Communication, Branding, and the Human Element


Today was the launch of the Nike grand opening in Downtown Detroit. It was an exciting day and the most people I've seen in the city for a retail experience in my entire time living here. It was to no surprise though, I knew there would be a line and I knew it would give the city some life. Initially, I wasn't going to go, but I made an effort to be a part of the event for two reasons.

  1. I love Detroit and since I was a kid I would always talk about how we needed these type of outdoor retail experience. In the past to obtain a rare shoe or even enter a Nike store, one would have to travel to Chicago or New York.
  2. Because I knew it was going to be a great marketing opportunity. My blog has a solid following of photographers across the world, but I have yet to get my city involved. I want this to be a mini-hub to catch up on events you may have wanted to attend, or to do some research on one you want to attend. My goal was to get to the event, capture the moment as best as I could and then get back home to upload it for all of Detroit to see.

Great idea right? To a certain extent it worked too, as of 6:35 I have over 150 views on the event alone. I know too big time bloggers that's nothing, but for someone who only gets 1000 or so views day then that makes up for 15% of my blog... and counting. Except. the percentage should be more around 50, and the view count should be 1000 alone. This is one of the biggest retail openings in the city, I can't settle for average.

Related: 1701 Detroit: Grand Opening of Downtown Detroit's Nike Store

Build A Memorable Brand

I had a friend who was also at the opening of this event. He shoots almost everything, very humble guy and super friendly. I sometimes wonder how he get's his gigs though. In no way, shape or form is he a bad photographer, but there are so many of us... I wonder what makes him stand out. I know to some that the last statement may have made me seem envious, but I'm not. We have to be mature in this freelance segment, as a creative and freelancer, you have to research your competition, see what they're doing and if you need to, implement some of their characteristics or if you see it working against them completely go the opposite direction and create your own. In this case, his characteristic is something I need to inherit and that's the art of communicating with people.

Every time I see him at an event he is taking pictures of the moment and then going to chop it up with whoever he captured. I have no idea what he is saying to them, but he's saying something. He then holds his camera up in the air, sticks his tongue out and snaps the picture... That my friends is how you create a brand.

Now at my next event, I surely won't be sticking my tongue out and taking selfies, but we all have to find something that connects with those around us. It's more than the photographs, I'm nowhere close to the best photographer in the city, yet I may get more work than them. It's because I've developed a brand that certain people embody, now I just have to push it to scale.

How do I do this? Human interaction.

Here's Where I Fuck Up

I don't socialize. I NEVER DO! Perhaps it's my street photography background or perhaps it's just bad marketing but I tend to remain as invisible as possible when shooting. I get up close, but then I just walk away. Maybe I'm afraid people will think I'm weird if I begin a conversation with them, but then again, taking a close-up photo and then walking away isn't the most normal thing ever.

As a freelancer, I need to remember how important Human interaction is. To many it's a dead art, but that leaves nothing but opportunity on the table for the ones willing to work a little bit harder. Think how many people you pass per day, you're just going to hope they follow you on Instagram?

I know I'm using terms like you're and you, but don't worry, I'm talking to myself as well.

On the way home I was thinking of ways to get better at this. What moments and opportunities was I passing up on? I thought about how I often went to the same restaurants and coffee shops downtown yet I knew no one's name. I thought about how I often pay my rent via the mailbox as oppose to taking it into the office and actually meeting the apartment's staff. I think about all the times I've taken the elevator and stood there in silence... I stay in a 22 story building, I know 2 people who live here, that's pathetic.

Related: Your Personal Brand Is The Only Thing That Matters

The Next Step

On this website, there's a lot of tips on how to gain more confidence within your photography. Tips on how to approach people or how to capture a better photograph, but what it lacks is the true essence of my life and that's freelance work. Being a freelancer is how I pay my bills and though I want to be remembered as the next Vivian Maier (very ambitious I know) I need to first work on being able to make enough income to get to that level.

Over the past 2 years we've seen me blog my failures and accomplishments in both street and portraiture styled work, now it's time to add freelance to that list. It's going to be a fun ride, maybe I'll do things like monthly income reports, give out email templates and talk about how to properly reach out to sources for work. I can't wait to share all this new information with you guys... I just have to figure it out myself first.