4 steps to help you find your unique value as a photographer

February 24, 2020

A couple months ago, the Focal team decided to tag along to an engagement shoot with one of our photographers, Marlboro Wang. With permission of J+J (the couple), we were planning to do a little behind-the-scenes video. So we headed down to Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, BC for the shoot. We met up with J+J and Marlboro proceeded to set up at the first location: a beautiful field of tall grass.

Now, I just want to preface by talking a bit about the type of photographer Marlboro is:

The reason I mention this is because when we were shooting with J+J, we happened to be right next to another very prominent Victoria photographer shooting an engagement. We were all startled when the other photographer suddenly started laughing out loud. Turns out, it's part of their approach — when they start laughing, it gets the clients to laugh too, and suddenly, the photographer has a raw and genuine moment to capture. Yet when J+J looked over and saw what was happening, they said, "please don't do that to us!"

Making good matches

What I’m trying to illustrate is that for clients, booking a photographer is often a mystery. Until the shoot, they rarely have an idea of what sort of experience they'll get with a photographer, and whether it will be a good fit for their personality. With J+J, we just got lucky that they were happy with Marlboro's style — they very easily could have been envious of the other couple laughing!

This is why at Focal, we put a huge focus on making good matches between customers and photographers. We want to take the guessing game out of booking a photographer so that customers have a great experience.

After all, great experiences equal great photos.

If clients are looking for a very energetic, fun photoshoot with a natural flow, then they should know which photographers are going to match their style. Same if they want to get the movie star treatment with soft boxes and flashing lights.

But the only way clients can know if you’re a good match for them is if you give them an idea of the type of experience you provide. The more you're able to convey your unique value as a photographer, the better it'll be for both you and your clients.

Read our free booklet: 7 Tips for Growing Your Photography Business

You can't be the perfect photographer for everyone.

That’s just a fact. Instead, focus on what makes you special and convey that to customers. Doing so will result in more dream clients and less missed expectations on shoot day. And your clients will end up singing your praises and bringing you more business.

4 steps to help you discover your unique value as photographer:

1. Read your reviews and testimonials

Going through your reviews is not only a nice reminder of all the happiness you’ve delivered. It can also help you understand what customers appreciate the most about you. This is what you should focus on as your unique value.

It may be tempting to skip these steps and simply state what YOU think is most special about your photography.

Don’t.

You may see yourself as the photographer who’s great at being the fly on the wall and capturing genuine moments. But if your reviews all rave about how great you are at directing and making everyone feel comfortable in front of the camera, you should focus on that. Your customers will know best what it's like to do a photoshoot with you.

2. Talk to your photographer peers

Ask your fellow photographers what they think is special about you. I remember another Focal photographer raving about having second shot with Marlboro and how they were super jealous at his ability to shoot in extremely difficult lighting conditions. Ask a couple peers and see if there are one or two things that keep coming up about you. 

3. Talk with your customers

Talking with your customers is going to be the richest way to understand what makes you special as photographer because they are the people that have experienced it firsthand. Ask open ended questions:

Listen to their answers, and you’ll be able to tell immediately what it is that impacted them. Certain things will stand out because it will make the customer and you emotional when you hear it.

Maybe it’s that you made them feel confident, that seeing you in action made all the chaos of the wedding fade away, or how you stayed late to capture those last few moments even after the hours of coverage were up. Look for patterns in the answers and stories from your customers and you’ll start to discover that certain qualities stick out. It’s these profoundly meaningful moments that are at the core of your unique value as a photographer. It’s what sets you apart from the crowd and what customers will always remember about you.

4. Create unique value and experience statements

Begin by gathering up all the feedback you’ve received about yourself and start listing all the unique qualities that others have identified about you. A great way to do it is in this format:

I [ACTION] so that you [FEELING] and [BENEFIT].

For example:

I [shoot with big soft box flashes] so that you [feel like a movie star in your photoshoot] and [get beautifully lit photos, no matter if it’s too dark or bright sunlight.]

or 

When I’m shooting, I [like to start laughing behind the camera] so that you [can’t help but laugh too] and [I can capture a genuine and authentic experience between you and your partner!]

Now that you’ve determined what makes you unique and special as a photographer, you can begin showcasing it and finding more dream clients.

Your unique value statements are great for Instagram posts, on your website, or on your Focal portfolio. Consider using a few unique value statements in your packages so customers have an understanding of the experience they’re buying. That way, they're getting better, richer information than simply how many photos you offer.

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