The WordPress Photography Podcast
The WordPress Photography Podcast
Episode 36 - The Importance of Branding & Consistency w/ Lena Hyde


Lena HydeLena Hyde operates a boutique photography studio in Portland, Oregon. She believes in three essentials for a highly successful, sustainable photography business: quality, service, and products.

Her photography has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, printed on Hallmark cards and featured in highly regarded publications including Professional Photographer Magazine, Rangefinder Magazine, Click! Magazine, USA Today, and many others. Lena speaks as a respected expert in the field of portrait photography. Additionally, she is also the author of two best-selling photography books, aimed at her global audience of professional photographers.

Lena is also the creator of Design Aglow, a leading business success resource for portrait and wedding photography studios since 2006. Design Aglow offers photography education and courses, frames, albums, packaging, templates and instant design and print services for photographers and other creatives.

WordPress/Photography Related News:

Referenced Links:

Interested in Design Aglow's Style Guide sample and tutorial, Brand New Brand You?

Get it here

Where to find Lena:


Transcription was done by

Scott: Welcome to episode 36. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and today I'm not joined by my co-host, Rachel Conley from Fotoskribe. Rachel has a sick child. Again, he gets sick a lot unfortunately, and today we actually have Lena Hyde. I'm very excited to have her on the show. I've known Lena now, oh man, two or three years I would say at this point and had the pleasure of meeting once over the years.

Lena operates a boutique photography studio in Portland, Oregon. She believes in three essentials for highly successful and sustainable photography business: Quality, service, and products. Photography has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, printed on Hallmark cards and featured in highly regarded publications, including Professional Photographer Magazine, Range Finder, Click Magazine, USA Today and many others.

She speaks as a respected expert in the field of portrait photography, and she's also the author of two best-selling photography books aimed at her global audience of professional photographers. My favorite part about Lena - even with all of that - she is the creator of Design Aglow. If you haven't heard of Design Aglow, you better get on it, because Design Aglow has been around since 2016, so 11 years at this point.

Lena: 2006, yes.

Scott: 2006 is what I meant to say. 11 Years and it has been a leading provider of designs for branding and many other things in the photography industry. Design Aglow offers photography education courses, frames, albums, packaging, templates and instant design and printing services for photographers and other creatives. I've been a fan of Design Aglow for so long. I know a lot of my wedding photography friends that use Design Aglow products, and I'm just really happy to have you on the show, Lena. It's been a long time that we've known each other at this point, and it's great to know you over the years and learn from you and what not. Welcome.

Lena: Thank you. Thanks for having me today.

Scott: Today you're my guest and my co-host.

Lena: Perfect.

Scott: Before we dive into what's going on with you, I just want to talk a little bit about WordPress photography related news. Today we only have one bit of news. AdEspresso, who is a company who makes a service that allows you to easily create and edit and optimize your Facebook ads, just released a WordPress plugin. That makes it so simple. I have never seen a plugin for Facebook ad tracking done so beautifully. They make it so simple for anybody to add their Facebook ad tracking pixel to their WordPress website. They make it with a Facebook button integration, instead of you having to go to Facebook, do all this, create your app, then copy and paste all these different API secret keys and public keys et cetera. You're just creating your ad account with a pixel and then hitting a button on the plugin sign, and it's grabbing it for you. It's beautifully done, and it has a whole bunch of integration for advanced tracking and things like that. We'll link to that in the show notes. Be sure to check out that new plugin. It's pretty cool, and it's completely free from AdEspresso.

All right, so the news is done. What's going on with you, Lena? What is new in your world personally? Whatever you want to share. What's new in Design Aglow world? What's going on?

Lena: Well what's new here, we're in Portland, and we've got some sunshine today, so that's big news. We at Design Aglow are working really hard. We're actually starting our own podcast as well, so that should be unveiling within the next couple of months. Then we're doing everything like we usually do with albums and packaging and frames and education and kind of still keeping busy with everything that we love to do for photographers.

Scott: Talk to me about this podcast. I did notice that you did post and say you were brainstorming some name ideas. My first question is, did you decide on a name?

Lena: You know, we've been thinking a lot about it. We have a community called The Polished Creative on Facebook, and that is just for our customers and we were thinking of calling it The Polished Creative, The Polished Photographer and then we thought we need to just call it Design Aglow podcast because we have so many customers already and brand recognition that to start over from scratch ... We have done this before, and it can be confusing and frustrating. We have such a good reputation already, so we might as well stick with it, and that's our decision as of today.

