developing a new brand and highlighting other commercial and wedding photographers branding.

What’s in a Logo?

It’s hard to argue against the importance of a logo. In non-visual fields it’s often what buyers first identify with in a brand. In the photo industry it plays second fiddle to your images, but it’s still an important visual cue and tie-together for your clients.

A logo is best when it is a written or designed representation of the style of your work. Whether you’re an edgy fashion, luxury travel, flirtatious lifestyle or classic wedding photographer your logo should have a distinct connection with your style. Think how silly it would feel for an edgy fashion photographer to have a Comic Sans font as their logo. Apply that same font type to the flirtatious lifestyle photographer, and it just may work.

Different font treatments and designs evoke a certain emotional response from us. I can’t say I know the science behind it, but I’m sure you could easily point out a design that had a classy feel to one that had a whimsical feel without any training either. You don’t have to be a typophile to know how a font makes you feel when you see it.

Logos can be as simple as your name in a certain font or as elaborate as a multi-font, multi-color, iconographic and artfully designed branding display. The choice is up to you, but generally you’ll find logos vary a bit between the commercial and wedding industries. The reason for this is because different audiences prefer different styles. Commercial photographers usually have logos as simple as their name in a specific font, with perhaps a design element or two thrown in. Wedding photographers often vary from simple fonts to elaborate graphics and designs.

Check out this list of logo examples from both commercial and wedding photographers. Notice how their logos closely resemble the feel of their style of photography and come together to emphasize their brand.

Commercial photographers: João Canziani, Nick Onken, Stephanie Rausser, Cheyenne Ellis, Thayer Allyson Gowdy, Ben Watts, Mikkel Vang, Sharyn Cairns

Wedding photographers: Lizzie Kimball, lunaphoto, Alexandra Meseke, Ben Adams, Kyle Barnes, Daniel Usenko, Sean Flanigan, Trevor Dayley

The DIY Logo

Chances are when you’ve made the decision to get a bit more serious about your photography and start branding yourself, your first logo is going to be a do-it-yourself (DIY) creation. You’re probably not too confident about your images yet (or even know what you want to really shoot) but think they’re good enough to maybe throw a watermark on them or put them on a website – which of course you need your name on at least!

Almost everyone starts here. It’s where my branding journey began as well. For those of us without a design background or very little familiarity in Photoshop or Illustrator, the first incarnation of your logo will probably be pretty simple. When I first started I had no idea what I was doing. I picked a font I liked that was already on my computer, opened up Photoshop, made a logo on a white background to match my website, and saved it as a jpeg. I didn’t even know about PNGs, transparent backgrounds or anything else! You can see the first incarnation here.

But just because you’re making it yourself, doesn’t mean you have to be as limited as I was. A simple way to spruce up a logo using just your name is by find a great typeface. Sites like FontSpace, Fonts, and dafont all offer a great variety of free or low license rate fonts. You can find thousands of different fonts organized by themes, styles and use. All you have to do is download, add to the font folder on your computer and start creating! If you have a bit more skill in Photoshop or Illustrator, you can even add graphics, icons or other elements.

Make sure you select a font that is licensed for free commercial use and not just personal use if you intend to use it on your website or business cards and are making money with your photography. If there’s a personal use font you really like you can often email the original designer and get it for a small license fee. These fonts range anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars, but can really add a great look to your logo.

DIY Pros: free or very low cost

DIY Cons: personal design time investment; often look hand-made or lower quality; may not be consistent across several mediums

Freelance Designer or Friend

If you’re stuck in that in between point where you want a better logo and brand identity than you’re capable of making yourself but don’t have a big budget to invest in a full service design or ad agency, a freelance graphic designer may be the best route for you.

Often the people who take this route have a friend who is a graphic designer, or know a friend of a friend (of a friend, etc) that is one. Sometimes it’s the neighbor’s kid who is going to school for graphic design, other times it’s the freelancer you met at a networking function. There are resources online too such as iFreelance or Etsy to cruise for graphic designers and post a job to bid on or find someone you like. There are some great pros and cons to using a freelancer that often vary greatly depending on the designer that you use.

