I’ve always found it odd when photographers are scared by other photographers in their area and are forever comparing themselves to someone else. I thought I’d share some reasons why competition among photographers is silly and destructive and why we should all just grow our hair out and sing about peace and love.
1. My biggest asset is me.
Because at the end of the day, people can copy me (ohh, someday I’ll tell you stories!) but they’ll never be me. And I’ll never be them. The sooner we all accept ourselves with all our charm, quirk, and bad hair days, the sooner we’ll be attracting the perfect clients and making them burst with joy because we’ll all be in our element. Anyone can wear bright lipstick and weird earrings. Anyone can buy the gear I have. But no one can create the art I create.
2. People crave vision.
And each photographer’s vision is unique. It may take a while to find your voice artistically, but once you do people will be able to spot your photographs from a mile away. You’ll feel comfortable and simultaneously creative, and vision is what people will be hiring you for, not for price or friendship or whatever else. When you have vision, that’s when you cross the line of aspiring/amateur and become an artist.
3. Not everyone with a camera is a photographer.
This goes right along with vision, but you’ve got to be confident enough in yourself not to be threatened by every new photographer who pops up. Au contraire, we should be befriending new photographers! Photographers love to complain about how everyone and their dog is buying a camera and trying to be a photographer, and they love to say that all those nice people and their dogs should not do that. But really? How do any of us start? The simultaneous beauty and pitfall of this art is that anyone (even dogs?) can pick up a camera. But professionals have their ducks in a row: business ducks, style ducks, philosophy and ideology ducks–professionals aren’t worried by New Photographer down the street because he is cheaper and has a nicer camera, because they know that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
AND, if we as photographers are not all in this together, the industry will just slide further and further down the tube.
4. The choice to hire me includes a whole lot of things that others don’t have.
Nobody else has the exact same combination of my style, my philosophy, my creative process, my brand, my particular flavor of goodness. Again, this goes back to confidence in the experience you’re offering clients. Is it actually unique? So quick: list 10 standout elements of your business. Time for some soul searching. (Up next: soul mating! Awesome!)
5. We may all be photographers, but we have different goals.
My ideal client is not the same as Photographer X, Y, or Z’s ideal client–and that’s the way it should be! It’s a wide world full of unique people who need photographer soulmates just the same as they need marriage soulmates. (Okay. I’m a little dramatic sometimes. But I feel strongly about the connection that should exist between a photographer and her clients. That’s why we have consultations!)
There are a lot of photographers who just aren’t sure who their ideal client is. Uhh, the one with the most money? Wrongo bongo. (I had an elementary teacher who said Wrongo Bongo. I secretly loved it.) Uhh, the one who books me? Kind of. Thing is, you’ve got to be sure what kind of clients you want because you’re creating art, and clients are equal partners in creating that art. You’ve got to be style soulmates, but you’ve also got to be philosophy soulmates. (Gosh, there’s a lot of soul-mating going on here today…) Not every person who needs photographs of their life is wild, creative, and passionate. But mine are. Not every potential client is smitten by unique things, spontaneity, modern class, world travel. But mine are.
In addition to the kinds of clients we adore working with, success looks different to every photographer. Some photographers love shooting a ton of weddings per year, others just want a few, or destination weddings, or they also love shooting families and take breathtaking shots of fingernails. Some love working out of a studio, some from their garage, some from a cardboard box. Your business plan should be tailored to your dreams, and in knowing what your unique flavor of success is, you free yourself from competition.
6. Artists competing make no sense.
Let’s just give it a rest, please? Can’t we be friends? We should be nurturing each other, drawing on each other’s strengths, not competing with each other or bossing each other around or scolding each other (99% of forums, anyone?) We’re artists. Let’s be sure enough of our vision, voice, goals, and individuality to be assets to each other.
Brooke Schultz is a soulful Utah wedding photographer who loves unique, non-traditional weddings full of pizzazz and class. She is mad for rose gold, memoirs, and hearty helpings of sunshine and fresh fruit with just a pinch of cinnamon. She is appalled by reality TV, plastic surgery, and Crocs. She squeals when couples ooze love and if you are such a couple and want to participate in such squealing, drop her a line.