The Generational Secret to Branding as High-End with Gene Ho

This year marks 25 years that my photo studio has been in business. When I have this conversation with clients – everyone always wants me to take about the changes the industry has gone through.

“What was it like to switch from film?”

“What do you miss about the old days?”

“Is it easier now or harder?”

However – pro photographers I’ve met don’t really care about this. We as photographers are a different breed. Pro photographers in general only care about the here and now. Basically – what is it about you – that makes you relevant NOW? Granted – I do view my time in the industry as a badge of honor. Time in this business does matter.

At the very least – it shows that I’ve been able to stay relevant in the industry. Basically – that I didn’t miss the boat when it came to marketing to my clients who have undoubtedly changed over the years.

But one thing that has NOT changed for me over the years – the need to successfully brand my work as high-end.

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The Generational Secret

I found at any given moment in your career – there is always one thing you can do that is specific to current time and technology to help you in branding yourself as a photographer.

Each secret works for a time. And then like all secrets – either everyone else catches on – or technology catches up to you.

Let me explain…

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Generational Branding Secret – 1991 to circa 1997

So how is this for a worthless secret? And you might even say – big deal? My secret to branding myself as hi-end photographer back as a 22-year-old kid? I took Visa and Mastercard…

What? That’s it? That’s a secret? We ALL take Visa and Mastercard. Yes – NOW we do. But back then – only the high end photographers took MC and Visa. Why?

Because MC and Visa USED TO required you to have a “brick and mortar” studio or you would not be giving the “luxury” item of accepting credit cards.  Back then – I started my business in the spare room of my apartment. But I rented the back room of an existing business so Visa/MC could justify allowing me to take credit cards. Thus – to my clients – I appeared high end.

What eventually changed things is the invention of Pay Pal – and the Internet in general that made e commerce commonplace.

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Generational Branding Secret – 1998 to circa 2008

If there was a golden age of photography – it was this time. The reason being? People were still buying a ton of prints.

It was a great time to be a photographer – because all the branding was done “one on one.” You shoot – You meet with you client. You sell to them. The high-end photographer would set up exquisite proofing rooms with couches and sound systems.

My secret at the time was simple: I never proofed my own work. Ever. I had a dedicated sales person to proof all my work.

Why was this such a big branding secret? Because a lot of other photographer at the time was shooting and proofing their own work. When you go to a Christie’s Auction – you expect the artist to paint – and the auctioneer to sell. Would you really respect the artist if he/she were the actual one doing the auctioning?

In time – this was also a generational secret. Mostly because – people don’t really expect to physically come in and proof anymore. Yes – people still do – but it’s not a common place.

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Generational Branding Secret – Modern Day

Nothing speaks volumes that you are High End – than a Soft Sell. If you don’t believe me – take some time to listen to and watch some car commercials. The lower end car makers?? Buy! BUY!! BUY!!!! Today ONLY!!!!! And yet? The Lexus commercials… the Mercedes commercials…Some calm voice talking…

For whatever reason? Right now – Soft Sell is equated to being high end. To capitalize on this – I’ve been using ShootProof as my main selling tool. My images are watermarked. They are put online and my clients can have at it. They can buy what they want. With this? My sales have been through the roof.


Very simply – this is how people shop now-a-days. The online shopping card is main stream. The other advantage? It’s total word of mouth. Clients are sharing the link to their family members and I’m getting residual sales.

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The best part? Even any PRESSURE to buy is soft sell.

I set each gallery to expire by a certain time and an AUTOMATED email is sent to each visitor reminding them that the gallery will soon go away. After all – it’s not ME who is emailing personally and saying, “UMMMMM… are you guys going to BUY SOMETHING OR WHAT!!!!??”

No – totally automated. Totally soft sell.

Anyway – give it a try. For more information – go to Use the coded GENEHO25 for any sign-up to save 25% for the first year! Gene personally ties his ShootProof account to his Black River Imaging account.

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After failing math twice, Gene Ho decided becoming an accountant was not in the cards for him. Gene fell in love with photography. He believes photography isn’t about taking pictures. It’s about feeling pictures. You have to know what you want to create before you click the shutter. Follow Gene on his website and on Facebook.