A thoughtful brand puts your own personal stamp on all the little touches your clients receive along the way. Whether it’s your business card, a thank you note, even your response to an inquiry email with your attached PDF – these are all early seeds planted to quietly communicate to your client what your business is all about. To develop a brand identity also forces you to really think about your business goals and the kind of work you want to produce. It’s a lot like spring cleaning – it clarifies and once completed, is a real time saver!

Where do you start? Here are a few things I think really work. This list is geared specifically to creative entrepreneurs based on my experiences working as a designer, though it may be applicable elsewhere too!

ONE – Get inspired – what visually represents your business?

Go to places you love, study people who do things you respect, ingest art + music, read books and lastly…look online for photos that really communicate something to your soul. Don’t JUST look online, get out in the real world. Create a journal and/or Pinterest board and collect the imagery and thoughts that really inspired you. Take as much time to do this as you need, you are in charge..nobody else. Narrow down your choices to a few strong images that really indicate where you are going with your business. Certain vibes, colors or thoughts should become pretty clear if you edit your collection down to only images that you truly adore.

MY BRAND MOOD BOARD

This (below) was my brand identity mood board. The best discovery for me during this time was that one of my own images was actually what most inspired me! It was exciting to see that I was growing and finally creating work I was proud of.

inspiration

TWO- Hire a designer.

I know I know. You don’t like this part because designers cost MONEY. And you are thinking, “easy for you to say Jenni, you ARE a designer”. You are right, I designed my own brand identity because I’m trained to do so. But guess what? I hired a web developer because I don’t have those kind of skills. I saved for 2 years in preparation for this because I didn’t want to screw around with WordPress and Squarespace anymore. But that is another story.

Here is the thing: we ask our clients to trust us and invest in us for what we do. Therefore, we have to think about things this way when we need services. A good designer will listen to you, create a steady and enjoyable process for editing and getting things to look just how you were hoping they would. They also will guide you towards good design and sometimes that involves you letting go of ideas that just aren’t going to work. Many freelance designers will give discounts if your business interests them, or may offer payment plans. Designers that are in school still may even take on your work for nearly free for the sake of their portfolio. It’s okay to save a few years while you wait for your epic make over – Just remember: make sure you enjoy them as people and like their overall portfolio. Don’t just hire the cheapest person you can find!

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 1.21.29 PM

 

jenni_kupelian_mobile-1009x1261

THREE- apply your brand identity.

If you spent all the time and energy to develop a brand, don’t just upload the logo to your website and call it good. Use the fonts and colors on your business materials and web site if you can. When posting your images publicly, ask yourself if they represent where you are going with your business and the brand you just worked to develop. Have your designer develop your business materials for you (cards, PDF’s, catalogs, communication materials, packaging, etc) with your brand if you can’t do it yourself. These items don’t have to be elaborate, just consistent.

MOST IMPORTANTLY!!!!

Is it okay to have client consultations in my home if the paint out front is chipping? Am I fashionable enough to be a fine art photographer? Will wedding clients with higher budgets still want to work with me if I drive a 1998 Honda Civic?

These are actual questions I’ve found swirling in my head at night while thinking about my business goals and my brand identity. Remember, you may need a brand but you don’t need to BE a brand. I see the trend of people turning their life into a brand and it worries me. You are a living breathing person…a human. You have this one life, and to fully experience it you have to be present. So I refuse to style every moment or worry too much about every little thing. Over the last two years I’ve slowly prepared my living room to be a more inviting place for consultations…and it’s finally nearly finished! But you bet I’ve met with clients in coffee shops or at my house praying they don’t need to use my bathroom because I can’t remember if it was clean or not. More than your brand and logo, your clients connect with YOU. So be you and let yourself be imperfect. Can’t afford a brand make-over right now? No problem! Do the best with what you have now and slowly save up. Is your work good? Are you kind? That’s all that matters – if you don’t care about being perfect your clients won’t either. So embrace that cluttered kitchen and that extra 25lbs. Do your best, work hard and be at peace.

There’s always time to have a brand identity – there’s not always time to truly live. Thanks so much for reading this, means a lot that you stopped by.

