Jillian Blanc – invest in yourself by investing in your brand
The wedding photography niche keeps growing steadily, with dozens of professionals entering the market daily. Despite the tight competition, photographers like Jillian Blanc pave their way by creating a coherent and memorable brand.
Jillian is a professional photographer from Minneapolis with a distinguished style of documenting weddings. She does not compromise on values, and works only with clients who love her aesthetic and appreciate her process. Her distinctive skillset — a mix of branding, photography, and web design, helps her strengthen her digital presence and stand out from the competition.
"Invest in yourself by investing in your brand. When you're shopping online, and you land on a site that looks sketchy, are you going to spend a lot of money there? No. Naturally, people are drawn to aesthetic designs. This will give you cohesive and recognizable collateral on everything from your website, social media, business cards, and so on."
Enjoy this forthright conversation with Jillian and learn how to build a memorable brand within the photography industry.
Has photography impacted your life? In what way?
Photography has always been a part of my life. For as long as I can remember I've had a camera in my hand. From my dad's film camera, to my blue point in shoot that was my prized possession as a child, I have always loved taking photos. Growing up with flight attendant parents, I was lucky enough to travel around and see so many beautiful places I never wanted to forget. This led me to purchasing my first DSLR camera in 2015.
Being surround by so many creative individuals, I was able to practice and grow into where I am today. I never thought this could be something I would be able to do with my life, but looking back it only makes sense. I'm so grateful I get to pursue my passion every day while capturing the most cherished moments for others. Being able to give that gift to someone is something I could never put into words.
I get to capture people’s favorite day, and it’s not something I take lightly. The first wedding I ever shot, I snapped a photo of the bride’s grandma putting a corsage on her grandfather. A couple months later, she sent me a photo that they had blown up that photo HUGE and put it above their fireplace. They said they’ve never had a photo taken of them like that and they loved it so much. Right then, I knew this is what I was meant to do. Weddings aren't just about taking gorgeous portraits of the bride & groom, it’s about capturing everyone you love together on the same day. The smiles, hugs, tears, emotion – it’s everything. I love being able to give people the gift of being present, while getting tangible memories to keep forever.
How does your background in graphic design influence your approach to photography?
Graphic design and photography have always been blended. In everything from ads, websites, social media, products, etc. Being able to understand what is needed from both sides has been incredibly useful in my career working with brands and entrepreneurs.
I worked at an agency for a few years as their creative content producer. My role was to not only design all social media content from posts, stories, and ads, but also execute all of the photography. I was the creative director, planner, photographer, and post production editor on a range of clients from hospitality, food and beverage, fashion, tech, pro athletes, and even agriculture. I had to know how to shoot so the content could be used correctly on various platforms. Having the design knowledge helps me to execute the best content for brands so they get the most mileage out of the photos.
What challenges did you encounter at the beginning of your career, and how did you overcome them?
I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Not taking deposits, overbooking, undercharging, you name it. It’s a really difficult thing to put a price on your value before imposter syndrome kicks in. I’ve talked to so many other people who are self-employed and it’s something almost everyone faces. It is SO important to know your worth, and charge for it. Once I had the skills and experience to price higher, the clients who were coming to me were all dream clients. I thought if I charged too much, everyone would just go to someone else. Having that not only not be the case, but bring in more clients that all aligned with my work, has been absolutely incredible.
I had everyone telling me I had to do baby photos, family photos, and seniors if I wanted to be able to go full time. I do none of those things, and I'm thriving. The best advice I can give is invest in yourself. Invest in ongoing education. Go to workshops not only to create with no pressure and be inspired, but to network. I have so many amazing creatives in my corner and we are always referring to each other on days we're already booked. It's made such a difference. Being able to connect with other photographers and chat through the tough things helps everyone in the long run.
How do you manage to run both a photography business and a branding studio? What do you learn from each of these businesses?
Thankfully, these go hand in hand. My husband and I both went to school for Graphic Design. We both have clients approaching us in need of branding, photography, and web design. Instead of saying “well, my husband/wife can do that for you” we decided to put a name on it, Even Odds Design.
