As a photo editor and creative consultant, I work with photographers to tackle a wide range of branding and marketing projects. Often these projects involve deep conversations and evaluations of the task at hand, but our efforts are usually focused on executing a very specific goal like a website overhaul or gallery edit. By contrast, Creative Coaching brings the conversation to the center of our process, creating space for sustained goal-setting and accountability for photographers in an ongoing way.
For me, a critical part of being an effective coach is understanding the creative process of each individual photographer. Helping photographers better understand and communicate their unique perspectives and aesthetics is for me the most rewarding part of what I do, and it is at the heart of my approach to the creative coaching process.
Although the initial commitment for creative coaching is three months, it can sometimes evolve into a longer-term process. I spent just over a year working with Fort Mill, SC-based interiors and portrait photographer Chris Edwards. Chris came to Wonderful Machine initially looking for some guidance on how to sharpen the focus of his website and overall brand presentation. Chris has a strong body of work, but his website was very lightly branded, did not include a bio or headshot, and was organized in a way that did make it totally clear what his areas of expertise are.
For this consulting service, we start the process with the understanding that each photographer has different strengths and weaknesses, and we work to develop strategies for how to tackle any tasks that have been difficult to manage and to tighten the focus of each photographer’s brand. Through two-hour sessions each month, we can tackle whatever issue is most pressing at that time – typically starting with a website tune-up and a discussion of best marketing practices.
As I got to know Chris and his work better through our monthly conversations, it became apparent to me that he had a very strong aesthetic and ability to understand subtle artistic expression and design in the way he photographed people, things, and spaces. In order to reflect this ability on the website we needed to put this more expressive work front and center. I suspected that Chris might have more imagery for us to work with since his current website was very spare, and we began to dig through projects that Chris said he loved but was never sure how to utilize in his portfolio. To start, we pulled together a portfolio of portraits of artists in their studio spaces, as well as incredible series of chairs photographed for Lee Industries. We also reworked the website to include an “Overview” section that functions as a sort of mini portfolio and introduction to Chris’s work and revised the edits of both the “Portrait” and “Interiors” sections to reflect a more narrowly defined aesthetic.
I encouraged Chris to consider stronger branding by developing a unique logo for his business. Working with Wonderful Machine consultant Ryan Currier, Chris was able to add a really nice logo to the website that gave his presentation a more polished and design-driven look.
From there, we tackled the “About” page. Chris did not particularly enjoy this part of the process (like many photographers he had trouble writing about himself), but we stuck with it and approached it as a task that we needed to complete to reach a wider audience. After that final piece was in place, we turned our attention to marketing and outreach. Although true marketing mentorship is handled through a separate Wonderful Machine consulting service, I do think it is important to fold a discussion of best practices for marketing into the creative coaching process whenever possible. Since Chris and I had worked together over many months and tackled the heavy lifting of his presentation and brand refinement, we were able to have a very rich discussion of what type of clients would be a good fit for him.
Over the months we had worked together Chris and I had many great conversations about his photography. The more I got to know him and his work, the better I was able to help him come up with ways to express what was really unique and interesting about his photography. I think the website is now a stronger statement of Chris’s aesthetic and personality and will provide him with a great platform for outreach to a wide range of high-end clients.
I first approached Wonderful Machine when I needed to re-edit my website content. It proved impossible for me to do because I was too close to it to find the narrative. Fortunately, I was paired with Honore Brown. She really took the time to not only understand me in terms of my goals as a photographer, but to understand who I am as a person. This is important when you’re trusting 25+ years of work to someone to distill down to a 30 image narrative that has heart and feeling. I feel really good about what Honore did and it turned out to reinvigorate my excitement for my work and caused me to re-align with why and how I make pictures. – Chris Edwards