Scott: I like it. What's going to be the general premise of the show? Is it going to be just purely design or is it going to be something broader?

Lena: No, it's not going really be too much design or technical, but it's going to be more about our passion, which is the business of photography and the art of business. That's where we really push hard, and that's where we want to support people, because there's already so much out there as far as creating art and tech. But there's not a lot out there right now on creating a sustainable business from leading experts. Not just one person telling you what they do and do it my way, but we pull from hundreds of contributors. That's what we love, and we like giving that to our fan base. That should be coming in a couple of months.

Scott: That's fantastic. If anybody was listening and wants to be notified when that podcast is live, be sure to sign up for the Design Aglow newsletter, because I'm sure they'll be email blasting that out once it's ready.

Lena: We will.

Scott: We'll be linking to the how to sign up in the show notes to be notified.

Let's dive into the style guide. You're a big fan of the styling, of consistency in branding and all these different things. Let's talk about style guide. What is a style guide first of all?

Lena: A style guide is something that big businesses know really well how to do. Small business probably not so much, but it's just as important, especially today where everybody's a photographer. There's not a lot of differentiation, and a style guide really helps you hone your style, stand out from the pack and attract the client you need to attract. Style guides are going to keep your voice, your tone and your messaging really, really consistent and this is basic. If you can't lock down your look, your content and your style, you're just confusing your customers.

You want to have your brand identity and your quality consistent across all channels, and I know you're really interested in the website, but that's only a fraction for photographers. It is your window to the world, so that's where most people will see you and the style guide is perfect for web as well as print. Even the way you speak and dress and pretty much all of that.

Scott: Is a style guide something that you recommend having as a readily available Word document, a PDF, just a page on your site, anything, or something specific?

Lena: This is not something you share with the public. This is something just for you, and it's sort of like you're thinking of any business you love. You can kind of pick out something from them a mile away. We're thinking about Anthropology or Kinfolk, the fonts, the colors, the vibe. It's all very, very well thought out because they have a style guide. We've all scene that graphic where it's Tiffany's, you know, the jewelry company and then they show it in Comic Sans. It's part of the style guide. Your logo. And you just want everything to be really concise, consistent and in the end, we find that it saves a lot of time and money if you collaborate or you have a contributor on your site. You can send them the style guide, and you won't have to second-guess how your brand is going to appear somewhere else.

Scott: Right. Let's say you have a big wedding photography business. You're bringing on a new photographer, new second shooters, post-processing people, whatever they are. New employee in your photography business. Instead of trying to give them all this information verbally you can just give them this PDF that they can read through and get to know it and show them where to look for examples and give them everything they need in a document.

Lena: Absolutely and I can give you some tips on getting started and what it would look like, because it's a lot of fun to make. It's sort of like an inspiration board.

Scott: Yeah. Let's talk about some of those.

Lena: I am going to give you a link for your listeners at the end of this, which will actually give them a PDF - a little ebook - to download and kind of walk them through this process. Nobody needs to take notes, but what I'll do is I'll kind of walk people through it and see if it's something that they're interested in.

The first thing I like to do is start with an inspiration board for anyone that's really re-branding or branding for the very first time. What you want to do there would be to cut out about five to ten images which really inspire and speak to you. Anything that speaks to your brand images you can use. You want to use colors and patterns you like, and if you want to get inspired you can just go onto Pinterest and look up style inspiration board and you'll kind of be able to see where it's going.

I really think it's important to make sure the images represent who you want to be - so this is aspirational - and then you can get there by following it. As you're choosing these images, you're going to think about elements that are just unique like you and what's going to help you stand out from the sea of others. As far as color goes, people are really into finding their brand and their colors, and today it's all about the latest Pantone combo and what's in fashion and what colors are going to represent you. This is something to really consider and choose about two or three or four colors that you just absolutely love and that kind of go with you. These would be consistent throughout your branding, thinking like blog text, text titles, graphic, links, all those enhancements. Then what you can do is you can get their hex code, so you'll never forget the exact color.

If you find something online that you like, you can screen capture it and use the eyedropper tool in Photoshop to get the exact color. It's really important that you save that because you don't want your brochure to have one thing, your website to have another and your blog to have a third. You need that consistent.