There are all sorts of arrangements that can vary the cost when working with a freelancer but principally involve around; the quality of their work, the speed of delivery and the hours of design time. It runs similar to the old marketing saying, “You can get it fast, good or cheap. Pick two.” You might get someone to make you a logo incredibly cheap… but it could take months before you see anything (if at all) – or you could get a great logo right away, but it’ll cost.

Whatever the case may be and whether you work with a professional from a recommendation or your friend who happens to be a graphic designer, you need to get a signed contract that details the scope of the project, deadlines, design rounds and any penalties for breaking contract. There’s nothing worse than paying someone several hundred dollars for a logo and then having them flake out on you. Friend or not, treat this as the serious business transaction that it is.

Freelance Pros: could be well-designed, cost effective, minimal personal time investment

Freelance Cons: could be poorly-designed, excessive personal time investment, tardy delivery, risk factors with flakes

Agency Designed Logo

For photographers really looking for the full treatment and a well-thought brand design, the best way to go is with a professional and reputable design, marketing or ad agency. These are companies ranging from three to hundreds of individuals who specialize in creating identifiable brands. It does come at a cost though, but in my personal experience I’ve found the investment to be absolutely worth it.

There are a lot of benefits to working with a design agency. First and foremost is working with a team of professionals who are constantly creating branding for a variety of clients. Even if your work is designated to a less experienced or newer hire at an agency, it passes by several eyes and receives input a few times before it ever reaches you. If you can, try to find an agency in your area that has worked with photographers in the past, or other creative professionals. Agencies often specialize with clients in specific industries. Those who work with photographers usually know better what we’re looking for (and what attracts clients) in our industry.

When you’re shopping around, you can talk to multiple agencies and receive a few estimates to compare them. Don’t just look at the final price tag each quotes you, but also pay attention to what comes along with it. Things to look for are how many design revisions you get before you’re charged for extras, what the final deliverables are and any consultations. I recommend working with an agency that sits down for a consultation before working with you, to understand the direction you want to take your brand and any ideas you may have.

When I finally made the decision to work with an agency, I went with the creative team over at The James Agency. I’ve known people there for a few years, had seen a lot of their fantastic recent work and was happy they were willing to meet for an initial consult. I wanted a new brand clients could identify with that was fun enough to fit the style of my images, yet simple enough not to dominate. Together, they honed down just the right look for me that I could use across a number of mediums (website, biz cards, promos, etc). The feedback I’ve gotten has been tremendous, and it has really helped tie together my brand. Definitely a big improvement over my DIY logo.

It doesn’t just happen on the first try though. We took several revisions to get just the right look. Take a look here at the options and progressions we worked through when designing my logo. From a variety of looks to narrowing down the right style and then working through color treatments. Expect to go through the very same process.

I also asked a friend of mine (Lizzie Kimball) her experience while working with an agency in creating a new logo for her wedding photography. Here’s what she had to say:

When I started Lizzie Kimball Photography, I wanted branding that was fun, simple, and appealing to brides. I created a logo on my own, using a fun font I found on my computer and a flower decal that was included in the font. However, after looking at my logo I felt it was too whimsical and childish; not very appealing to the modern, sophisticated bride that I wanted to attract.

So, I made the decision to hire Becky from C1 Design and told her that I’d like to make a logo that was simple, clean and sophisticated. She presented me with my new logo that’s been in use since the spring of 2009 and it has served me well. With my new brand I still show my fun personality through my name, but I’m also able to present clients with a professional, simple branding that enhances my images rather than distracts from them.

I also made the choice hire a professional blog designer, Loverli Creative, to shape my blog around my logo making it clean, simple and appealing to the modern bride. Hiring a professional logo and blog designer are some of the best business choices I’ve made – yes, they were expensive investments, but it allowed my images, branding and blog to blend together into a cohesive design to appeal to my ideal client: more importantly, during this processes I was still able to put all my focus on doing what I do best: taking photographs.

Agency Pros: consultation, multiple revisions, experienced professionals, on time delivery, superior quality, customization to multiple mediums, better brand identification

Agency Cons: lost in the mix of other clients, higher costs

Logo Summary

So whether you’re working on your first DIY logo, hiring a freelancer or collaborating with an agency, make sure you do your homework and know what kind of feel you want your brand to project alongside your images. First and foremost, keep working to make your images as good as possible. Remember, great branding only helps give you that little extra edge, it can never take the place of the quality of your images.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Matt Dutile is a New York City based travel and lifestyle photographer. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a book on Mongolian nomads. Check the page out to learn more. You can view his website or join in on his Facebook page as well.

