Whether you’re just starting out or have been working as a photographer for a while, chances are you’ve created a social media presence to go along with your business strategy. But social media, in all of its interconnected complexity, can be overwhelming and intimidating to any new or established small business. And when you’re a photographer starting a business on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, which are driven by strong imagery, it can create a crazy difficult paradox. Not only do you have near-instant access to each and every customer you could ever dream of having (you just need to know how to reach them!), but you can also see each and every other photographer who’s doing what you are, which can feel intimidating. So, what do you need to do to make sure that you stand out in today’s photography market?
Maybe you’re asking yourself whether the market is just too saturated, or whether the very existence of social media is making it hard for you to really stand out with so many other people doing the exact same thing that you are. But, believe it or not, the answer to both of those questions is a big, exciting “No way!”
Social media has completely changed the world of photography in ways that might be considered both a blessing and a curse. It presents customers and brands alike with so many amazing options and opportunities to choose from that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. But that’s not because there are too many people doing the work, it’s that many people are too afraid or intimidated to actually do the things that will make them stand out! Sounds crazy, right?
This rings especially true when it comes to marketing yourself on social media. While there are definitely a lot of professionals working as travel photographers, wedding photographers, and fashion photographers, there are lots of ways that you can make sure your work really stands out and differentiates you from other photographers. Here are a few ways to start:
Embrace what is unique about you and flaunt it!
The first, and most important thing that you need to do if you want to stand out as a photographer on and off social media is to be sincerely, unapologetically you. I really cannot emphasize this enough. One of the quickest ways to blend in with the rest of the photographers shooting what you shoot is to mimic what they’re doing too closely. Sure, taking notes on how someone else found success is a great way to spark ideas for your own road map, but it still needs to be yours. The more of your own personality that you put into your brand, social media presence, and photography style the more likely it is that you will stand out in the crowd and not just become part of it. Believe in yourself and all the beauty that you have to offer through your art—your future clients will thank you.
Define your style as clearly and consistently as possible.
While I know we’ve talked before about how important, though intimidating, defining your photography style can be, it’s a great way to make sure that you are offering something unique and special to your potential clients. Without a clearly defined style, it’s hard for clients to understand exactly what sort of final product they will be receiving from you, so take the guess work out of it and show them what you love, how you see the world, and who you are! This is what will set you apart. And if your style still feels a little fuzzy, don’t worry—it’s supposed to take some time and experimentation.
Diversify the ways you interact with clients, especially off of social media.
Hear me out on this! I know this sounds a little counter intuitive since the photography world essentially lives and breathes on social media platforms like Instagram, but do you really want all of your success to be measured by the number of likes and followers you get? If you’re serious about your photography career, then you need to have far more meaningful, lasting relationships with your clients on and offline. Start thinking about your photography a little bit differently, and how you can actually use it to improve your clients’ experiences or make the work more meaningful to the person you’re shooting. Reframe your thinking and ask yourself how you quantify success. Is it the number of clients you have, or the number of returning clients you work with? Is it the dollar amount you make, or do you measure your success more on how your work has improved your clients’ bottom line? This will help you better align your work with your passion, allowing you to reach a far more fulfilling level of success than social media impressions alone can offer.
Take risks and learn from them.
The thing about expressing your personality and personal style on social media is that it can be really scary. We tend to place a lot of judgement on ourselves before anyone else even has a chance to hit the “Like” button. But the thing is, if you want to find success you have to take those risks. And take them often. Do your best not to worry about what other people are doing on their accounts, or how they might react to what you’re doing. And just because you want to try something that you haven’t seen anyone else try before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! You won’t know if it resonates with anyone until you put it out there, and what if it ends up being wildly successful as a result? And even if it doesn’t, it’s given you the chance to learn something really important about your audience. Taking risks allows you to learn from the results and stand out more in the process.
Become an expert.
You’ve got to produce consistent high quality work. And to do that, you’ve got to know your stuff! Not only does this make you a better photographer in general, but it creates trust and gives your clients reassurance that they chose the perfect photographer for their project. Being able to consistently take beautiful images and create an unbelievable client experience will help you stand out as an expert in your field, which is huge. Plus, when you really understand what you’re doing when taking each photograph, you can be more present in the moment itself rather than worried about whether you have all the right settings in place. You’ll have the know-how to shoot literally anything you want in any way you want. And you’ll be able to consistency produce high quality work that people are dying to invest in.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an incredibly creative photographer on the brink of success who just doesn’t push themselves as much as they need to in order to reach their full potential. Things will never just happen serendipitously, even if you have the skills and know-how to back it up. Think of it this way: if you want to find success as a photographer, then you have to work just as hard, if not harder, than the photographer you admire most.
If you’re anything like me, then you’re serious about continuing your photography education. I am a forever student, and a firm believer that there is always room for improvement in my work. After each and every shoot I do, I analyze what went well, what could have gone better, and what I could improve the next time around. And when the next time comes, I do the same thing, over and over again. Photography is constantly changing and evolving, and thinking you already know it all is ultimately when you stop growing. I don’t know about you, but I want to continue refining my technique every single day! So be honest with yourself, and take note of what needs work. Embracing your weak points and learning from them is what will allow you to reach your true potential.
Just because social media makes it seem as though the market is completely oversaturated with photographers doing the very same thing as you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t space for you. The more focused you are on your story, your dreams, and your passion the more likely you are to stand out and attract the kind of clients and work that you’ve always hoped for. The photography industry is always changing, and because of that there is always going to be room for new ideas, perspectives, and styles—which means there is always, always going to be room for you, too.