Scott: In re-branding Imagely, I guess almost two years ago at this point, we had our logo re-designed, and we were just debating on colors. One thing we learned - which I never knew before, but it was good learning experience - not every hex color is convertible into a Pantone printable color. In some ways, you're almost better off, in my opinion - and this may not be true. I'm not a designer so I may be wrong in this. But from my perspective, from being the marketing person who had to order a business card and order drop cards and all these different things, I found that it might have been better for us to pick Pantone colors that could be converted to hex colors, rather than hex colors to then sort of convert to Pantone - the closest Pantone we can find.

Lena: That's a really good tip and very clever of you to figure that out too.

Scott: I didn't design the logo. We actually used 99 Designs, which actually are ... We fell in love with the logo we picked, but yeah, the printing process ... It took me a while to figure out the best Pantone colors, so it was a challenge.

Lena: You'll also want to explore colors for web as well and see how they come across, so good point.

Scott: Is there anything else as far as that part goes that-

Lena: Yeah, I also wanted to just mention fonts as well, because the way your words look is really just as important as what you have to say, if not more so. You want to consider your favorite fonts, but also avoid anything super trendy that's going to be embarrassing in a year or two. We've probably all done that, and I can remember back in the day when I had a Zapfino logo, which is super embarrassing. About 13 years ago.

Scott: Is that the super curly script font? Is it that one?

Lena: No, that was Scriptina, and everyone had that one as well. Now that's a long time ago. So you know, easy to read. You want to probably pick two or three of your favorites. They're going to show up on your site and your watermark and your documents and just think readability. What's going to be easy to read? Because if people are struggling, they're going to leave. That's really important.

Consider Serif and both Sans Serif working well together. There are lots of sites where you can download free fonts like, and there are tons online for that.

Scott: I also see through looking at ... I look at a lot of wedding photography sites every day, just through my job and one thing I see a lot is somebody might pick a really beautiful font for the main headline, but they actually chose the wrong color for the headline because of the background for that area. At least on the website side, it's very important that you might love this font, you might have picked this font for your brand, for your style guide. You might have picked this headline size and color, but when you actually put it together, it may not work.

There's also a lot of testing that should be done. Real-world testing, which should be done as you're building this to make sure that even though you might pick this, make sure it actually does look good in the end and not like a light gray font on a white background that's going to disappear.

Lena: Yeah, we see that a lot too and I guess that would be pointing out the obvious, but it's in order to mention.

Scott: Yeah definitely. Too often something like that is overlooked where somebody just picks and doesn't actually prove that it's wroth the pick.

Lena: Definitely. It's super important. I agree.

Scott: So people can get this document for free from Design Aglow, right?

Lena: Right. Free how to find your style and create a style guide for your business. It's called Brand New, Brand You and it's all about branding.

Scott: And where can I find it?

Lena: At and I think we'll have that in the show notes as well.

Scott: Yes, it will be in the show notes as well. We'll link right to it. You can just click on it, enter your email address, sign up and you will receive that document, which is great.

Lena: For sure.

Scott: Let's dive in a little bit ... I really want to talk to you about branding. Years ago - and I think you stopped recently - you were making templates for photography websites, right?

Lena: Correct.

Scott: And you weren't making the theme, you were just making a child theme, so to speak. The ability to take this theme and just use a Design Aglow styling for it. You understand photography websites deeply. You obviously understand branding and design. I want to talk about branding across website and offline marketing materials. Obviously having a style guide is important as we just discussed, but let's actually talk about the perception on the customer side if you have, let's say, a WordPress website and then a Zenfolio or SmugMug gallery for your clients that the branding doesn't match.

How does that come across and what kind of advice would you give for photographers to think about to improve on that issue?

Lena: That just comes across as a disaster. It might be okay if you're shooting for really cheap. People can look over ... They can forgive a lot for a really cheap price, but I don't think most of us want to be that cheap photographer that just kind of has a hodgepodge thrown together, because that isn't really a great way to have pride in your work and to attract the customers you need to attract to stay in business for the long term. Consistency is everything for branding. It needs to all come together seamlessly. If you're bringing a client over to another site for proofing, that needs to be perfectly integrated or not happen at all.

Scott: Are you saying that logo and ... Let's say, like, logo matches, but the menu color is slightly off, or the design of the menu on the proofing site has a line in between each menu item where your main website doesn't. Is something that minor that big of a deal consistency-wise?

Lena: I think so personally for where I'm at in my business. Again, it depends if you're maybe the Walmart experience versus Sacks. Those things are important. The higher level you go, the more it needs to be seamless and perfect. That's why having a document where you can outline all that and make all those choices, instead of just doing it on the fly or ... I know you're so excited when you get your new blog, and you want to plug it all in right away, but just not going full steam ahead and doing that thoughtfully with intention will help in the long run. Yeah, I would definitely suggest that.