Some Older Comments

  • KT September 27, 2012 02:00 am

    by the way I am a graphic designer if anyone needs a logo ;)

  • KT September 27, 2012 01:59 am

    Yacko - I don't think JS meant you have to actually make the logo in several set sizes for different uses - he meant just think about how the logo will look various sizes - tiny on a business card, huge on a banner, etc etc. A logo with tons of detail might get messy looking when small even though it looks amazing large. The most successful logos are the simple ones that work well any size, in color or b&w like Nike, McDonalds etc (not the most beautiful but they do the job and are instantly recognizable). Of course a logo should always be vector for maximum flexibility

  • Brandi April 13, 2012 05:07 am

    Hey I appreciate the time, thought, and research you put into this article; but I was wondering a bit more about making branding match your style. In Lizzie's portion she discusses wanting to provide a sophisticated appearance and other articles I have read have stressed the importance of carrying a brand through, so I am wondering how you carry a brand through when you provide photography in multiple genres. For instance I provide wedding photography, but I also provide children's photography. I would way my logo is a cross of classy and whimsical, but still very simple. I would love to hear more and hear your thoughts on my logo.

  • Magnum March 6, 2012 10:41 pm

    This information is wonderful but I am wondering what to do after the logo is created.
    How do I go about copyrighting my logo.
    Where would I have to go and how much would it cost?

  • Paul March 3, 2012 03:20 am

    Totally agree, good advice, I use logos a lot and colour co-ordinate the web site to

  • Mitchel February 6, 2012 04:48 am

    I went with simple fonts. and positioning

  • IGOR Photography January 20, 2012 10:47 pm

    I made my own design in Photoshop, I created a graphic that looks like a camera shutter and I added the my name text around it, putting the shutter graphic as an O in IGOR , and then I put the photography text below. It took about 4-5 hours to get it down. It's not a masterpiece but a have gotten a lot of compliments from fellow photographer and clients. Take a look at Give it a try before you hire somebody, you kind find some good tutorials in YouTube.

  • Tammy November 19, 2011 06:05 am

    Re-vamped my logo last year. Hired a graphics designer and I'm very pleased with the work. My logo features a bird sitting on a circle tree. I'm beginning to post images with just the bird and tree and folks in my area know it's glitterbird photography. Hopefully one day I'll be like Starbucks and can completely do away with the words and everyone will still know who I am just by the graphic! LOL.

  • thinsmek November 15, 2011 07:13 am

    This is good advice. Thanks for posting.

  • John November 12, 2011 12:58 am

    Really interesting insights on the options open for creating a brand look. Cohesiveness is definitely key I think.

    While I took the DIY route several years ago, I am now on iteration 2 and still very very happy with it.

  • Matt Dutile November 11, 2011 04:32 am

    Good call on Etsy! I'll add that in to the main doc. There's so much out there it's easy to overlook some things.

  • Rachael Taylor November 11, 2011 04:28 am

    You're forgetting etsy! Probably one of the greatest places to support small business owners and find super creative people. I used Velocity Vectors when she was just starting up to design my logo and I love it! She provided me a .jpeg, .eps, .pdf, .png and .gif version of my logo and worked with me to create my perect vision for my brand: Tall Boots Photography. Can't say enough nice things about her!

    Check out her etsy storefront:

  • cak91971 November 11, 2011 04:23 am

    Great post! I am a graphic designer, and I tend to want to help people getting started for a reasonable cost. I've done trade-out a few times, and that is a nice option.
    @ Nathan - have a camp fire with your 400 leftover cards... redesign them, and order 100 for a ridiculously cheap price at :) As a designer I've done the same thing countless times!

  • Darren Addy November 11, 2011 04:16 am

    My logo: Pixelsmithy.

  • em8ch November 8, 2011 06:04 am

    Great Read. I've been using my logo on photos for a couple years now and I can say it has definitely helped me grow my business just by people seeing photos around the web and googling the name to find more information.

