man wearing bandana do-rag and black t-shirt giving visual posing directions to female model with hula hoop standing beneath a wooden archway during a photoshoot. photo published adrianfeliciano.com

The Best Advice for New Photographers

New Photographer Advice

I wanted to pass on some wisdom. Something I learned that applies to sales in general, whether it’s screening applicants as a corporate recruiter or selling digital cameras at CompUSA, Best Buy, or Ritz Camera absolutely is advice that applies to photographers as well:

I’ll be blunt here:

As a salesperson, people don’t buy the camera you’re selling because you work at Best Buy when they can get that exact model at Amazon, probably for cheaper and without getting hounded about that stupid extended warranty all retailers try to push on you.

As a job applicant, people certainly don’t hire your “unique” skill-set, because you are not that unique, my special snowflake. As an applicant, there are a thousand other products applicants with the same skills, same generic resume, same blasé personality, and they’re probably wearing the same tie that you are wearing.

As a photographer, people don’t buy your photos because you’re “the best!” photographer in the world. There will always be another photographer who is better or cheaper. Suck it up, hero.

In the end, we are all just selling the same crap.

The point is:

“TeLL mE wHy ShUd I HiRe U?”

The Jerk Who Should Be Hiring You

There will always be someone else selling the same camera, taking the same types of photos that you do, or who has a similar skill set. Someone will always will be better, cheaper, hungrier, luckier, or more connected than you are. It is a frustratingly difficult lesson to learn and a brutally humbling truth to accept.

If all of that is true, then what really differentiates you from another sales person, new hire, or photographer then what actually differentiates you from another?

You know what does? You do.

Here’s a little secret advice:

The only reason why people buy from you or decide to hire you is because they like you.

That’s it. That’s all.

As this article on Petapixel describes:

“If you want to play in the ‘commodity’ lane and be compared on your prices, yeah, you’re gonna be made (sic) when someone comes out who is cheaper than you […] But if you manage to step out of that lane and sell yourself based on value and experience, then you never have to worry. Never once […]”

Heather Lahtinen, The Flourish Academy
red haired woman with white gauze covering her eyes and clay smeared on her body. photo © adrianfeliciano.com
Sunshine getting prepped for an art project by Soyoon Cha.

In the end, I, you, they — anyone with a camera really — can take a photo. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can photograph poi spinning dready-haired spunion wooks and hoop spinning burner yoga goddesses at a festival. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can do a half priced mini portrait session weekend flash sale at a park. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can be a freelancer and specialize in newborn, family, maternity, wedding, social media, product, influencer, mom-blogging, solopreneuer, boss-babe photography. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can be a creepy GWC and go trawling for models on Model Mayhem to indulge in shibari “art” collabs as a neckbearded fedora-tipping incel master-rigger with a sketchy modeling contract. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can always be cheaper, more expensive, less skilled, have better equipment, use retro cheap gear, specialize in natural light, be a Strobist snob with a 3 pointed lighting kit and run an assembly line headshot boudoir business as they masturbate endlessly about off-camera, always on flash, Sony ruleZ, laughs in EOS, Nikon 4 Lyfe, M4/3 cultism (RIP Olympus) while getting more likes and vlog about photography (hit that Subscribe button!) or hating on the latest Peter Lik abomination. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Do what you will. Create your own market how ever you decide. Fill it with fanatics who love you and love your work. Market yourself as the best experience for your clients. Charge what you feel you are worth, charge the average for your market, overcharge, or give away the store. None of those options are sustainable in the wrong market, anyway. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

The photographer who is stalking your posts on Facebook and complaining about your choice to charge a fee or not? They don’t have a market that actually supports their photography. They haven’t differentiated themselves enough on anything but price simply because, as they’re unconsciously realizing, anyone with a camera can be a photographer, and it terrifies them. So what? That’s entirely their problem to figure out. Do you, and keep taking photos.

selfie photo of smiling woman and man making a goofy face wearing a red bandana. © adrianfeliciano.com
Dani Rei and some guy with a camera posing for a selfie.

Realize that you differentiate yourself from all those other people. You are not any of your “competitors,” and that is your greatest asset. Use it to your fullest advantage!

So, if I could pass on just one piece of advice, from one photographer to another, it is this:

Clients will hire you because they like you. Do you, and keep taking photos.

One Piece of Advice For New Photographers, by Adrian Feliciano

That’s it.

That’s all.

Good luck.

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Adrian Feliciano is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, holds a B.A. in English, is a US Army veteran, and is Boston's most imperfect photographer. He makes a damned good Filipino adobo, too.

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