We strive to provide our clients with a stress-free, transparent, and engaging approach to building their brand. I handle the photography and web design while my husband’s focus is the graphic design & branding aspect. Since he also has a full-time job, we are very selective on clients we take on to ensure they are a good fit, and that we’re the best fit for them.
What branding tips do you have for photographers?
Invest in yourself by investing in your brand. When you’re shopping online, and you land on a site that looks sketchy, are you going to spend a lot of money there? No. Naturally, people are drawn to aesthetic designs. People will even buy things solely based on the label (yes, myself included). How many times when you’re shopping do you grab the bottle of wine with the coolest label? It’s the same for your brand!
Investing in your brand is going to have you stand out from the competition. Sure, you can hire someone on Fiverr or purchase a logo on Creative Market, but you’ll have the same logo as hundreds of other photographers and I promise, you get what you pay for. Find someone whose work you’re drawn to, and let them create a full branding suite for you. This will give you cohesive and recognizable collateral on everything from your website, social media, business cards, and so on.
What type of clients are your favorite to work with and what makes them a great fit?
We hear the term “dream client” a lot in the photography industry. When someone asks me who my dream clients are, it’s simple. I don’t care what you look like, how much experience you’ve had in front of the camera, how long you’ve been together as a couple. I want people who are drawn to my work because of the way I capture love.
I’m not going to spend a session or a wedding day recreating Pinterest photos. I’m there to capture their day naturally in a beautiful way, without forcing them into awkward poses just for photos. When people trust me to guide and document them as they are, and are excited about the photos, I know we’re a great fit.
Which Pixieset tools do you currently use, and how do they impact the experience you offer?
I have been using Pixieset to deliver my client galleries for the last 7+ years. I love how streamlined, clean, and professional the galleries are not only on the backend, but for client usage. I always get compliments on how nice the gallery looks and how they love that they can purchase prints, share with friends, and make favorites lists right in the gallery without having to download everything and organize it themselves. Being primarily a wedding photographer, I love that I am able to split the galleries into photo sets. It is definitely better for viewing and makes it easy for the client to find what they’re looking for.
I also use the Pixieset store and it is fantastic. The only work I had to do was set my pricing and Pixieset does the rest. I love waking up and seeing I made money in my sleep, who doesn’t? It’s awesome that everything is automated so we don’t have to worry about printing or shipping, and we know the prints are always high quality and match the colors of the original images.
I have had my website established for years, but if Pixieset was an option when I built my website I would have definitely done it through here. I have helped a couple of photographers build their websites in Pixieset and they love how easy it is to edit, update images, connect galleries, and how professional it looks to clients. Highly recommend if you need a new site!
I couldn’t be happier that Pixieset now has a studio manager area in the backend. I’ve always juggled a few different platforms, but honestly I’ve never been a fan of other platforms. It is awesome to have everything in one place and be able to send beautiful contracts, invoices, questionnaires, and collect payments all in one platform.
How do you envision the wedding photography niche in the next 5 years, and how do you see yourself in it?
In the last year I’ve seen the wedding industry make a huge shift from overly posed and staged moments for Instagram photos to actually wanting their day documented authentically. This makes me SO happy because this is what I’ve always done and how I have always approached weddings. People are focusing more on themselves, often leaving out a wedding party.
I’ve also seen a higher number of weddings stick to more intimate settings. Or maybe that is just the clients I’ve attracted with the work I put out, who knows! But I do love that people are wanting genuine, authentic moments instead of stressing about recreating a photo they saw on Pinterest five years ago, taking awkward traditional getting ready shots, cringey wedding party poses, you know. The day goes so quickly that you need to soak up every moment, and I never want photos to take away from their day, but rather be there to document the moments in a beautiful and artistic way. I hope film stays popular and my dream would be to have every couple add on an 8mm video.
Jillian's mindset and straightforward approach are a great source of inspiration for anyone who wants to build an enduring photography career. To attract like-minded clients and build a portfolio that makes you proud, you need more than hard work and a bit of luck. It's a matter of strategy and creating a brand that reflects your values and vision. Ultimately, these are the things that set you apart, impact your growth and evolution as a business.