Credits: 

Brand Identity + Web Design: Jenni Kupelian

Web Development: Jim Krill 

Mood Board Photos (left to right, top to bottom): Karen Rosenlund, J. Astir Brinkmann, Martha Stewart, Jenni KupelianRebeca Yale via Once Wed, Feather + Stone via Once Wed

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life + Thoughts
jenni_kupelian_trees-37

Calligraphy by Kelsey Malie

I’m seeing a lot of “2016 Wrap Ups” in the creative community right now – everyone choosing their favorite images or projects from the year…projecting next year’s goals and recalling favorite moments from 365 days too quickly gone by. I see a lot of joy and excitement and I think it is lovely. I found myself writing similar things last year.

However, I don’t really want to do that now…because 2016 was painful for me and I would feel I was fabricating a little too much.

I am very uncomfortable writing that, because I actually worry a lot of that giving away even that little part of myself may not be safe for public spaces. But I do think, if even one person reads this who is also struggling…maybe they will feel less alone. I don’t pretend to have the sort of magical unicorn influence to energize you for next year, but I can at least say, that I know none of us are actually alone (even when it feels that way).

Winter is a covering. It allows a time for rest and reflection…the soil heals and moves beneath the layers of frost and snow in preparation for whatever Spring may bring. It can be a bitterly cold time that makes your bones feel hollow and long for warmth again. But it’s a season, like all the others, and therefore necessary.

Spring is on the way, bringing all the colors and fragrances back to us…so, how can we not have just a wee bit of hope? Accomplishments? Game-Plans? Diets? Hustle? Goals? I am too tired friends.

Yet I will always hold onto hope in anticipation of the life that spring brings.

A Happy New Year to you friends, creatives, clients — no matter where you are at. Take comfort, take joy.

 

jenni_kupelian_trees-14

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer’s empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

-Emily Dickinson

 

Posted in Life + Thoughts
2016-04-28_0005

A friend of mine said an interesting thing describing someone close to her, “By the time most of us are adults, we have learned to be guarded and protect ourselves. But he is just totally open and full of wonder – and to have retained that is amazing in this world.” Do you ever think about what the world looks like through a child’s eyes? It’s full of hope, magic and mystery. Children haven’t learned to keep their joy to themselves or to be embarrassed about what excites them. They have a zest to absorb all the beauty around them and feel no shame in being vulnerable in front of others.

Mamiya 645AF | 80mm F/2.8 Lens | Kodak Portra 400 Film | Scans by PhotoVision

PRESS PLAY FOR MUSIC

2016-04-28_0002

Our world has a way of snuffing out the light that we all start with. I often scold myself as an adult for being naive or gullible when I attempt to assume the best about people – only to wind up hurt. In reaction I build my boundaries higher and higher until they practically reach the sky (allowing nobody in). We so quickly learn what masks to put on in order to survive this thing called life that it’s easy to forget we all started out fresh faced running in the sun (even if it was taken from us too early).

2016-04-28_0004

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of building my fortress. It may keep the occasional un-safe person away, but all too often it steals my joy and isolates me from connecting with creative, wonderful people. I took the photos at my mom’s house, while my niece made bouquets out of “weeds”. She ran each and every dandelion over to her mommy, so proud and excited to share it. It didn’t matter that it was a weed, to her it was lovely…and that’s all that mattered!

2016-04-28_0006

I want to be brave enough to declare that I’m excited and joyful about a dandelion or something I created – freely and happily. All too often I find myself weighing the odds and wondering if the people around me will crumple up my art and say , “no, that’s not actually beautiful, you just thought it was.”

2016-04-28_0001

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

I love the quote by Thoreau above; I don’t think anyone paints their canvas better than a child. What if it is truly possible to reclaim our wonder and our bravery to be vulnerable and excited about our creations and dreams? Or at least just live our lives a little more open hearted rather than on high alert. We only get to be in this big world just a wee bit of time…it seems to me there is no reason to delay.

Scans by PhotoVision

Shot in Damascus, Oregon on a warm spring afternoon.

053A5242

A family portrait session can be stressful for parents. It’s hard enough to get your kids packed in the car and arrive somewhere on time, much less get them to smile and do what the photographer says. Having worked as a nanny for years before I became a photographer, I understand (to a degree) the frustration parents must feel when their child finds a mud puddle in the first five minutes of our session. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to help your session go well and ease your anxiety about what shenanigans your kids may pull. These tips will even help your photos simply look better (and you won’t need to spend money on new clothes).

