Passion first, business second
Like many people I meet who work in a creative field, my photography business was born out of passion. Passion for creating; passion for beauty; passion for story-telling through my images. I can't remember a time when I didn't take photos. Or a time when I wasn't completely distraught if I'd left my camera at home and missed the photo. When in 2009 - at the not-so-tender age of 39 - I took the plunge and started to charge for my photography, the 'business' part was very much secondary to creating images; it was simply what enabled me to indulge my passion and invest in the best tools for the job.
Five years on and not much has changed. The business is still secondary to the photography. But somewhere along the way I found a passion for working for myself; for figuring out a work-life balance that suits me; and for creating the beginnings of a brand that I could be proud of. And I knew it was time to get myself a proper logo.
Inspiration from Miami's Art Deco architecture
So I need a logo - what now?
Of course, I had a logo of sorts. I remember invoicing my first paying client, and playing around with fonts and colours to get something - anything! - to put on the letterhead. Although amateur, I must have had more of a clue than I thought; the colours I used in those early attempts are the exact same ones in my spanking new logo (even down to the Pantone colour of the palm tree blue!)
In a former life, I'd worked briefly in marketing; career-wise it wasn't for me, but I did gain an idea of what a brand was and how it needed to reflect a company's Unique Selling Points (or USPs) in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. Even as recently as the start of this year, I didn't think I had a brand. I could see that I had a certain style of photography, and with every new testimonial I received, started to piece together the same words and phrases my clients repeatedly used to describe both my personality and my photography. It slowly dawned on me that this was the beginning of an identity for Jenny Rutterford Photography and that I needed a logo that would help me to build on that identity and start to create brand awareness.
Armed with this recognition, I invited Meg Fenn of White Ochre Design to my house. I met Meg at a local networking group and instantly felt a connection. That was important to me; a Google search for graphic designers might work for some people, but not for me. Before meeting Meg, I did google some designers of other photographers' logos I liked - but I wanted to avoid any pre-conceived ideas of what a photographer's logo should look like. I wanted my logo to be about me, to be truly personal. I wanted to look at it and feel something. I was nervous about getting it wrong. Which is probably why it took me so long to commission one.
Inspiration from photographing South Florida wildlife
Why Meg Fenn of White Ochre Design?
There were two things in particular that attracted me to the idea of working with Meg: first, that she was a Mum running her own business; and second, that she was an American ex-pat bringing up her young children in Sussex. For those readers who don't know my own history, Jenny Rutterford Photography started life in Miami, Florida. My husband and I moved there in 2007 with our five year old son and nearly-three year old daughter. Having been a British ex-pat bringing up two young children in America, I felt that Meg and I had something in common and would relate well to each other. On that first meeting, we shared stories of Amercian living, of British culture, of work-life balance. I talked a little about the qualities I wanted my logo to represent and showed Meg my albums so she would be able to make the connection too.
I gave Meg my existing logo and suggested she start with the pantone colours I'd been using - if only as a place to start. I didn't really know what else I could tell her to help, so we agreed that Meg would come up with a series of potential logos as diverse as possible, just to use as a starting point to help me narrow down those elements I liked, and those I didn't.
When I opened Meg's PDF a week or so later, I admit to feeling conflicting emotions. One the one hand, I was excited by all the possibilities and options opening before me. I loved that they looked professional and considered, and that my name could look so different in each of the examples. But I also felt a little despondent - there were aspects I liked, and others less so, but try as I might, I couldn't relate any of them to me. Despite being attractive, they were merely a collection of fonts and designs on a page.
Inspiration from my early South Florida weddings
The Story Behind the Palm Tree
I left it a few days before revisiting the examples. I made notes on what I liked and didn't like. Then I thought a bit more about why I had felt despondent, and what my logo was going to need for me to love it. And then it dawned on me. When I talk to prospective clients at wedding fairs, I have on show an album created from a beach wedding on the Florida coast. I chat about where the images were taken, about how I started my company in Miami. I must be the only wedding photographer in Sussex whose company started in Miami, so surely this counts as a USP?
Excited now, I back-tracked to those years spent building up my skills and confidence before I turned full-time pro. I trained with the New York Institute of Photography, and won several awards for my images of Florida wildlife, and of the Art Deco buildings which line Miami's Ocean Drive. But my passion was always people photography, and by the time we returned to Sussex in the summer of 2012, my growing wedding portfolio spanned beautiful beaches, mansions, magnificent churches and even a wedding held on a luxury boat in Miami's Biscayne Bay. This was my story; this was where Jenny Rutterford Photography was born.
Inspiration from my recent Sussex weddings
Born in Florida, but growing in Sussex
I briefly wondered if these factors would be less relevant in the UK. But since launching my business back home, I have enjoyed equally beautiful locations this side of the pond - the wonderful Art Deco architecture of the Worthing Dome, Brighton Bandstand right on the beachfront, historic buildings and museums in Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire, and stunning outdoor farms, barns and vineyards. I've been blessed with some magnificent sunsets too! But it's not about the weather; it's about telling the story of someone's day, in the beautiful setting they've chosen - whether indoor or out. The Florida landscape inspired my first weddings and taught me about the qualities of light, of where to find the best light, and how to override natural light (trust me, this is essential in sun-baked Florida!) Those early experiences marked the beginning of my personal style, and continue to shape my photography today.
Beyond excited now, I related all this to Meg, and simply asked her to focus on two things: Miami and Art Deco. Eh voilà! Two varients of my new logo:
What better way to portray my company's Miami roots than with an Art Deco-inspired font and palm tree? It's clean, simple and elegant, in keeping with my photographic style, but more importantly to me, when I look at it, I think back to how Jenny Rutterford Photography began. And when I'm next at a wedding fair and telling people the story behind the palm tree, I hope they will relate the logo on my business card to the person they met and the photos I had on display. Thanks Meg, for listening to my story and creating a truly meaningful logo of which I am proud. It fits so well with my brand, I feel like it's always been there.