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New Photographer Advice
I wanted to pass on some advice to new photographers. It does not matter if you specialize in portraits, headshots, boudoir, or any other photography genre and it’s 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 (new tab; external link), 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:
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.
You stand out because they are not you and they will never be you.
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 (new tab; external link):
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 (new tab; external link)
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 boudoir shibari “art” collabs. 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 photography 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