How do photographers stand out?

Do you have the feeling that, nowadays, almost everyone is taking photos? Not even that long ago, photography was much more exclusive. 

Despite the wide-spread use of point-and-shoot cameras, very few people were able to take photographs properly. That’s why photography was and still is a profession in demand; however, if you are interested in selling your pictures, how can you convince someone to buy yours or “follow” you as a photographer?

It almost seems impossible, given that 2.6 billion people worldwide use a smartphone now. Nearly all of them take snapshots of their life, food, hobbies and anything that touches their hearts. Some take it for themselves and their family and friends; others share it with the world.

Facebook has 1.86 billion active users, Instagram 600 million, and Flickr 122 million. Just imagine standing among all these people with your photos on a stage. How the hell are you supposed to stand out of that crowd? No matter how motivated you are, it seems almost impossible.

That’s why everyone says only 0.001% of artists can live off their art—and even if you don’t have career ambitions as a photographer, you still want to be unique for yourself, right?

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Did the number of photos create a unique quality to stand out? No. The more pictures you take, the more you learn, the better you get at capturing the world around you; but that doesn’t make your photos unique per se. That’s why the most popular photos on Flickr and 500px often look alike. They are all well-produced, don’t get this wrong, but you will rarely see a unique signature that pops out.

In today’s world of rapidly changing technology, there’s one big problem that you and every aspiring photographer must face; you are one among many. It no longer takes years of practice or even an expensive camera to make someone a talented, and in some cases, professional, photographer. Whether you are an aspiring pro or just taking up photography as a hobby, here are five ways to challenge yourself and stand out as a photographer in today’s crowded market.

Keep evolving your craft.

Let’s start with the good news; just because someone has a camera doesn’t mean they know how to take great photos. There are very few people who desire to shoot in anything other than their cameras’ automatic program function.

Dedicate yourself to mastering every aspect of photography. If you’re shooting in full auto, learn how to shoot in Aperture Priority, then Shutter Priority, and then finally Manual mode. If you’ve mastered natural lighting, move on to off-camera flash and other lighting techniques. Keep pushing forward and challenging yourself to master new aspects of photography, and you’ll always be a step ahead.

Focus on one area of expertise

How do photographers stand out?

Just as the photography market has become saturated, so has the industry for teaching photography skills. From websites like DPS to local workshops, there are many avenues to learn about every aspect of photography. To keep evolving your craft and not get overwhelmed by the plethora of information out there, focus your studies on one part of photography to start. Also, limit the resources you use for the sake of consistency.

This same strategy of limiting your areas of expertise is also valid if you aim to start a photography business. Narrowing your focus makes it much easier to grow your skills quickly and attract clients you want to work with. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.

Only implement new technology if it’s working for you.

No matter how many features are packed into a camera, your job is ultimately about producing a good photo. Sometimes, having the latest camera packed with tons of fancy new high-tech features can over complicate your work. I remember the first time I tried shooting tethered for a new corporate client. It was only my third time using that process, and I was so overwhelmed by other factors that my attempt at using technology caused more frustration.

If you invest in new technology, be sure it is actually enhancing your workflow and not holding you back. Take the time to practice using it over and over until it feels like second nature. And always have a fallback plan since technology notoriously fails at one point or another.

Work your people skills.

Being a skilled photographer isn’t just about growing your technical abilities. You should also have excellent people skills. As a professional photographer, it’s not uncommon to be hired for a photoshoot or complimented on my work before my client even looks at my photos. I’ve come to realise it’s all about people skills and making people feel comfortable even before delivering a service.

Even if you don’t photograph people, you still interact with them to set up photoshoots and sell your services. Practice your people skills and get good at putting a smile on someone’s face even when they’re not in front of your camera.

Continue to network and put your work out there.

Another positive aspect of a growing interest in photography is the massive uptick in communities for photographers. There are tons of places to meet fellow photography enthusiasts, from Instagram and Facebook Groups to local Meetups. Take part in organisations such as the Digital Photography School Group. Check out the questions and conversations others are having. Put your work out there to get feedback from others and make improvements accordingly. Also, don’t be afraid to chime in and offer your constructive criticism.

Ways to Make Your Photography Stand Out

When was the last time you googled your city and your genre photographer? I tried this the other day, and I used ‘Chicago lifestyle’ and ‘travel photographer.’ The search results returned 18.5K results. Yes, that is ‘K’ as in thousands.

