I turn 32 this year. For the first time in my life I actually feel my age. My metabolism is slowing, aches and pains are more common, and I make a visit to the chiropractor on a semi-regular basis.
I was in denial for a while. One day I looked around and realized I just wasn’t a youthful 20 something anymore. With this sad realization, I’ve had to start dressing my age. Shorts and t-shirts have become a weekend luxury. I’ve upgraded my wardrobe and have tried to add a touch of class with grown-up professionalism.
At first I didn’t like it. But the more I learn about how to look good in various social settings, the more I see how your self presentation can put you ahead of the game.
It’s the little things that make a difference. Polished shoes, pressed shirt, tailored pants are small details that can leave a great impression when dealing with potential clients. A well-dressed photographer leaves the impression that your work will be well-dressed as well. As competitive a field as photography is, anything you can do to stand out from the crowd is worth doing.
One more small thing you can do to make a great impression is to have a great business card. In this post I’m going to give you my opinion on what the various styles of business cards say about you as a photographer and then I’ll show you which card I chose to represent myself.
Discount Cards / Home Printed
You may be on a budget and can’t afford to spend much on high quality business cards. That’s okay, but use the discount or home printed card option as a temporary one and work towards ordering a professionally printed card. If you have a printer at home you can buy perforated business cards in sheets from your local office supply store. These can do a decent job especially if you keep the design simple and classy without images or frivolous fonts.
There are also many discount printing options online that offer business card packs with double sided printing and full color. Typically these websites only offer lower quality digital press printing on low quality thin paper or card stock. Again, you get what you pay for. These cards look and feel cheap and can leave a mediocre impression, especially if you do a poor job on the design.
Are you a photographer or a graphic designer? We all see ourselves as creative, but unless you’ve had professional training in graphic design, I strongly suggest resisting the urge to design and print your own cards. There is a tendency to over-design and waste time trying to come up with the most amazing business card ever. In my opinion, a business card should have only 2 goals:
- Provide name and contact info without me having to hunt for it.
- Leave the receiver with a good impression.
The impression: These types of cards can get you by if you’re on a budget or just getting started. If poorly executed, they leave the impression that you are amateur and your work is likely amateur as well. They don’t exactly give someone the confidence that you’ll be able to come through on the job 100% everytime.
Odd Shaped / Mini CD / Flash Drive
In an attempt to stand out, I’ve seen some photographers create business cards that are smaller than the standard business card dimension or have rounded corners or a square shape. I tried some mini cards in the past and while they did receive a comment now and again, the opinion I’ve formed about oddly shaped business cards is that they are usually too gimmicky and come off as “trying to hard.”
The standard size fits nicely in a pocket or pocketbook and and has a better chance of making it into a desk drawer or contact rolodex. (Do people still use those?)
There was a short period of time when someone thought it was a cool idea to put your contact info and portfolio onto a Mini CD. These little disks were about the same size as business card and could only be loaded into tray style CD drives. CDs are all but dead now but even the flash drive equivalent is just too much work for most people. If I want to contact you I don’t want to have to fire find a free USB port to do it. Remember, business cards are meant deliver the most basic contact info as quickly and easily as possible. Anything else is a distraction.
The impression: Nice try, but you’re trying to hard. Put more effort into your photography than your business cards and then we’ll talk.
With Pictures on Them
You’re a photographer so your business card should have a photo on it right? Seems logical until you try and pick the one photo that is going to represent you. Go ahead and try it right now. Look through your portfolio and try to pick the one photo that is your favorite photo ever. I guarantee it won’t be your favorite one month from now after you’ve printed it on 300 cards.
Some popular printing companies (such as moo.com) even offer a set of cards with a different picture on each card. This is a little better but the receiver of your card is still only getting to see one of your photos and is judging you on that tiny slice of your work. I think it’s much better to leave the photos off and invite people to visit your online portfolio with the link on the card. You can have your latest work always represented and you won’t be stuck with cards that are no longer showing your best work.
The impression: Cool idea, not practical in practice.
The QR Code
If you don’t know, QR codes are special images that can be scanned with the camera on a smartphone. Once scanned, the info contained in the QR code will direct your phone to a link such as your contact page or portfolio. The idea is that you can save the user from typing in your link manually if they scan the code.
I see two big problems with putting a QR code on your business card.
There is almost no possible way to put a QR code on your business card and still have it look nice. They need to be big enough to be easily scanned by a phone camera. I find them ugly and impossible to design around.
Nobody really wants to use them. Think about it, if I want to check out your portfolio, is it really that much easier to open a QR scanning app and scan a card or just input the URL manually. And that’s assuming you have a QR scanning app installed! I currently don’t and I don’t know anyone who does.
The impression: How cute. You think I’m going to download a special app to scan your card and add your contact to my address book! Not going to happen.
Letterpress Business Cards
So here is the business card I recommend:
Letterpress cards offer a classy, timeless look that is sure to impress. Keep the cards clean and simple with just the right amount of relevant information. Letterpress can be a little more expensive than other printing options but it is worth it in my opinion. I ordered a batch of letterpress cards from Hoban Press and they turned out great. Their customer service is top notch as well. Due to some email confusion, they printed the wrong design but caught the mistake and sent me the correct design as well for free!
These guys print on high quality THICK stock which really makes for a great impression in more way than one.
The impression: Quality card with attention to detail tells me that you’re serious about your work and you’ll do a great job.
What do you think? Do you have any printers that you recommend? Leave a link in the comments below.