Crystal Lee 


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Humble Beginnings

Feb 25, 2010

A few days ago I hosted a small get-together at my house for a few of my photographer friends who are in the process of starting their own photography business. One of the first things we talked about was branding. When first developing your brand, it is not uncommon to completely change your mind on the entire design about 20 times before you find something that fits. My advice? Follow your gut. Don’t follow trends, don’t follow what’s popular, just follow your instincts.

The number of new photographers in the market grows each year by 22%, so you no longer need to just sell your pretty pictures, you need to sell yourself. Create a brand that is representative of who you are. And if you find yourself stuck then definitely consider outsourcing to a professional brand designer. 

When I first started in photography I was 18 years old and I made all of the typical amateur mistakes. I chose a cheesy name, (In Focus Photography, really??) I used a template business card, I bought a low-end camera (the original Canon rebel!), I shot on auto and I used a freebie domain to make my website. (Example:

Because I started my career so young I was overwhelmed with ideas and I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted my company to represent. At this point in our conversation, I whipped out my newest presentation, ‘The History of Crystal Lee.’ Ok, so it wasn’t really much of a ‘presentation’ as it was a pile of my old business cards. (There were 9 of them. Yes, 9.)

This is my very first business card ever, created back in 2001. (You can laugh, you know you want to!)

Cheesy name, cheesy tagline… and an AOL Hometown page? Really? Thanks to the wayback machine I was able to track down the super sexy logo:

Throw Our Heads Back Laughing GIF - ThrowOurHeadsBack Laughing Happy GIFs

Then we move on to 2007, when I began to get ‘serious.’ Ha.

Yup, that’s my dog on the card. Did I do pet photography at that time? No. But I did change my business name to my initials, only to find out there there were already numerous photographers named ‘CK Photography.’ But did that stop me? No. So I came up with a tacky domain name and made an even tackier html webpage.

I must admit, at this stage I was completely obsessed with the pre-made business card templates that VistaPrint offered… so when I found another template I liked, I made a new card. This time, with an image from my most recent wedding. (By this time I had shot 5 weddings. Ever.)

Certainly an improvement, yes? I decided that red and black were going to be my colors, because this seemed to be the trend in clothing at this time. Everything was red, so I was certainly going to be red too! Then I thought… hmmm, what if I play around with some cool fonts in Photoshop?

(This card is also a VistPrint template.)

Then my so-called ‘logo’ was created with a funky little font and some dots… because everyone was using dots in their logo, and it was cool. 🙂

Once my husband and I decided that I was going to move back to Myrtle Beach while he was deployed, a name change was non-negotiable. There was already a photographer in the area using the name CK. So I chose to use my first and middle name, Crystal Lee.

Google search: no result. Perfect! The name was all mine. Then, I caved and paid someone $35 from Ebay to make a logo for me. I got exactly what I asked for… a $35 logo.

(Not a VistaPrint template, but my own card design… better, yes?)

I have actually come into contact with someone recently who uses the same exact flower as their logo… guess my ‘one of a kind’ $35 design wasn’t so fabulous after all.

Finally, I came to my senses about the color. I am certainly not a ‘red’ girl, by any means. I am, and always have been, a ‘pink’ girl. And not just any pink… but hot pink! So I scrapped my Ebay design and started fresh in Photoshop. I have always had a thing for shamrocks, (I even have one tattooed on my ankle.) so I decided to combine a few hearts together to make a shamrock. Make it pink, throw in my name, and voila!

Tie that together with an amazing new website, and I now have a company that is branded to be 100% me. For better or for worse! I spent the first year of my business getting all of the ‘stuff’ that I needed… better equipment, better software, and the best products to offer my clients. I learned a hard lesson by pricing way too low and offering entirely too much which resulted in me profiting less than minimum wage. My 2nd year of business is all about marketing, building relationships with my clients, and inspiring other up-and-coming photographers.

So there you have it. My fully transparent rise from the amateur with an AOL Hometown website to the professional that specializes exclusively in wedding photography for ridiculously awesome brides. (And has a kick-@$$ website!)

I keep that original business card posted up on my bulletin board to remind me every day of my humble beginning. I have many people that thank for inspiring me along the way, and I can only hope to be able to inspire at least one photographer out there to reach their goals and aspirations. Thank you for taking the time to explore through my past with me… I’m sure you got at least a few giggles out of it! 🙂

I’ll end this post with a sneek peek of my final business card design, set to be printed either on plastic or linen cards, and matching my new ‘pink ribbon’ branding:


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