Photography is a highly competitive field, and it can be not easy to make your photography stand out. Low cost of entry in terms of gear, free online tutorials and a pool of clients who want everything for ‘free’ or ‘low budget’ means there is work for anyone who wants to get into the field. Sure, some genres are more challenging to get into than others, perhaps. But the reality is that if you’re going to get paid to take photos for someone else, chances are you will be able to do that relatively quickly.

As a photographer, there are many expenses, such as:

  • gear insurance
  • business registration
  • taxes
  • administrative overheads, including website domain name and hosting
  • travel costs etc.,

If you want to make it long term in the photography industry, there are several things you need to do to get yourself on the right track and stand out from the rest of the crowd when it comes to your skill, your business practices and your presence – on and offline! Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.

The truth is: Nobody cares about your photos.

To start, realise that (unfortunately) nobody gives a shit about your photos. Everyone gives a shit about their images, but not your photos.

And also, unfortunately, photography isn’t as valuable today as it was in the past. People used to pay photographers a lot more money for photos because it was so technically challenging. Now anybody with an iPhone can take a great picture.

We love modern technology and the smartphone; because it has democratized photography. Photography is for everybody. And everyone should call themselves a photographer because we all are. But at the same time, we face the difficult challenge of making our photos stand out of a sea of petabytes of images floating in this digital sea.

Here is some advice I would give to have your photos stand out in today’s over-saturated social media world:

Be Consistent

Don’t be a one-hit-wonder. Consistently create and produce new work. Even if that work is just for you, personal projects or collaborative projects. If you have to do ‘free’ or ‘low budget’ shoots, have a plan on when, how, and what you will get and give from these shoots. Spending 6 months providing free shoots or low-cost shoots to build up your portfolio is okay, but taking two years to do so is a bit much. Also, realise that free/low-cost nodes tend to look very different from clients willing to spend $1000 or more on a family photo shoot. So be practical with your goals.

The biggest mistake many photographers make is that they don’t know how to be consistent when they’re starting. A plant that is moved around too much will never put down roots and grow big. 

It would help if you experimented with your photography when you’re starting. Experiment with different cameras, formats, lenses, black and white versus colour, smartphone vs film, whatever. But once you find something that you’re 80% happy with — stick with it.

No photographer can stand out without having a distinct ‘look’ or style in their photography. And to build a class in your photography, you need to be consistent.

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson shot black and white his entire career with a 50mm lens and shot ‘decisive moment’ street photographs. He stood out this way.
  • Alex Webb (who started off shooting black and white like Henri-Cartier-Bresson) ended up standing out by taking on colour photography and started to shoot complex, multi-layered images. This helped him stand out in a sea of black-and-white photographers.
  • The Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama stood out from his peers (who all shot low-grain, sharp photos with Leica cameras) using a cheap, point-and-shoot film camera while making his images blurry, out-of-focus, high-contrast, and grainy. When he started shooting with this high-contrast black and white aesthetic, everyone hated it. Now it is an accepted aesthetic. Daido borrowed this aesthetic from William Klein, who popularised shooting these edgy, wide-angle, blurry, grainy black and white street photos.

Go Authentic

A lot of photographers offer styled photoshoots and portfolio-building photoshoots. This is where many photographers walk through a styled setup and create work that they can showcase on their portfolio. There is nothing wrong with this, but only if you use this as a way to build your skill.

For example, you edit clients of different skin tones, learning how to photograph in challenging light and pose and interact with clients. Don’t use these images as ‘your’ work. You are better off indicating images from a styled shoot as such than you are showcasing work/styling that isn’t your own.

Instead of consistently looking for styled shoots for building a portfolio, invest in one of your own. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. Loop in a few vendors and see if you can set something that can fit your brand and theirs. This is a win-win for all involved. That way, you create unique images and also make friends in the industry.

Play well with others in this space

How do photographers stand out?

This relates to the previous one. Make friends in the industry. I belong to many FB groups and Whatsapp groups for creatives and photographers. We meet, chat, connect over business issues as well as offer advice and help as needed. I also am a part of a group with many different kinds of entrepreneurs to build a community of like-minded people and professionals. I have gotten a lot of business from these groups and made some lifelong friends and mentors. People who are always there for me because I am always there for them.

No matter what level of business you are at or even if you are just a hobbyist, there are always people who are just like you and are looking for the same things as you – friendship, love for photography and camaraderie. Give out as much as you can, be helpful and uplift others on this journey with you. The more you put out there, the more you will receive from the universe.

Patience is key

Photography is a very competitive industry. At any given point in time, there are bound to be people who can do something better than you. And that is okay. Know where your strengths lie and use those to your advantage. Aim to be in it for the long haul and not just the short term gigs that are one and done deals. Build relationships with your clients to refer you and come back time and time again for quality results.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. Be consistent and be patient, and things will happen in their own time.

