A brand style guide is the rulebook for everything you create, from what fonts to use to how logo treatments work with different color schemes.

I do some work for a school that has an official branding guide. In fact, most schools in the area that I live have one, easily found by searching the web. The standards are set to ensure integrity and representation of the brand.

Recently I've seen a significant amount of photo and video work in the athletic space (even some colleges) that allow students/contractors to edit in a manner that significantly alters the actual branding, ie. colors, of the school the work is being done for. This means those shooting either don't know there is a branding guide or don't care and try to justify the word art as reasons to alter the brands color palette.

While I understand that creatives have their own style and direction, there is a time when that style has to be limited and that is when work is done for companies that have very specific color palette's that should be followed.

If you are in the professional sports space, you understand that images are meant to be clean, cropped correctly and shouldn't need a lot of post editing work done. Rarely do you see images from Getty, AP or Imagn/USA Today edited in a manner that makes one second guess if there was a special uniform worn that day or if the person they photographed is sick or has jaundice. Work done at any level should aim for the highest standard possible and should always adhere as closely as possible to the branding of the client.

Here are some suggestions to ensure your photography/videography align with the clients branding style guide:

*Learn to shoot custom K scale. This is especially vital anytime you are shooting with event lighting. Yes, auto is easier but auto doesn't account for flicker from stadium/gymnasium lighting. Professional level cameras have flicker reduction as a menu tool but it's still "guessing" and I often find that it tends to sway a little more green. If you can't adjust that in your camera (pinpoint adjustments on the color square) it's an easy fix in Lightroom by using the tint slider by adjusting the pink. You will need to compensate with exposure just a touch when you do this, but this will ensure skin tone looks natural instead of having a green hue.

*Never use editing styles that affect skin especially when shooting people of color. Their skin is beautiful as it is and it doesn't need lightened or golden highlights. If you feel the IMAGE is too dark, bring up the shadows, exposure and reduce highlights. It's not up for you to decide if their skin is too dark.

*Use the hex code on your clients branding guide for a good base when shooting events with uniforms. If the edited color isn't within a close proximity to the original hex, you need to alter k balance and/or editing. I always do one test image in Photoshop using the eyedropper tool to color check and get a baseline of my editing that night. I know that it's not always going to hit as accurate as this night did (keeping in mind that all stadium/gym lights and colors affect that) but it's going to be close. My rule of thumb is to always compare the colors (h, s, b, r, g, b) to see where I'm off and then adjust accordingly in lightroom in the hue panel.

Here's an example:

  • The bottom color picker picture shows the hex code of the official color according to the school branding guide.
  • The top color picker is based on using the eyedropper tool on my edit of the image to the left.
  • When you look at the new/current color box in the top right image you can see that are VERY similar.

*Make sure you are adjusting your K balance every time you change positions or need to adjust your manual settings as you shoot and as you lose light.

*STOP, STOP, STOP using filters you bought on the internet. Filters are designed using a base image taken by the person who designed the filters. So unless your image is shot exactly as the test image, it WILL NOT look the same. It may be close, but it is NOT the same. This is especially relevant to those shooting with artificial lighting. Purchased filters are a disaster when it comes to trying to edit once the lights come on.

*Stop using contrast and clarity when your image isn't clean SOOC to begin with. This is why it's so important to learn to shoot using the triangle. There is no amount of editing that will fix a bad image to begin with.

I understand we all start somewhere but a brands style should never be an experiment in your learning process.