It can feel very difficult to stand out in an oversaturated market. Especially in the day and age where everyone has a DSLR or owns the same presets. When I scroll through my instagram feed it’s really hard to distinguish one photographer from the next at times, so just imagine what it’s like for potential clients. Truly standing out isn’t about being the best or instagram famous, it’s about offering an experience, creating for your clients, and playing on who YOU are.
I’m highly competitive and when I first created my business I had just split with a business partner. My goal (petty as it is) was to be better than my old partner and to prove myself when it felt like I didn’t have a voice before. As I grew and met the other photographers in the area, my pettiness branched out to include them as well. This is one of those times where competition drove me to become the photographer I am today, and I’m not terribly upset about it.
I put all of my focus into standing out and not doing the same things as the other popular photographers in my area, and it worked. I’ve been able to build a business this way, and I’m now lucky enough to be hired to shoot weddings all over the country. Here are five ways that I got to where I am.
Do Something Different
You can’t post the same poses, Use the same presets, Write the same generic captions, and expect clients to pick you out of a lineup of hundreds of others. If you feel stuck on this do some market research.
Find the five people you are mostly competing with in your market. Look through their feeds, their websites, their text and notice the similarities. I guarantee they’re all basically saying the same things on their websites, are using the same types of images, and don’t have a unique voice of their own.
Now go to your website and social media feed. Make the same comparisons. Look at where you’re similar and the differences. Make note of all of these things and then think about what you can change to make yourself stand out.
And finally find your favorite photographer in your market. I bet they’re your favorite because they are pushing boundaries and offering something different than the other five people you looked up. Look through their websites and feed and make note of the differences and similarities.
Do not play the comparison game here or you may end up toeing the line of inspiration and copying. Instead, take all of your notes and use it to do some digging on what you’re doing and what you can do more of that’s different from all of these people.
Be True To You
After you figure out what you can do differently, USE IT. Put your voice into every facet of your business. Change the copy on your website if you need to, change the way you present your photos on social media; and let people know what your process is and what you have to offer that’s different than the other photographers.
If you want to focus on creative imagery, start posting more of your creative shots. If you want to focus on emotion and connection, post intimate photos and tell the stories behind them.
If you love dogs, post about how much you love dogs! If you like to workout, climb, camp, etc etc etc, make sure to share those things. Whether it’s in your captions or in your stories people want to know who you are.
These are all things that YOU have to offer that you should be making known. Be true to who you are and the right people will find you.
Collaborate With Vendors Who Share Your Values
Networking with the right vendors will help you be seen and help you find the right types of clients. Other vendors will send you referrals and use your photos on social media in exchange for the same. If you’re a traditional photographer you should find other vendors who prefer that style. If you’re a darker photographer you should get in touch with vendors who have a darker feel.
This doesn’t mean give out free photos or shoot with ANY vendor that’s around, because there are some that I definitely won’t share with. Just finding your people and sticking with them can give you the edge over other photographers.
Share Your Process
I know this is taboo for a lot of photographers, but opening up and sharing how you create images is a great way to stand out. A lot of people guard their secrets like it’s the recipe of the Krabby Patty. If you’re open and honest it’ll automatically make a dent in this closed off industry.
Even sharing before and afters of how you edited a photo can help you stand out from the rest. Showing people a small bit of your process will help build the community around you.
Obviously, I’m not saying to spill your guts and give out all of your secrets but just a glance into your process can help potential clients see the work you put into images and show other photographers that you’re open and in this for the community.
Create a Website That’s For Your Clients, Not You
Some of the best advice I’ve been given is to take the “I” out of my website and put the “You” into it. If we only speak about what we want, what we like, I, I, I, then how are we selling our work to our clients? We have to be doing this for them or the “I” doesn’t matter.
An example of this would be changing something like, “I want to shoot couples who climb mountains and get dirty. I want clients who will wade through creeks and love one another fiercely.” to “You’ll climb mountains and get dirty. You’ll wade through creeks and love one another fiercely, and I’ll be there to capture it all.”
In an industry full of inauthentic authenticity, showing that you’re here for your clients will give you a leg up on other people in your market.