Success your way

Whether you choose to be in business or not, be true to your art. Get inspiration from other photographers and daily life. There are many amazing things around us at any given point in time. Just because no-one else photographs, it does not make it boring. Similarly, think outside the box. Only because everyone photographs something a certain way does not mean you have to follow the pack.

When you are starting, don’t obsess over clients, getting work, and making money. Yes, they are essential but take the time to perfect your art (to the point where you are confident charging money for your photography). Then, money and fame will follow.

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Have a 360 approach to your career

When I worked in Corporate America many years ago, one of the companies I worked for had a 360-degree approach to annual performance evaluation. My performance was judged by how effective I was in four areas: my peers in my team and across teams, my managers, and those who worked for me. Apply this approach to your photography. No matter where you are committed to helping those, just starting, collaborate with your peers, learn from those who are where you want to be. This can be in terms of meetups, workshops, and conferences or even just meeting for a cup of coffee to connect with others.

Go opposite

Another good way to stand out with your photos is to go opposite.

For example, William Eggleston stood out by shooting colour — when shooting colour was only for amateurs. Not just that, but when everyone was photographing these beautiful ‘fine art’ types of images– Eggleston only photographed mundane and common-place things like food inside his refrigerator.

You want to stand out by not following the sheep and the herd.

  • If everyone is shooting colour photography, shoot black and white.
  • If everyone is doing these epic multi-layered photos, shoot simple single-subject photos.
  • If everyone is using a telephoto lens, use a wide-angle lens.
  • If everyone is using a DSLR, use a point-and-shoot.
  • If everyone is shooting ‘wide-open’, shoot ‘stopped down’ at f/8-f/16.

Put yourself out there.

If you want to stand out for your photography, you need to put yourself out there.

There are many different ways you can do this. You can market yourself with social media, with your website or blog, via word-of-mouth, via local exhibitions, photo books, photo magazines, or ‘zines’ (self-printed xerox copies of your work).

Many photographers don’t like the idea of ‘promoting’ themselves. They don’t want to be ‘shameless’ — and think that their work should speak for itself.

But in all honesty, if you want to stand out in your photography, you need to know how to market and advertise yourself. Even Apple, which probably makes some of the best products out there, spends millions of dollars promoting their products.

Honestly, the only reason anybody knows me is because of this photography blog. I’ve attracted photographers who want to learn about street photography (usually via Google searches on YouTube). This is a way I’ve been able to make a name for myself in the realm of street photography (even though there are many street photographers far more talented than myself).

But it would help if you dared to put yourself out there. Because putting yourself out, there is a risk. You risk being criticised, you risk being ignored, and you risk being disappointed.

Imagine the worst-case scenario before you put yourself out there. For example, imagine that nobody will respond to you if you put yourself out there, and everyone will ignore you, and you will have people who criticise you. Imagine the worst-case-scenario before the fact, and you will find out that the worst-case scenario is not so bad.

Our opinion: it is worse to be ignored than criticised. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.

Work on a personal project

Another practical tip on making your photos stand out: don’t focus on just making good single images. Instead, focus on a personal project.

How do you know what kind of personal project to work on? Practical advice: photograph what is unique to you. Photograph your loved ones, photograph yourself, or photograph your village, town, or city.

To take ‘personal’ photos means to show your soul in your photos. You want to make your photos intimate. You want photos that only you can shoot, not others. Many commercial photographers have made their names for themselves through personal projects.

Never stop innovating

The secret to standing out in your photography is never to give up. To never stop innovating. To never keep moving the ball forward. If you want to stand out, you need ahead momentum. You can’t stop moving. You can’t stop shooting. You can’t stop sharing your work. You can’t stop putting yourself out there.

Honestly, whether you stand out in your photography or not isn’t in your control. Meaning, you can be the world’s most talented photographer, but if you don’t have good timing or luck — you will not be ‘discovered.’

But it is in your power to hustle hard and push yourself. You can control the effort you put into your photography, but not the results.

Why do you want to stand out?

Wonder to yourself, ‘Why do I want to stand out?’ If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

Do you want to stand out as a way for you to build up your self-esteem? Do you want to stand out because you want to make a living from your photography? Do you want to stand out for your photography because you are insecure about yourself?

Be honest with yourself. Always ask yourself the ‘why?’ question as much as possible. Figure out your true intentions. Then you will discover yourself and find the absolute truth behind your photography.