by Bethany Gilbert 14 Comments

How to design a photography logo that doesn’t suck

Does your photography logo suck? Do you even have a logo?

Although I’m sure all photographers would love to be able to hire an amazing logo designer to design their sparkly new logo, many times this just isn’t feasible. Most photographers, especially those new to the business, just don’t have the extra cash to spend on a logo design.

Your photography logo can not be just a font.

This is the point where most of us jump on a font website and start perusing the script and curly and techno and serif fonts trying to nail down something that looks like…. us. We decide on a font that sort of seems to fit and throw it on a business card, stick it on the bottom of every blog post photo and sprawl it across Facebook announcing to the world that So & So Photography has arrived.

And we blend.

We blend right in with all of the other So & So’s and wonder why no one notices how unique, current, modern and creative we are.

We blend because it just isn’t enough. Helvetica, Scriptina, Didot, Isabella… the list goes on and on. A font just can’t tell the story of your business on its own. Its needs something else. Something visual, creative, unique. Something that says specific things about your vision, your work and your business.

This something is a logo! A carefully designed logo can separate your business from your competitors by telling YOUR story. I am not saying this is an easy task. I’m not saying you will get it right the first time. I am saying that if you take the time to research, reflect and carefully design your new logo it can help you stand out and provide a sense of what truly makes you and your business unique.

Sounds tough right? It is. But I am here to help. I can’t tell you what your logo should be but I can help you design something that will grow with your business and that will be flexible and work in a variety of formats.

So, in the interest of brevity, lets start out by talking about what a photography logo is NOT.

  1. A logo is not, always, literal. Your logo does not have to be a camera. Is Nike’s logo a shoe?
  2. Your logo is not about you. Do you like flowers? Great! Does a flower visually imply anything about your work or the way you run your business? Probably not.
  3. A logo is not trendy. Drop shadows? Reflections? Thank you, but no.
  4. A logo is not an advertisement. Should a logo be able to say something meaningful and memorable about your business? Yes. Should it be able to sell your product on its own? No.

On a more positive note – a couple of things a good photography logo IS:

  1. A good logo is flexible. Your logo should work in black & white or color and should be legible at very small sizes. More on this later.
  2. A good logo is appealing to your customer. Yes, your logo is about your business and your vision and your work, but it is also about your customer. What do they see when they look at it? Does it appeal to some specific need or desire. What are they looking for in a photographer? How does your logo imply this?
  3. A good logo is memorable. Amongst all the flowers, dots, circles and cameras, what is it about your logo that a potential customer will remember?
  4. A good logo is simple.

Designing Your Photography Logo

So, where to start?

As photographers, we are likely to open up Photoshop and start playing around. Resist your desires for immediate gratification and step back from the computer.

Take a few minutes (or hours, days, weeks… whatever it takes) to identify some very important things about your business.

  • Who are you as a photographer? Write down 5 words that describe your business and your photography.
  • What is your message? What are you trying to convey about your business? (Tip: Refer back to the list from the previous step)
  • Who is your audience? Again, what are they looking for in a photographer? What do they care about?
  • What do you think about your competitors’ logos? What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?

Next, grab some copy paper, a legal pad, a sketch book or whatever you have handy and draw. Use your toddler’s crayons if you have to. Draw anything and everything that comes to mind. See something you like? Try different versions. Play around. No one will see this but you so just go crazy.

Now, open Photoshop, or better-yet, Illustrator, if you have it. Choose a couple of your favorite sketches and start recreating them. Stick with black and white for now. Color comes later. Focus on simplicity, scalability and, most importantly, your message.

Rules of Good Photography Logo Design

Before you get to far be sure to follow a couple of “rules” of good logo design. It is very important that your logo can do the following:

  1. Be printed in one solid color. Your primary version does not necessarily have to be one color, but it should be able to be converted to a solid and still be identifiable.
  2. Be printed in reverse. For those of us not in the printing business, this means can you turn your logo solid white and print it on a black background?
  3. Be legible at the size of a quarter or smaller. You will likely want to use your sparkly new logo on business cards, stickers, as watermarks on photos, etc. It will need to be scalable.
  4. Be created in Vector format, rather than Raster format. This determines the scalability of your design. Vector can be scaled to any size and retain its sharp lines and crisp edges. Raster format consists of dots that become “pixelated” as it is stretched. Image formats are a complicated topic so we won’t go in depth here. The basic idea is to save your logo in something you can scale later if needed. You will, however, need to save it in a Raster format in order to upload to web such as PNG, JPG or GIF.

Follow these rules to create a logo that will be flexible. It is important that your logo can be printed in one color, in reverse and at very small sizes.

