How to stand out as a professional photographer in a competitive market
With increasingly advanced camera technology, a wealth of online tutorials, and minimal barriers into the industry, competition among professional photographers is high. A brief Google search of the area you live in will likely bring up pages of results within a very small radius. So how can newly qualified photographers stand out from the crowd? Fortunately, there are several effective strategies you can use.
- Focus on an area of expertise
New photographers often take on as many clients as possible to build up their reputation. Although this may help to pay the bills initially, in the long run it can be harmful to a fledgling business. With nothing to distinguish you from hundreds of other available photographers, you run the risk of becoming a replaceable entity and having to cut your rates to stay competitive. Narrowing your focus makes it easier to grow your skills quickly in that specific area. Photographers with a reputation for a specialty (for example, wildlife photographer Michael Aw or renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz) are highly respected and well paid for their expertise. When you are doing something you are passionate about, your enthusiasm for your work will be reflected in the way you communicate with your clients. This helps to elevate customer service skills, which can make or break a business. Not sure what to specialize in? Ask yourself:
- What type of photography do you most enjoy, personally or professionally?
- Which aspect of your photographic studies interested you the most?
- Which types of clients do you most enjoy interacting with?
- What body of work are you most proud to show to others?
- Create a positive customer experience
With a saturated market, often the only factor that distinguishes you from other professionals is an outstanding personal experience. Being naturally charming and engaging is an advantage that not everyone has, but there are several ways in which you can provide a memorable customer experience:
- Make your clients feel welcome – Offer them coffee, chat to them about their day, ensure they are comfortable throughout the shoot.
- Turn negative statements into positive ones – Rather than telling clients that a pose isn’t working, tell them they’re doing great and then ask them to try moving their arm/leg into a new position. Telling people what you want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do builds trust and confidence.
- Provide outstanding client care – Maintain regular contact to let clients know when their products will be ready and reach out to make sure they are happy with the results. A brief thank you card or small token of appreciation for their business can make a huge difference in earning repeat clients and positive recommendations.
- Maintain a strong online presence
Your website is an advertisement for your business, and with hundreds of other options to choose from you only have a few seconds to make a positive impression on prospective clients. Taking the time to plan and develop an effective website is essential. Here’s a brief checklist:
- Let your personality shine – Many clients (particularly for portrait shoots or weddings) want to connect with their photographer on a personal level. Include an About Me section with fun details about yourself that convey your unique qualities.
- Establish credibility – Include valuable testimonials from clients you’ve already worked with to show prospective new clients that you are professional and trustworthy.
- Solicit feedback – Visitors to your website should immediately know where they are, what they can do, and why they should do it. They should have an easy way to get in touch with you that is not confusing or time-consuming. Ask a friend to look at your website and provide feedback.
- Consider SEO – Showing up on a Google search is a highly effective marketing technique and you should ensure that your website is optimised so that your pages rank as high as possible.
Earning a professional qualification goes a long way toward establishing credibility as a working photographer, as well as providing valuable practical experience. For more information about pursuing an online Masters (MA) in Photography through Falmouth University’s Flexible Learning programme, visit our course page.