“You must define yourself as a photographer.”
“You need to find out what makes you unique.”
“You need to set yourself apart from the competition.”
These are all common business and marketing tenants that I hear regularly, but how do you define what really makes you unique? Is it really your images? In today’s world, having a photography style that is only unique to you is getting harder and harder to find. I’d like to suggest a few alternatives!
So often, we limit our exploration of our photography identity to just photography! Yet our lives and personality are much broader and richer than this narrow perspective.
What is it that makes us different from one another anyway?
There really is no other YOU. You have a unique perspective because of the combination of inputs that you have in your life.
Inputs such as: who you live with. Where you live. Your upbringing. Your particular talents in many different areas. Your interests. Your hobbies. Your beliefs. Your education. Your friends. Your life adventures. Your unique weaknesses or life challenges. All the good and bad influences of our life come together to create a one and only unique output: YOU. No one else has your specific ingredient list that makes you who you are. Isn’t this fascinating?
Perhaps part of the challenge of defining our unique self as a photographer, is because too often we limit our photography identity to the medium of photography! When we do this, not only is it more difficult to set ourselves a part, but we also limit our own progress because we’re working without a clear picture of who we are and what we have to offer.
Consider with me the following question:
What other talents, interests or passions do you have in your life? Is there a way to integrate these into your photography?
Using your other talents in your photography business:
I spent 8 years in college getting two degrees in music composition. I love music. But for the longest time I couldn’t see a bridge between my music and my photography. Until one day I realized that I could compose my own music for my client photography slideshows. It didn’t take much extra time, it was something that I loved, and it was a personal touch of sentiment I could give to those I worked with.
I’ve long admired Davina Fear, an East Coast family and portrait photographer. Her background in family and marriage relationships is a large influence in how she photographs and is a constant theme of the writing on her blog. I have come to love Davina, not just for her beautiful images, but for the rich inspiration I gain in her writing of how to improve my own relationships in my home.
Dane Sanders is not only a talented photographer, but he has a real gift for speaking and directing engaging conversation. I eagerly anticipate his weekly interviews on Fast Track Photography and am constantly intrigued by his talent for interviewing people in a way that pulls out applicable take-aways for the listener. He doesn’t converse simply to know their inspiring stories, but he engages the listeners in a way that they personally benefit from the conversation.
Do you love to cook? How about photographing some of your tried and true favorite recipes and sharing them on your blog?
Or make a special treat for your clients to share at the end of a session?
Maybe you have an eye for interior design and can integrate planning a photo wall gallery into one of your offerings with your clients.
Are you talented with attention for details or planning? Make that a strong focus of your business. You could make the planning of a session just as much fun as the session itself!
Do you love fashion and clothes and make-up? Share your tips for dressing with your readers or clients and marry your interests with your photography!
Consider your other talents and interests to guide your search for a niche.
A beautiful bridge can be found in our other interests by creating a niche.
Do you love to dance? How about specializing in photographing dancers?
Are you a musician? Can you specialize in photographing other musicians?
Do you love animals? Have you considered pet photography?
Are you great with kids?
Do you love sports?
The possibilities are endless! I remember meeting a photographer a few years ago who specialized in photographing people who owned Harley Davidson Motorcycles! He combined two passions and created a thriving business in something very narrow.
The benefit of marrying your love of photography with another passion, is that you will have a unique understanding of the people you work with. A photographer who loves dance and specializes in dance photography, will have a clearer vision of how to direct his subjects and relate to them in a session very differently than someone without that background or interest.
Do your other interests or experiences provide a good cause to support in your photography business?
Everyone loves a person who gives back. I love how Kristin Kalp has merged her interest in orphans in India into a financial cause that she donates portions of her profit to support.
Could you combine your outside interests with your photography for a good cause?
How about teaching volunteer workshops to teenage girls about self esteem and beauty and then having a photo party afterwards where they all go home with a flattering portrait of themselves?
How about volunteering to photograph the community 5K run to support health and wellness?
Perhaps you have an intimate experience with loss and want to be apart of the NILMDTS foundation.
Maybe you could start your own foundation for something entirely different.
Allow your other interests, experiences and talents to establish your identity and attract like minded people.
If I were to tell you today what makes me unique as a photographer, very little of my description would have to do with my actual photographic images.
When we define ourselves with only the title of “photographer” we are missing out on the opportunity to share and communicate much more of what we have to offer.
I truly believe that we are given interests and passions in a variety of things for a reason. Dynamite experiences can start to happen when we begin to connect the dots and think outside the box for ways that we can integrate other parts of ourselves in how we serve other people.
And best of all, when we become clear on who we are and what we truly have to uniquely offer, then we begin to attract the perfect fit for our services. We begin to work with those we were meant to work with. Those dots get connected and build something far grander than photography by itself ever could.
Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah. She is unique because she can yodel, write cowboy poetry, and use vinegar in any recipe (even desserts!).
Brooke teaches inspiring online photography classes that bring you confidence in your skills and creativity.
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Thank you so much for this amazing post!!! I really needed this!!!
Loved this post and it’s made me think a lot. I’ve read it twice now 🙂
Great post and it seems so obvious, but I like so many people need to hear this over and over again. I truly believe if you’re true to yourself, you’ll be more likely to find QUALITY success. Sure, you can be a copycat and ride the coattails of a trend, but to be who you are in your work will make you happier and ultimately better. For me it’s getting down to business and actually making it happen. I struggle with finding time to do what I know I need to do and even want to do outside work and family. Anyway, thanks again for your posts.
” if you’re true to yourself, you’ll be more likely to find QUALITY success.” Well said, Charles! I love it. And amazing what a journey it is to find out what our true self really is! Thanks for your sharing your thoughts!
Beautifully written!! For me, it’s all about purpose – in everything, not just pictures. I like to filter everything I’m doing or considering through the question, “Will what I’m doing today make a difference years down the road?” I think that’s why I am so attracted to capturing everyday family moments . . . because those moments are the glue that hold us to each other and it’s so easy to forget when we are so busy living in the now. Looking back on family memories- and even just what the shoe pile by the front door once looked like – that is what will matter in my heart forever. I don’t ever want to forget 🙂 That’s my purpose and uniqueness. Thank you, Brooke. Another inspiring reminder!
Oh Hollie! We are kindred spirits. I share the need for “purpose” driven work! Well said!
Such great things to think about! Trying to set yourself apart with your images only leads to crazy photos that are often unsafe or just weird. haha! But I can think of a few things that set me apart as a person and as a business. Thanks!
Ha ha! Indeed Rayleigh! Setting ourselves apart just in our work is hard. But when you consider all the other awesome unique things you bring to the table that are part of who you are the possibilities are truly unique and endless!
Thanks Brooke, good read and great advice as usual!
Brooke! You’ve made my day. Thank you so much for being a cheerleader for something I deeply believe in. It means so much to me! And I couldn’t agree with you more on finding your own voice/strength/message and sharing it with the world. You’ve made some fantastic points about looking at what you love. Beautiful and well written!!
I think as artists, we often believe that our existence and identity is so solely wrapped up in what we do. We believe that our lives are entirely defined by the work in which we create. It is not until we come to the very end of ourselves, when we realise it is not about all our talent and creativity that makes us unique, that is just validation for what we do. But it is when we understand the very reason why we do what we do, and why we love it so much, that is when we discover what makes us unique and then we find our purpose again. Great blog post, sometimes we really just need to take a step away from our photography, and give thought to the other things in our lives that we are passionate about. Only then can we realise what makes us truly unique. Thank you.