Scott: I completely agree. Moving beyond just the website. Let's talk a little bit of offline and also more online but not website related. You have your website; you have your brand, your style guide. Everything is there on your website. You start making pricing sheets and contracts and all these things that also keep your style there. Your branding is all in those documents as well. That's more of the obvious as well, that anything that is digital should be consistent. However, what are your thoughts on emails? I'm not talking about newsletters. I'm talking about individual emails to clients. Maybe your logo is in the signature, but maybe not. Should your individual emails to clients sort of being in this letterhead type look? An HTML email, for example, that still keeps that whole branding consistent in a single email. Or should you just keep it simple, make it text and add your logo and signature?

What do you recommend as far as that?

Lena: I have a bunch of email signatures, so when a client books me for a newborn, I have a presentation that goes out. I have a different one for maternity and family. Those are just signatures. They're beautiful and the right thing goes out to them. For everyday communications, I think it's fine just to use text and have your signature at the bottom. One thing I do want to mention is that your voice is part of your branding. You need to be really clear on a consistent tone, whether it's playful, serious, down-to-earth, for keeping your website, your blog post, your social media and your email super consistent. You could even have a list of words or phrases or concepts that shouldn't be used, but for email, I always keep it very professional.

I think another thing that is super important that I see today causing tons of disasters is people texting with clients. It usually never ends good, and when I see people posting screenshots back and forth, it's pretty horrifying to see people talking about their pricing. So casual with emojis and just text speak. It really, really kills the brand faster than anything I could even imagine.

Scott: What about Facebook page messages or even personal profile. These days clients are even friending you on Facebook outside of the business page. What about Messenger through Facebook? Is that as bad as text messages?

Lena: It's not as bad. It's not super professional, but again, even major brands are doing it. I think as long as you are professional and it's not this back and forth thing on Facebook, which really de-values your brand, but it's ... They send you a message, "Hey, I'd love to chat with you. Can I give you a call in ten minutes?"

Scott: Right and on Facebook, if it's a page, if it's a Facebook page message, you can actually auto reply with that.

Lena: Yeah, I would definitely do that.

Scott: Great. I love what you're saying. I not completely agree wholeheartedly with that. I want to talk a little bit more about the design itself. Design Aglow has a lot of templates, and we've talked about templates on previous shows, and sometimes templates get a bad rap, because of the word itself. Now WordPress themes are templates; designs are templates, a lot of albums are template-based. I want to talk about how it's not really a bad word and templates are actually good for you and talk about why professional designs that are templates, can typically be better than just your homemade design that you, the photographer, just create. It's the exact reason why you would outsource to have your logo professionally done or outsource to have ... you're sending out your business cards instead of printing them at home.

Let's talk about templates. Why do you recommend having a professionally made template rather than a homemade design?

Lena: Our templates are created by professional designers. We go through a 100-step process for any product we made, so we know they're going to work, you know they're going to look good. You know they're used with ethical means, and they've not stolen ideas or are stock images that could come back to bite you. Everything we do is very up and up, it works, and it's created by pros. I know photographers are great at photography, not so much at graphic design. It's also kind of nice to practice what you preach and be a photographer and let the experts handle what they're good at.

Another thing is we hire writers for all our copy, so you'll know it's free of any mistakes. We've all done that where we've uploaded a mistake, and it's expensive. Everything is totally customizable, so you can make it your own.

Scott: So there's no worry about photographer in, let's say, New York City buying a template from you, adding their brand to it and then somebody in Albany, New York buying it and it looking exactly the same, because your template is customizable. It's not just-

Lena: It is. There's a lot of room for images. It's not on a $5 a month all you can grab website where ten bajillion people are using the same thing, and they all look exactly the same. There's a lot of room for individuality, and our templates are kind of purposely created so that the focus is really on the artwork as opposed to the design elements, because we don't want to detract from what the photographer is there to present. We want to enhance it.

Scott: I think it's important to note that the templates that you provide are not just like, "Okay, this is just a price sheet." You can get all of your letterhead-type things, all of your marketing materials, all in one bundle. You can get everything.

Lena: It's true and anything that's more complicated, we'll also include it's InDesign version. Everything includes a complex tutorial, so if you buy a magazine template, it's going to walk you through printing it or posting it online or including it into a newsletter. Our resources that we include are second to none, and you won't find any errors in any of our products. You can be assured that they're all good to use.