053A4023

TIP # 1: WARDROBE

I’ll address this one first because it’s probably the number point of worry for clients. Choose clothing the kids are comfortable and WARM enough in. If they get cold, it’s all over and we don’t want that (plus layers can be removed if they get too warm). You don’t all have to match, in fact, I don’t want you to match. Try and pick colors that compliment each other (all warmer tones, or cooler tones – but even that is a loose rule). If mom is wearing a floral print, then Dad and the kids can choose something pattern-free (or visa versa). You always want to balance patterns with simple or solid colors. It’s normal to want the kids to dress up a little but just make sure that they feel like themselves. If they really hate that cute hipster vest it’s going to show in all the photos…and it’s never worth a cute vest if your child is snarling at my camera because of it. Avoid name brands, cartoon characters, most neon colors or anything distracting on clothing. Finally, less is always more. Simple outfits in a simple location always look great.

053A6284
053A6216

TIP # 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE COOL TREE 

This one may sound weird, but it’s important. I know the bridge at the park is cool, I know there’s a great view of the mountain over that way, and I’m totally aware of the awesome-ness of that certain tree. I’m even more aware how crazy I may appear that I’m shooting in a really simple part of the extravagant park we are in. The reason I do this is every second we spend walking to the cool tree is a window of time I’m losing with your kids. My main goal is to get you and your children’s natural moments in good light. Sometimes even I am seduced by multiple cool locations but I usually regret starting a shoot out with lots of walking around so I try to avoid it.

If we spend the first part of a session in one location, it’s because the light is great and your kids are doing everything I want them to. In those moments, I will knock out as many great shots as I can. Your favorite photos will be the moments that happen organically rather than the posed photo in front of the cool tree anyway, trust me! After I know I have plenty of pictures I know you’ll be happy with, then we can walk around a bit and I’m generally happy to capture any ideas or locations you are really excited about.

053A7233

TIP # 3: I’ll HELP THE KIDS KNOW WHAT TO DO 

It’s really tempting for parents to tell their kids “look at the camera sweetie!”, especially during a classic portrait moment (the one grandma winds up framing). The problem is, when you tell your kids to smile they automatically don’t want to. Even if they do, suddenly Mom or Dad isn’t looking at the camera. I can’t tell you how many great frames I lose to Moms looking down at their kids with a worried face when everyone else is looking right at me. Please know, I am NOT being critical of moms…you have the toughest job on the planet. I know it’s really difficult not to try and manage your kids because you are just doing your job! However, the best thing you can do (in this particular moment) is relax and let me queue your kids to smile. I will do the robot, I may have you stand behind me and make funny faces, I may offer stickers…honestly I’ll do anything to get them to look at me and I’m happy to do the hard work for you. Be willing to let me guide the moment and if I need your super human powers (which you have in abundance) I will absolutely call on you to wield them.

053A5757
053A5853

TIP # 4: IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE SMILE

I will always shoot classic group shots with everyone looking at the camera because they are definitely important. However, after we knock those out – we’ll just let the kids play. This will create opportunity for me to be goofy and highlight the natural moments that make your kids unique and special. What is even better is if you jump in and play with them, that’s when really incredible moments happen! The less they think it’s a photoshoot the better. Sometimes the most precious photos are the ones with eyes closed, the back of a head, just hands…it’s all in the details.

053A8542
053A8721
053A3120-2-1009x1514
053A6362
053A6350
4X0A02591-2048x3072
053A7599
JKsample10
053A5027
053A4840
053A7996
JKsample18
DSC_6962-2048x1365

TIP # 5: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT 

Most of the photos featured above had some kind of obstacle we overcame. This included hard rain, a shy child, skinned knees, wet/muddy clothes, tantrums, a tight schedule, difficult light or less than ideal locations. Would you have known that looking at them? I always tell clients that even if it feels like it’s not working, trust me…it’s working! I want your family to be you, including tears and high energy toddlers who won’t stay still. Your family is great and we want to highlight who you are together! So embrace the moment (whatever it brings) and have a blast!

I hope these tips help the next time you plan a family portrait session and thanks so much for reading!

JKupelian_desert32

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” -Edward Abbey

Shot on a Mamiya 645 AF on Fuji400H Film in Smith Rock, Oregon.