BE YOURSELF AND NOT LIKE THE NEXT BUSINESS PERSON
So often we are in the corner of competition and trying to be similar to the next person just to book our next photography client, yet we forget to just be ourselves and do what we like or what we see fit. A lot of times we get so caught up in trying to be like someone else, to do a little bit better we start to forget who we are and our mission on being photographers. I totally understand there is only so much you can do editing wise before your work looks similar, your poses are similar and there are only so many camera brands that it's tough to get recognized. Which is something I understand, I know I'm not the only one with canon or a 5D Mark II or even a 7D. But I do know this, I am not like the person next door, I am not like the person 50 miles away who may also shoot with a 5D Mark II. I am me, I defined what I like for images not based on my brand camera, but based on the knowledge I have so far, and what I have done with it.
We all want to do good, but riding the coattails of others or copying (which is a bit hard, we will be close in some ways) is not the way you should go, we live in a monkey see, monkey do world. We buy cameras because our idols have the same brand, we upgrade because the 30 year veteran photographer has good lenses and has been shooting since the age of 15. But here is where you can define you, not define someone else but defining you as a photographer and your work.
- Shoot what you know how to shoot. Yes it may be uncomfortable to take more than just friends, but if thats all you know, then only shoot that. Friends and family are in the nonjudgmental group, they will take any photos you have shot and love them even when hey aren't the best.
- Don't take on more than you can chew. By this I mean, don't take on something you have no knowledge of or have no clue how to get started. I'm probably not one to talk about this topic but out of experience and knowing how I work, I know I can dive into something and do pretty well. I put a lot of thought into the situation I photograph and where I am. What I'm trying to say is, If you aren't ready to take weddings, newborns, or do something that requires shooting manual or even using studio lighting, DON'T take it on if you are unsure. Photographers are hired for their knowledge and work, no one wants images that they can't fix or a photographer doesn't know what they are doing. Just because another photographer books 60 weddings a year back to back to back doesn't mean you may be ready for them yourself.
- Learn your gear before doing anything important. This is a common misconception of photography, we get this notion that buying a better camera makes us better, while part of the camera issue is better, it doesn't make the photographer better, it makes the image quality better. I upgraded from a canon rebel to a 7D for the fact of what my camera lacked in noise, nothing I could physically fix in my camera, it was the fact that 1600 ISO was grainy and the highest ISO I had and couldn't even shoot 600 ISO, which the 7D could comfortably shoot 2000 ISO before getting noticeable. Not that the camera made me better but the quality was better but I also shot manual. I could shoot auto and have the same quality as my rebel. The right decision came from knowing my gear and what is was capable of before just upgrading to say I had better gear than what I had. There are a lot of people who will rock an entry level camera. But make sure your conscious choice is based off of your knowledge of gear and what you need it for before upgrading, You may have been able to keep the gear you already had.
- Do the marketing you think you should do. It's easy to ride the coattails or copy another photographer that is doing good, like changing your business name, using the same marketing strategy to book clients not even in your target market. It's great to want to get booked, no questions about that, but what may work for one photographer may not work for you. Your target market may be $200 difference from who you are trying to be like. You can get there, may not be right away, but one day you will be in the market that you want to be in. Worry about getting the clients in your price range, your area, and like your work. If you haven;t quite reached your desired work or market, then keep working until you are happy with your work and not another persons work.
- Be realistic about your work and marketing. In some cases we think we suck at photography and in other cases we are the bees knees, even in cases where we may not be. But look at your work and judge it honestly and what do you think. Where we are on the topic of being like someone else, rate your work based on a few things.
- Image quality
- Flash (properly used and properly exposed)
- Focused images
- Proper exposure without flash
- How well do you know your gear?
- People skills (a must for booking people)
- Flow on working
- On time (do you manage time with clients the right way)
- Are you legalized?
- How do you consult clients?
- Do you network or work with other photographers?
- Do you constantly try to do what others do?
- In home gallery viewing or private gallery viewing
- Do you offer any other services to people who booked as a thank you? (prints, USB, albums, galleries, paypal, referral discounts, etc)
- Do you find yourself throwing deals and not working?
- Is your marketing so subtle that you grasp at straws and what people might like just to book someone?
- Do you totally love your work and what you do?
While that is a very long list of things, not everything you need but take the time to judge your work and be realistic with your work, while we compare or try to copy others, how do you rate yourself vs someone else? How do you rate vs local competition or someone you are trying to copy? It's a cliche thing to ask but when you are trying to build, this is how you define yourself, your work, and your direction with your photography.
The best way to compare is taking an image, similar situation for example a reception for a wedding, same lighting yet you have on camera flash and someone else may have a speed light and strobes. Do you feel your work is the same or different? It is not anyones job but your own to decide that, but take the time to look and see what you like vs what you shoot. Also another great way to find what your work direction can be, follow a photographer via pinterest, Facebook, twitter, etc and ask questions, ask anything like location, camera, lenses, camera straps, etc. Don't be shy to ask to learn how to better what you do. We have all started somewhere, some went to school and some self-taught, but nonetheless be yourself and people will love whatever work you do, if you try to be someone else, your target market may slip away from you.
The best way to do business is to be yourself, only you know what your clients want.