Recently I had a conversation with a client about some of his past projects shot by other photographers. Referencing one piece in particular, the client described the images as “good enough.”
I thought to myself, “Why would the client settle if he wasn’t getting what he really wanted?”
Maybe it came down to budget constraints or tight deadlines. Or maybe the client hadn’t properly valued the importance of photography to the project — and now regretted his decision to go with a photographer who didn’t (or couldn’t) truly deliver.
Just because you own a hammer, that doesn’t make you a carpenter. The same is true for DSLRs and professional photographers.
So, what makes you a “carpenter” in photography today?
In my experience, successful pros separate themselves from the “good enough” pack in three ways:
1. Mastery of the fundamentals. Why would someone pay you hundreds of dollars to take their family portrait if they can get the same thing from Sears Portrait Studio for a $10 sitting fee (with a free 8×10 thrown in)? It starts with things like solid composition, tack-sharp focus and proper exposures. They are the foundation for all that you do — and your clients can see the difference in quality, even if they might not be able to put their finger on the reasons your work is better.
2. Unique vision and style. Even more noticeable than your fundamentals is the creative vision you bring to your shoots. Over time, we develop a way of seeing things, and we use our camera to share this vision with others. This is ultimately what makes your photography more than a commodity — and therefore more valuable. When prospective clients view your online portfolio, you not only want to impress them with your technical expertise; you also want them to see a unique style that is not easily duplicated by others.
3. Business acumen. This one might surprise some of you — but your business savvy is just as important to differentiating yourself as your talent. If a lesser photographer undercuts your price and you decide to match it, you are no better than that photographer, at least in the eyes of the marketplace. Your hard work to separate yourself through technical skills and a unique vision means little if your fees don’t reflect the quality of your work. You must know how to market your business, how to price your work, and how to stick to your prices.
If we as professionals don’t provide a consistently high-quality product, and stand up for the value of that product, clients will continue settling for “good enough” — even when they know it isn’t.