In January, I had the pleasure of meeting Marisa Guzman-Aloia at our DC happy hour when Wonderful Machine was in town for some portfolio events and client meetings. We immediately hit it off, and I felt like I’d just made a new friend rather than just meeting one of our photographers. Fast-forward a bit and she contacted me to help her with her brand.
Upon checking out her old website, Marisa’s talent was immediately apparent. I felt strongly that with a few tweaks and adjustments she could modernize her entire brand and have more success in the competitive DC market. Based on what I saw, I quickly recognized how the warm and authentic way she shoots corporate clients sets her apart from other corporate photographers in her area. These days, a lot of corporate photography falls into the trap of monotony, but Marisa sets herself apart with fresh and hip imagery of young (and young at heart) professionals that doesn’t feel stuffy or old hat. This approach has helped her win clients, but I felt her branding was out of step with her contemporary feeling photographs.
After reviewing Marisa’s branding and website, it was time to pull the team together and decide on the services she would need to take her business to the next level. Ultimately, her overhaul would include our Blueprint, Web Edit, Print Project edit, and List Build to reach out to new clients. To save her some dough, we decided to not recommend designing a whole new logo for Marisa because the one she was using at the time was only slightly dated. We collectively agreed that the logo did need a little tweaking, but it was something she could do on her own.
After brainstorming with a designer friend, Marisa sent over a few concepts to review and eventually settled on a design resembling a banner with an M and a small lightning bolt accent. The new logo gives her brand identity a more fresh feel. The bold black of the banner contrasts nicely with her site’s white background. The lightning bolt ratchets up the energy, adding a striking and impactful (pun totally intended) but not overpowering vibe.
The blueprint I built for Marisa was fairly extensive and included suggestions on what she could do outside of Wonderful Machine to grow her business. In her blueprint, I laid out some marketing techniques she should follow and gave her detailed suggestions on ways to structure her day to balance shooting with self-promotion.
As I’m sure everyone is aware, marketing tends to be a low priority for a lot of photographers because it can sometimes seem boring, tedious, and overwhelming. I think Marisa recognized this pitfall and was receptive to all of our suggestions. Even though Marisa understood the importance of marketing, I wanted to emphasize this further so she would be in a great position to achieve her professional goals after the overhaul was complete.
Bonus fun fact: Marisa was an absolute pleasure to work with during the entire process!
Since she already had a good grasp on her brand and what she needed to do, the entire overhaul was a breeze for the team. After the blueprint was completed we got started on her Web Edit. I had Marisa work with our exceptionally talented Sr. Photo Editor, Stacy Swiderski. Stacy requested Marisa send in between 500-800 images shot within the last 4 years and Marisa sent us nearly 700. Once Stacy evaluated her old site, she concluded Marisa’s edit was a bit repetitive and needed to be more focused. Using the photos Marisa supplied and her knowledge of the DC market, Stacy organized and sequenced Marisa’s work into galleries titled, Portraits, Work Life, and The 30 Project (a personal project of Marisa’s). By streamlining the edit and really specializing in these key areas, Marisa’s site now presents her for what she is, an industry expert at photographing people in a corporate setting. In bigger photography markets, it’s important to be a specialist rather than a generalist, and Stacy was able to highlight that side of Marisa.
Along with the Web Edit, Stacy also took on a Print Project Edit for Marisa. Stacy approached this by doing an even tighter edit than what now appeared on Marisa’s website and really focused on choosing images that would flow in book form. The important thing for any photographer to remember when doing a Web Edit vs. Print Project Edit is knowing that they both need to be different, but still represent the photographer’s style. You should always assume that if a client is agreeing to look at your book they’ve probably already seen your website, so you should include some visual diversity to really show your strengths. Sequencing is crucial here because it’s important to avoid monotony by varying the types of images that appear next to one another. This variation creates a pleasurable experience for the viewer and keeps them engaged.
Marisa had this to say about her work with Stacy and committing to doing the edits…
The edit was great and the images flowed really well. At my initial review of the edit, I was surprised at the images she picked, and how she laid out the galleries and book. I realized that I was more attached to certain hero images than I was aware of. Just another reason I needed the edit. It clearly was a great help to me and to my growth in this industry. If you are thinking about an edit and are on the fence, I highly recommend having a photo editor look at your body of work and learn how they see your photography, where you are excelling and where you need to grow.
Once Marisa’s print edit was done, we recommended that she create a physical book with AdoramaPix. When one of our photographers expresses interest in books we typically recommend either going with a bound book like an AdoramaPix or a 3 post screw book you can purchase from places like Pina Zangaro. In this case, Marisa was drawn to a bound book and since we can vouch for the excellent quality of AdoramaPix, we recommended she print her book with them.
The last step of the project was where I came in. The entire time we were developing Marisa’s new brand, I’d been carefully monitoring and managing the process to make sure all pieces fit together smoothly. Now it was time for me to get my hands dirty and do what I know best: Marketing. With all her new branding and edits in place, it was time for Marisa to reach out to clients in her market that would be drawn to her type of work. She already has an impressive list of repeat and new clients, but it’s always a good idea to continue to introduce yourself to new potential clients and grow your network. I set out to find clients for Marisa that would be most likely to collaborate and hire her for projects. Our philosophy here is to keep lists relatively on the smaller side (about 150-200 contacts) but verify each one to minimize the number of bounce backs a photographer might receive. Luckily, since I’ve been to DC and have been growing my own personal network I was able to develop the list with ease. I used people I knew would be interested in her work including contacts from business and agencies in the area.
By the end of the process, Marisa’s brand identity was transformed, and she now has a sleek new site complete with a fresh edit and logo. She also has a shiny book she can take to client meetings and she can arrange using her new list build. Marisa already had a lot of confidence in her photography, but now that her branding matches her aesthetic, I don’t think there’s a limit to what she can achieve. I couldn’t be more proud of how the whole project turned out and Marisa was very pleased as well.
Before working with Wonderful Machine, I felt like my business was in a holding pattern. I had good clients who were repeat customers, but I wasn’t finding new clients to grow my business. I knew I had great work to show, but I needed fresh eyes on my imagery and someone to give me a clear direction to go in so that I could get my work in front of the right people. My Account Executive Rachel, looked at my website, my branding and my marketing plan to help me understand my strong areas and where I could improve. The Branding Overhaul was a much needed boost to my business!”
I’m excited about Marisa’s future and hope to keep in touch as her career progresses. Hopefully, we’ll find another opportunity for some drinks in DC!
If you’re considering giving your own brand a refresh, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
You can also check out Marisa’s new site at photoguzman.com!