headshot portrait of young woman wearing glasses and a black long sleeved shirt backlit by a red rim-light | Portrait of Gabi © Adrian Feliciano | Find more photography related content at adrianfeliciano.com

The Best Advice for New Photographers

New Photographer Advice

I wanted to pass on some advice to new photogrphers. 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 you as well:

I’ll be blunt here:

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 retail, 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 don’t actually hire you for your “unique” skill-set. I say this as a former staffing specialist at a global staffing firm: 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.

TeLL mE wHy ShUd I HiRe U?

The Jerk Who Should Be Hiring You

The simple truth is that a randomly generated 64 character ASCII string is statistically unique. Your “skills” are not. Seriously, according to the GRC Haystack, the fastest it would take to crack the following randomly generated 64 character string as a password is an estimated 12.06 million, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, centuries or 1.206 x 10^105 (120,600 googol?) years, according to a more mathematically-learned buddy of mine:

x~avk./i<hP^,)YW4^L!Qm}T`4Sg)f=F6VBSi5EjNR]@f&??:^Gu[VJxLq7QzSR

The point is:

In reality, we are all just selling the same crap and there is nothing unique about your products, your skills, and your rates. 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 else 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 that is true, then what actually differentiates you from any another sales person, new hire, or photographer trying to stand out from the huge crowd of your competitors? You do.

Yes, you.

You stand out because they are not you and they will never be you.

red haired woman with white gauze covering her eyes and clay smeared on her body. portrait of Sunshine © adrianfeliciano.com
Portrait of Sunshine as she gets prepped for an art project by Soyoon Cha.

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

In the end, I, you, they — anyone with a camera really — can take a photo. Most will be god awful. Some will be much better than you. A lot better. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can photograph poi spinning culturally-appropriative 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, fifteen minute, mini portrait session weekend flash sale at a park. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

Anyone with a camera can be an independent ‘tog who specializes 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 neckbearded fedora-tipping milady incel master-rigger with a sketchy modeling contract who trawls for “open minded” talent on Model Mayhem and FetLife for nude shibari “art” collabs. So what? Do you, and keep taking photos.

behind the scenes snapshot of a portrait photography session. the image shows the back view of photographer in black shirt, bdu pants, and boots directing a female bodied person, also in black, next to an off-camera flash and umbrella on light stand to frame-left. They are on a leaf covered trail in the woods near Burrage Pond, in Hanson, Massachusetts. | Image © Danielle MacNevin and is used with permission | Visit adrianfeliciano.com for more photography related content!
Sometimes, a good GWC can get models to meet them alone in the woods

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 in photography oriented comments sections about off-camera flash, LED video lights, Sony ruleZ, laughs in EOS, Nikon 4 Lyfe, M4/3 cultism (RIP Olympus) while getting more likes on their vlog about photography (hit that Subscribe button!) than you ever will, all while 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, that anyone with a camera can be a photographer, and it terrifies them. So what? That’s entirely their problem to figure out. It’s never your problem. Do you, and keep taking photos.

Realize that you differentiate yourself from all those other people. You are not any of your “competitors,” and that is your greatest asset. Run your shit up the nearest flag-pole as high as it can go, and see who salutes it.

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.

“The Best Advice for New Photographers,” by Adrian Feliciano

That’s it.

That’s all.

Good luck.

Adrian Feliciano

View posts by Adrian Feliciano
Adrian Feliciano specializes in on-location portrait and boudoir photography, documenting events for Boston's thriving nightlife scene, and fire performer photography. He also makes one hell of a delicious Filipino adobo. Feel free to ask him for the recipe! You can reach out to Adrian here, at anytime.

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