If you don't like using templates, if you don't like using Photoshop, we do have a new item that will be of interest to everyone. We've got the first of its kind in our industry. It's Design Aglow print, and basically, it allows you to use our templates without Photoshop or Rose, which everybody hates. You can just go onto Design Aglow Print, and you can go through our templates step-by-step, customize them, click to print and the product will arrive at your door in a couple of days. So that's a great solution for people that don't want to mess with templates.

Scott: I was just going to ask if you wanted to bring that up, so that's good.

This product, Design Aglow Print actually started as integration with ProDPI, but since White House Custom Color acquired ProDPI, are the prints still coming from the ProDPI side of things or are they now coming from the White House Custom Color side?

Lena: They're still coming from ProDPI, correct.

Scott: So it's Fuji paper I believe is ProDPI, correct?

Lena: It is, and mostly everything we have is press-printed products, so as far as the labs go, all the professional labs do a great job at that, but yes you're correct in the Fuji paper on the photographic products.

Scott: When that first came out I know I was on the beta of that news. Beautifully done. It's so easy. I think the way you described it originally was sort of the Canva for photographers, right? Canva - for anybody who has not seen that. I'll be sure to include that in the show notes too. It's kind of like one-off documents. You're wanting to save it as an image or a PDF. A lot of people use that for just creating a social image, for example, but this is more than that. This is your entire brand you're having printed and designed, customized right there on the website without Photoshop, without InDesign, without anything. You're dragging and dropping and changing the text, adding your logo. You're doing it all, just as you would if you bought the Design Aglow templates for your desktop, except you're doing it in the cloud and having it printed without you having to send it to a lab to.

It's such a cool system.

Lena: Thank you.

Scott: I'll be sure to link that as well in the show notes. It is on the Design Aglow website if you wanted to just go to Design Aglow and click on print. Otherwise I'll that in the show notes.

Anything else that you want to close with? Any final advice you want to give to anybody? Design related, style sheet related, branding related?

Lena: Geez.

Scott: I put you on the spot.

Lena: For me, it's just all about consistency. Finding out what you can offer that is not already out there a hundred times and just working on that point of differentiation, I believe, is everything.

Scott: Yeah, consistency is so, so important. I've been saying that for so long, and I'm glad to have you here to strengthen my thought on that too.

Lena: Happy to do that.

Scott: I really appreciate you joining me on the show today, Lena and I can't wait to talk with you more. See what else you and Design Aglow have up your sleeves. I know there's so much in the works.

Oh, before we close up, you were telling me earlier that there's a ... I don't want to add in a sad bit of news, but I definitely want listeners to know because we've talked about it before - about Aglow Magazine. Without going into too much detail, you're shutting down Aglow Magazine soon.

Lena: We are. The costs involved with printing it were just astronomical. We weren't making any money on it, but we were losing a lot, so when the fourth quarterly issue was done, we decided to not print any more. The trouble is it was our passion project, and we loved it, and we believe in it. It's so beautiful. What I think we're going to do now is transition it to a quarterly mini-magazine. Same features, same inspiration, great content. It will be quarterly, it will be a little bit smaller, and it will be a freebie for Design Aglow newsletter subscribers.

Scott: Wow.

Lena: So that's something to look forward to. We're working on our first issue right now. It will have Inside Real Studios; it will have What I Wish I Knew. All of the things that Design Aglow is really known for, the features that people come to us for. A lot of smart business advice. Our first one is going to have some photographer mad libs in it as just a fun piece.

Scott: Nice. That will be great.

Lena: We are super open to any ideas people have, and this will be a lot of fun for us without the astronomical printing costs. Right now we are having a big blow out on the magazine. We have a few copies left for anyone that's interested. They can get in touch if they want a keepsake copy.

Scott: Fantastic. You know, and I backed the kick starter, I loved any issue, and they're definitely on my bookshelf and staying there for the end of time, because they are so beautiful. I totally understand when you say that it was expensive, because they are definitely the best quality printed magazines in the photo industry at least, I have ever seen. They are incredible.

Lena: Yeah, they are. We found the top printer in the world and of course that was important to us. We're not willing to compromise, so it will be a keepsake.

Scott: For sure, yeah. Each issues. They're all right there.

Well, thank you, Lena, for joining today. You can find the show notes from today's episode at and please be sure to leave us a nice review on iTunes, because every review that you leave for us, helps us reach more people and teach them more about WordPress photography business and their online business.

Thank you and until next time.

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