    I've also included my logo on my website in the top left. The link is:

  • Yacko November 8, 2011 02:09 am

    "When creating a logo, you must think about making it in several sizes"

    Bad advice.

    Most important thing no matter who designs your logo or how your logo looks - the file that is delivered to you must be an EPS (encapsulated postscript) or SVG (scalable vector file) or some other VECTOR file. You will want to use your new logo in several places and several ways, perhaps as small as a business card to several feet across. A vector file is the only way you are guaranteed the visuals can be made small to very large with no loss of sharpness. The background of a vector file is transparent and can be used over any color or color item you wish. If the logo is delivered to you as a PDF, make your you ask specifically whether that is a vector PDF.

    That's the problem with self-designed or amateur designed logos. Oftentimes they are designed and outputted from BITMAP art programs which means its scalability is very limited. The fonts on your computer are vector files. No matter the point size, they scale perfectly. Used in a bitmap program with possibly added pixel art, you lose all that scalability.

    Printers want vector images. They also want images with embedded color information if your design is color. Vector images can have Pantone color info embedded in the file by the designer.

    For a summary of vector graphics see:

    If you only have a bitmap of your logo, you will have to have it time-consumingly traced for different uses or if your designer has a vector original that they won't give you, then you will have to depend on that designer giving you a new properly sized bitmap for more money for each circumstance you have.

  • Nathan November 7, 2011 11:11 pm

    I made a logo and then ordered 500 business cards. Now I want to change my logo! what do I do with the business cards I have left (about 400!)

  • bycostello November 7, 2011 09:21 pm

    interesting read and process you had

  • Lettisa November 7, 2011 08:25 pm

    Agree with DIY logo!
    i've been changing my logo 3 times, for the former 2 aren't represent me, for some reasons i used; SPOTS photography and FotoForFun,but it doesn't work well until I used my own name finally.
    in Indonesia, many photography using brands and logo that not represent the photographers name, but after convince myself that it's too common thing here, i dare to use my own name.
    somehow, people acknowledge me more and i get higher credibility than before.

    Thanks for the post, its very encoraging me to do AbY ; Advertising by Yourself [^_^]

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer November 7, 2011 04:48 pm

    The day I first saw my finished logo and implemented it on my site, ad materials and on my business card is the day I felt like a real pro photographer, as in a photographer in business to make money (not necessarily related to skill level):

    The logo is featured in the upper left:

    It was designed by a friend who does design work part time. If you live in the Tampa Bay area I would be happy to refer you to her.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck November 7, 2011 11:50 am


    Great article. We took as course with Master Photographer Mark Chen. He worked 20+ years covering Sports and Journalism. Now he does edgy Wedding and Portrait work. He said you should be able to describe you style with three words....."Fresh, Innovative, Fun"

  • J S November 7, 2011 06:28 am

    I do some freelance logo work .. mostly because I like the process, not because it pays much.

    Logos are like poetry for a business. Short, concise, and have to work hard in a small space.

    I actually think your original text logo, Matt, is better for a quality image than the grunge style you spent a lot of time and had help with. But take the grunge off and it would clean up nice.

    You're right about starting with text and fonts (don't forget the special characters!) Companies like GM or FedEx are purely set with text. Many start with "Times Roman" or "Ariel" and stretch or compress the letters horizontally and vertically until happy with creating something new.

    When creating a logo, you must think about making it in several sizes and can it work in black and white as well as your chosen colors? Then you need to be consistent with it on all your things from web sites to business cards.

  • matabum November 7, 2011 04:01 am

    great article, thanks. i just created new logo for my photos, so i'll be really glad if you could tell me what do you think about it...

  • Rick November 7, 2011 02:23 am

    Thanks for the very thoughtful article. I especially like the links to the example photographers. Great stuff to think about and work through here.

  • Dewan Demmer November 7, 2011 02:09 am

    My Logo or Brand if you will was self created and is very much me ... and the truth is I realize that at some point I am going to have to change or "upgrade" but right now does not feel like the right time.
    I realize that the logo helps define a brand and that's why I am sticking with my logo at the moment, I think for myself that to upgrade my logo I will need the right designer , and that's a truth in everything.

    Thanks for this, perhaps it is time to look into updating my logo, worst case is a don't update it, have a look at my site and if anyone has helpful ideas or comments please let me know.