Don’t take these rules lightly. The above will determine how usable your logo is down the road. You want your logo to grow with your business and be flexible.

So, on to color. Color and the art of using it in communication could be an entirely separate post, or even a book. For now, we will just touch on it lightly. Choose your colors with care and stick to them. Much of the power of a logo and other marketing pieces lies in consistency. If your logo is pink then your other marketing materials should follow suit. There are many websites and articles dedicated to the meaning and psychology of color. I suggest you do some Googling and researching before making a final decision. Remember – its not about you! What colors will communicate your message to your customers? What will they feel when they look at your colors? How will they interpret the meaning behind your choices?

Congratulations! You now have several workups of meaningful, flexible logo options. What to do next?

You have some options here. Maybe you are in love with one of your designs and know that you know that you know that it is the right choice for your business. Go with it! If you are confident that it follows the above rules of design and that it will effectively communicate your message to your customer then you are ready to move forward!

But maybe you have a few options that you feel equally strong about. This is where your peers come in to play. Post it on your favorite photography forum and show it to a couple friends who fit your customer demographic. Getting feedback from others can go a long way in helping you make your final decision.

So now what? You have a shiny new logo that makes you all fuzzy inside. Where do you go from here? The answer. Everywhere.

Use that photography logo in every possible scenario. Business cards, letterhead, envelopes, flyers, websites, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, stickers, cd covers, albums, watermarks, t-shirts, camera bags… and the list goes on. Consistency, consistency, consistency. Show them who you are and don’t let them forget it.

And after that, come back here and post a link to your new logo so we can check it out. Feel free to post here for advice on your specific design as well. We will help in any way we can!

Comments

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  • Wendy Mayo says:

    Most excellent advice! I have been guilty of the “font” sin myself and really want to make something that says who I am and what I do. This post was the push I needed to make it happen! Thanks!

  • admin says:

    Thanks Wendy! I was as well. My business “font” used to be Agency FB. My “logo” was a joke. I now realize that it takes something more to stand out as more and more photographers enter my market. I’m so glad you got something out of it!

  • Shay Curran says:

    I’m using a photo of myself as a logo at the moment. Is this a good idea? When meeting customers it’s useful as they know me already but is this a wise long term strategy?
    Shay Curran

    • Bethany says:

      Hi Shay,

      Although it is great that your customers know your face, a photo of yourself doesn’t really explain anything about the actual product you provide. What about your photo tells them what style they should expect or what your photography represents?

  • That was a great post Bethany! I am going to be sharing this with my photography students when we get into designing their logo for their new websites.

    One of the points you made resonated with me. I am always amazed when businesses have one colour scheme on business cards and other offline material and then a different colour palette on their website. Talk about brand confusion.

    • Bethany Gilbert says:

      Hi Sean,

      I’m glad it was helpful. If your students have any questions or you need any additional info please let me know!

      Consistency seems like such an obvious principle in logo design (or any branding for that matter) but nearly every company I work with has problems with it. It is so incredibly important for creating loyal followers and for keeping a professional image.

  • Niki Bradley says:

    Wonderful article! Well written and exactly true! I am a freelance graphic designer that designs logos for photographers as well as others AND I am photographer in training (more of a passion and hobby). I cannot tell you how much I love this article and will save it for reference!

    It is funny because when it comes to my own logo I have gone through the type phase and did something that suited the name this time, but have yet to come up with something that I am absolutely in love with. So hard to design for yourself!

    But again, great article. Thank you! I will keep this for a VERY long time!

  • I’m always amazed that so many small business owners don’t take into consideration logo design.

    I’ve seen far too many Clip-Art logos for my liking.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have just made my logo I am very happy with it. I had some help but I pretty much came up with the idea and such,. would love to get some input as well.

  • [...]   3.) RESEARCH some more. I found this article. Happy to read it because I DON’T want mine to [...]

  • [...] If you’re going to use a logo keep it very simple and tasteful. Make it blend into a corner of the picture where it won’t be noticed and take away from the beauty you’re trying to convey. After all, everyone hates commercials and ads ruining what they really came to see: the Art. For more help, check out this site’s guidelines. [...]

  • Jeanette says:

    Excellent article! It made me look at my logo design in a totally different way – I have to admit I was well on my way to design a boring generic one :) Thank you!

  • Sherry Hilton says:

    I’m not new to taking photo’s, but I’m new to the marketing side of it. Loved the article, yes has me thinking.. got some great ideas, Love Adobe light room, use it daily. Guess I need to learn photo shop and Google this side of making ago. Think I can handle it from there !!! thanks so much ..

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