Thinking Inside the Box - How to Stay "On-Brand" and Still Feel Creatively Free

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Thinking Inside the Box

L I F E . S T Y L E D .

In the abstract and nebulous world of branding -- identifying moods, vibes, and tones -- guidelines are absolutely necessary. 

When I first take on clients photographing for their blog or business, we discuss what types of photos we need. It's hard for some to articulate what they actually need because we are inundated with "cool" images that all seem to run together. My advice is always the same:

Set parameters for yourself and your brand and then go crazy within those guidelines. 

A few ways to set your own brand guidelines:

1. list the brands you identify with

From clothing to home decor, taking time to identify 3-5 main brands that you feel exemplify the mood you'd like to achieve can make a big difference. Some are classic, some are colorful, some are trendy, some are minimal, and some are playful. Some have vintage vibes, some make you wish you lived in New York City, some give you feelings of wanting to snuggle in bed all day with tea and a good book. 

For example:

  • J. Crew - classic, American

  • Anthropologie - vintage, feminine

  • Revolve - sexy, traveler

  • Rouge - French, feminine

  • Urban Outfitters - trendy, vintage vibes

  • Madewell - on-trend, minimal, denim

  • Lou & Grey - minimal, form meets function, chic

  • Zara - on-trend, street chic

  • Doën - feminine, folksy

These are just a few of thousands of examples, and you can see there are some brands that start to overlap. Jot down brands that make you happy that your brand identifies with, and then find the cohesion among them. 

2. Have a color Palette

Having a color palette or simply color tones that your brand identifies with will help you see in real-time where you want to photograph your next outfit, what to purchase online, how you want to style your office, and how you want your photos to be edited. It takes practice to see all these things in an instant, but take some time looking through Pinterest and hone in on a color palette that speaks to you and is practical to your life and brand. 

3. Identify Textures

Different textures and materials evoke different vibes. One way to start seeing which textures are in line with your brand is to notice the design in places like restaurants, brick and mortar stores, and hotels. Again, Pinterest is an amazing way to cull through images to pick out what is in line with your brand. Notice the finish of the texture as well. Metals come in all different colors and finishes; wood can be light or dark, finished or unfinished; paint on buildings can be smooth or stucco; streets can be rough or smooth (like modern streets compared to smoothed stone streets in old cities); water can be smooth or choppy with flecks of white; plants vary from light to dark, smooth to matte. 

All of these variations affect how the light hits off the texture. No need to go around inspecting every single thing that brings you simple joy, but be aware that just because one pair of soft black leather boots is in line with your brand, the shiny new pair next to it might not, and that's ok! 

4. Have a voice

There are a million bloggers. That's great. There are also a ton of doctors, lawyers, photographers, etc. That's not meant to discourage, it's meant to ignite your passion to be truly you and the best version of yourself you can be, and then share it! Remember, blogging caught on because people had something to say and took to the interwebs to say it, and then some people started connecting with them. More and more, bloggers gained a following because they were jotting down their life lessons, or their recipes, or their makeup tips, and people hit "follow" to make sure they didn't miss the next post. Blogging has evolved into mainly an "outfit of the day" model, but don't forget where it started. Give yourself as well as your followers a clear idea of the types of posts to expect. All of these guidelines don't magically become clear over night, but if you have it in the back of your mind to slowly hone in on who you are and what you have to say, the clarity will come. 


There could very well be twelve or so more points, but we'll leave it here. Ask your questions below or leave your comments on things that help you identify as a brand. 

One more wrench to throw into this convoluted guide: there are brands and vibes you can appreciate and admire, but be conscious of where your talents lie. Just because you like it, doesn't mean you have to emulate it. Discern between what you create and what you appreciate. 

Next step: Check out How to Create Consistent Photos  for your Instagram feed and blog.