Dallas Curow is a talented photographer and makeup artist based out of Edmonton, Alberta, and she was one of the first students to sign up when I launched the Visual Strategy Masterclass back in September.
When I sent out an email a few weeks after the course had started checking in with students and asking for any feedback they might have, I received the most amazing response from Dallas:
"As a person who is both a visual and linear thinker, I appreciate so much the "flow" of the Brand it Beautiful process. The way you move students through the process feels natural and logical, but because of the genius design of the visual strategy canvas, it feels like you've made us a map that we can follow from brand confusion to brand clarity. I've done several other online courses, and yours has connected best with me (and the way my brain works) by far the best out of all of them!"
The email continued from there, going into more detail about how she found it to be particularly valuable exercise for photographers — but we'll get to that in a minute!
After a little back and forth with Dallas, I asked her if she would mind if I shared her story and experience with the Visual Strategy Masterclass, especially because she mentioned she was planning a few shoots that incorporated what she had learned and the clarity she had found for her brand.
So without further ado, meet Dallas...
Tell us a bit about you and your business…
My name is Dallas Curow and I’m a photographer and makeup artist currently based in Edmonton, Alberta. I shoot weddings, portraits and families under Dallas Curow, and I also offer editorial and commercial photography under my sister brand, Dallas Alexandra. I absolutely love my job!
Can you give us a little snapshot of where your business was before the Visual Strategy Masterclass?
Before the Visual Strategy Masterclass, my business was in a period of transition. I moved to Edmonton about a year ago from Toronto. I’ve been splitting my time between the two cities as I build a life in Western Canada and honour the bookings and commitments I’d made to my former clientele in Toronto. I actually began my photography career in Montreal before moving to Toronto, so change was not new to me, but this most recent move was to a brand new place in which I had no existing network, so I look at it as an opportunity to reinvent a lot of aspects of my business this time around.
I felt ready to refresh my brand to give it a new focus for a new market.
Why did you purchase the course and what were you hoping it would help you accomplish?
I have long been a fan of the Bicyclette brand and have a lot of respect and admiration for Paige’s taste. When she announced the course, I was very excited to learn from her, as I feel Bicyclette’s brand is incredibly cohesive and strong. Also, I was impressed by the course description as it seemed very logical and it involved a step-by-step process that appeared to combine left brain and right brain exercises. Many branding courses can be a bit whimsical and fluffy, whereas I could tell this course would have serious structure while still being fun.
I was hoping the course would help me take a deep dive when reviewing my current brand and helping to refine it. That it would help me create a solid sense of how I wanted to evolve my brand, and also give me next steps for how to do so.
Tell us about the process of going through the course and your overall experience…
In terms of my experience going through the course, I did one lesson at a time. In total, the process took me about 2-3 weeks, because I found each lesson to be pretty robust, and I wanted to take my time really thinking and mulling over each step. I went through the process as it was being taught, creating moodboards and drawing my own rough version of the workmat in my sketchbook so I could pencil in responses and erase/revamp as my thoughts evolved. I applied each step to my own brand along the way, as each lesson helped me refine my ideas further.
I did the process digitally as I was working through the ideas, then would make rough notes and drawings in my sketchbook along the way. I plan to draw out everything I’ve finalized on a large version of the workmat now that I’m finished. I’ll place it above my desk as a quick reference, to guide my day-to-day visual strategy.
What were your key takeaways from the course? How have you used (or will you continue to use) this process in your business?
One of the challenges I’ve faced as an artist and businessperson is defining my style because I love so many things and have so many diverse visual influences. My main goal for the next year is to develop a consistent, cohesive recognizable style in both my photography work and brand in general. The key takeaways from the course that I will use to make this goal a reality are:
The mood boards: The course guided me to create new moodboards in a way that helped me ask myself specific questions and really get to the heart of where I want my work and brand to go visually. Having them printed off in my office means I now have a beautiful reminder and point of reference.
The workmats: A visual map of my brand’s story, themes, and platforms
The shot list: A practical to-do list that I’ve already begun using when planning shoots for my clients and myself
The styling toolkit suggestions: I’ve now put together a kit of objects and tools to enhance my creative work, client images, and even my instagram photos
You mentioned that you found the course to be an excellent exercise for photographers. Can you speak to that a little more?
In addition to being immensely helpful to me as a business owner, this course was also full of insight and revelations for me as a photographer. By guiding me through a logical, thoughtful process that poses great questions about my style and my “why,” it helped me step back from my brand and the very different work I deliver to various clients and begin to search for a common thread within it. I began to reflect on which of my client work is most aligned with my brand and its new direction. What are the common themes that arise in that work? What is it about those themes that is so enchanting to me? How can I do more of that kind of work?
The other reason I think the course is so helpful to photographers is that we can apply so many of the branding tips and techniques to better understand what our clients are looking for. I’m definitely going to ask more clients to send me mood boards or tell me their brand stories from now on.
final thoughts — getting clear on your brand story and identifying your brand themes.
Since completing the course, I’ve refined my brand story to be the following:
“Photographer and makeup artist specializing in vibrant, luminous and romantic portraiture. Inspired by cinematography and timeless glamour, shining a light on the enchantments of everyday life.”
My brand themes are the following — and the corresponding mood boards for each one are below as well (click to enlarge):
- Clean + cozy glamour
- Gilded + enchanted delights
- Vibrant + cinematic dreams
- Dark + luminous romance
I now have a great sense of who my dream clients are, and the ways in which I can improve and enhance the brand experience they offer them.
I’ve since made a shot list for myself, and planned several creative shoots for the upcoming months that will give me an opportunity to create new work that’s specifically in this style. I truly believe that you should “show what you want to shoot,” or in other words, to share work that exemplifies your ideal visual style, which provides proof points of what you could offer to future clients. After completing this course, I feel I have a crystal clear vision of the kind of work I hope to produce.
I want to express my sincere gratitude for all the hard work that Paige put into this course. It’s been an illuminating process, and I’ve enjoyed every minute while learning a lot about myself and my business in the process. I am honestly so excited to begin rolling out all the changes and new ideas I’ve dreamed up throughout the course.
You can see some of the results from Dallas' recent creative shoots throughout this post (bonus points if you can pinpoint the various brand themes in each one!), and of course I'd recommend following her on Instagram for more of her beautiful work.