There’s a disturbing attitude growing among some “professional” photographers, especially among new pros that have just started charging for their services.
It’s the paranoia that every other working photographer is now their competition, scheming to steal paying clients away from them.
It’s a sad thing to see that kind of attitude develop in a creative community, because almost every professional photographer started out the same way in their amateur days, or as we like to call them…
“The Good Ol’ Days”
There’s nothing like being a wide-eyed newbie, in wonderment of the art of photography. With brand-new camera and kit lens in hand, we took to the the city streets, suburbs, or great outdoors, to find new worlds and scenes just waiting to be captured and made into our own personal art.
We spent countless hours reading every photography blog article, every list of tips and tricks, watching hundreds of YouTube photography videos.
Everything was new, and photography was a personal treasure, a bright and shiny discovery.
Then we found out that we could make money with our photography.
The hobby turned into a profession, and somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves that we didn’t need any more help or instruction. At least, not publicly.
We wanted to come across as the experienced photographer that knows everything. We wanted to be taken seriously. And at that moment, every other photographer became our competition.
What a horrible thing for a beginner’s innocence and humble joy to be replaced by pride and selfish competition.
Especially when the competition doesn’t even exist.
There is no competition.
If you truly value your own photography, the only real competition is yourself. To continually challenge yourself to progress and refine your personal style and art to be a better photographer than you were yesterday.
There’s only one you. Nobody will ever see or capture the same scene the way you do. Another photographer may have all the same gear, and all the same knowledge, but no-one can make the exact same creative choices as you can.
As long as your personal vision is truly yours (and not a copy of some other popular photographer’s style), you will never have any competition.
Unless you market on price.
If your main selling point is not the uniqueness of your style, or the quality of your craft, but how much cheaper you are than the rest, then there will always be competition. Fierce competition.
That’s when you start to look at other photographers with suspicion, thinking they’ll probably copy your packages and try to sell it for hundreds less.
Unfortunately, if you’re both shooting for bargain-hunting clients, chances are, your suspicions are probably correct.
Bottom line? There’s no need to view other photographers as a threat to your own business. There are enough clients for everyone, and more importantly, not everyone is marketing to the same kind of client.
When you differentiate yourself from other photographers with your style or quality (hopefully both), you will never worry about what other photographers are doing, or how much they’re charging. Your clients will choose you for your artistry, and not because you were the cheapest option.
If you feel there’s a photographer that is truly in direct competition with you (as in, you both own photo studios on opposite sides of the same street with your prices displayed in the window) and he’s charging HALF what you do, should you lower prices?
Just make sure your work is at least twice as good and therefore worth double – or better yet, triple.* Any competition that forces you to improve is healthy competition. The bargain hunters that choose the other photographer will be happy with the price they got, and your clients will be happy they paid more and received a better quality product.
Go a step further and take the other photographer out for lunch and talk about why you love photography! There’s a creative spark that should unite all photographers who truly love the art. Also, they deserve a free lunch – they’re probably working three times as much as you to make the same amount. 😛
Now then, are you going to give them all your pricing, print labs, strategies and techniques? This part is up to you. I personally don’t mind sharing *some* business information with photographer friends who are my ‘direct competition’, but you might draw the line if you feel that the information is going to be used directly against you.
On the other hand, even if you gave ALL your pricing information, business and marketing strategies, product suppliers, software, photographic techniques, AND all your camera gear to another photographer, your clients – the clients you truly want to work with – would still choose you!
Because every photographer is different. Recognizing and appreciating the unique differences between all artists is what makes any creative community thrive.
Don’t forget to have fun!
*Bonus Section: Why at least triple your price compared to your bargain “competitors?”
Let’s say I present you with the prices for two photographers, but not their portfolios:
Photographer A costs $499 and Photographer B costs $599.
Based on price alone, what do you assume about their relative skill levels?
Most people would assume that since they’re basically in the same price range, they’re probably of the same skill too. The difference then, comes down to price and most would probably choose Photographer A to save $100.
Photographer A costs $499 and Photographer B costs $3000.
Now which photographer do you assume has more skill and experience?
Which photographer do you expect to provide a better customer service and superior products?
When the price difference is much greater, it separates competitors into different markets AND starts to tell a story about what you can expect from either photographer.
How about this?
Photographer A is “Your Perfect Dream Memories Forever” – $499
Photographer B is “Christopher Stetson | Photographer” – $3000
Wording, and presentation also play a key role in business, but that’s a topic for a different article. Stay tuned!