Build Your Brand

Build Your Brand

By |2018-08-29T10:34:06+00:00February 1st, 2016|Categories: Business, Inspiration, Opinion|11 Comments

When I look back on how I have built my business and where it is today, I have very few regrets. There were many roads, back alleys, and pit-stops on the path from where I started (nearly ten years ago) to where I am right now. I’ve had support in the form of mentorship and partnerships with other photographers and companies, but the one thing that I have taken out of all of my endeavors is this: to build MY brand.

We all begin somewhere, and few individuals are able to go from “nothing” to “successful” 100% on their own. Working with (or for) other people or companies is the logical place to start. For me, I started out as a contributor through iStock, and then started writing books with Peachpit. I was doing well, and paying the bills, but things didn’t start to speed up for me and become much more financially lucrative until I started to put the focus on my own company. In 2012 I began self-publishing eBooks and selling presets, all under my own brand, and it was the best decision I could have made.

Sure, I still work with other companies. It is something I enjoy and also a good way to build lasting relationships. But—and here’s the kicker—my identity does not revolve around other brands. How we talk about, share online, and represent our own business is oftentimes how other people perceive us and our business. If I were always building up and connecting myself to a company I work for or partnered with, eventually my brand becomes mushy with the other brand. When people hear my name, I don’t want them to think of me as “the photographer who works for such-and-such company”. Instead I want their first thought to be something like “Nicole! I love her eBooks”.

… my identity does not revolve around other brands.

You can build your brand while still working with other companies. Just be careful that you don’t get sucked into them too deeply. One example of my own is book publishing. In the past six years I have written six print books, all published through Peachpit Press. Yet the income generated with my seven self-published eBooks and tutorials (in only three years time) has FAR surpassed the amount of royalties I ever received from Peachpit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but writing those books with Peachpit was good training for my self-published ventures, and it gave me credibility and publicity for my own business. But ultimately I jumped out of the nest. If I wanted to keep writing, and grow my business, it was necessary to move on.

Eventually it will come down to having to make a choice. I have said no to many opportunities, some that would have paid well or even give me publicity, because the longevity and control of content under my brand is always my top priority. For example, I know that writing an eBook and bringing it in front of my audience is more enjoyable, profitable, and fulfilling than doing it with another publisher. And, it is also less time consuming, I control the process, own the rights to the product, and can market it however I like. I also know that posting an article on another website can earn me a few bucks (which I still do, from time to time), while posting them on my own website pays nothing. But, depending on the article, many times I still choose to post here on my own blog “for free” because it is important to me that the words are perceived as coming from my lips, and not from an organization.

This is not about greed or selfishness, yet I would be lying if I said it wasn’t about making more money. If my business was not profitable then I would be doing something else. I love what I do and want to continue teaching photography, so generating income with this business is of obvious importance to me. But it’s not only about money. I have some great relationships with other companies which are mutually beneficial in many different ways, and that is the most important thing. When you don’t get paid what you are worth, whether it is in dollars, publicity, or growth, then it’s not a good fit. Your form of currency does not always need to be money, just so long as it is a fair transaction.

Think long-term, and look for balance in your relationships with other companies. Then, choose your path with intention, and, most importantly, make sure that you are the one in the driver’s seat.

… choose your path with intention, and, most importantly, make sure that you are the one in the driver’s seat.

About the Author:

Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer and published author whose love of photography and teaching has grown into an online business where she creates training materials and resources for other photographers. Nicole is best known for her books on food photography, but is widely versed in a variety of photographic genres, including landscape, travel, lifestyle, and even underwater photography. You can learn more about Nicole's work on her website,


  1. Jameson Fink (@jamesonfink) February 2, 2016 at 10:03 am - Reply


    Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience. I am always interested in the path your took to get to where you are. And what direction you plan to take it from here. (Forward, obviously!)


  2. thespicetrain February 4, 2016 at 6:32 am - Reply

    Well put, Nicole. I couldn’t agree more! :)

  3. Linda February 14, 2016 at 12:36 am - Reply

    What a refreshing article. You have a clear voice and honest tone. Thank you for sharing.


  4. Joepet Macariola April 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    I love your blog. I enjoyed reading the content of it.
    I was amazed by it.
    Keep it up. Love to see more post from you. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. 纽约牙医 May 5, 2016 at 10:53 am - Reply

    It is hard. If we want make living as photographer, we have to get paid. Then we start to do whatever the gigs that pay you. and we do a variety of type of photography. maybe eventually we will lose our identity and style. As photographer, we need think about it. Good read. Thanks.

  6. A Girl with Geography June 25, 2016 at 5:28 am - Reply

    A great article, I could not agree more (even though I am just a hobby photographer and have no plans of making it a career path). I especially like there words, they are applicable to any job and provide a great reflection point: “When you don’t get paid what you are worth, whether it is in dollars, publicity, or growth, then it’s not a good fit”. Thanks for the Summer Breeze preset, too! (share more of them :D)

  7. Mahiuddin Sharif July 27, 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Fantastic article Nicole! It’s difficult to say no. But I think Learning to Say “No” Is Part of Success. I am agree with you that if you want to build your own brand then you need to build lasting relationships with others. I got few new point from your post. I am optimistic that i will use those point in my own life.

  8. ecommerceimagesolution January 24, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Build an online brand is momentous than ever. A brand is everything—a symbol, design, name, sound, reputation, emotion, employees, tone, and much more—that separates one thing from another. Thanks Nicole for this spontaneous article with your personal experience.

  9. Photo Retouching June 28, 2017 at 4:13 am - Reply

    Very Good blog really enjoyed

  10. Michael Willems January 12, 2018 at 11:07 am - Reply

    Well said. I too have seven self published books (mainly as ebooks), And they make a respectable amount of money compared to what a publisher would pay me. And yes, branding is essential

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