How to be magnetic to new clients and stand out as a photographer


In episode 489 of the Business of Photography Podcast, Bryan looks into the challenges photographers face in an era of digital ubiquity and share seven essential rules to photographers apart. He also explores how photographers can master the “you” factor and the “photography” factor to showcase their uniqueness.

You’ll learn about:

  • The changing landscape of the photography business
  • 7 rules you need to follow to stand out as a photographer
  • How to craft your unique identity
  • The importance of creating remarkable work

Links and resources:

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How to be magnetic to new clients and stand out as a photographer

Named best of iTunes, The Business of Photography is a weekly podcast where we interview industry experts and business specialists who share high-value, no-fluff, concrete business ideas for professional photographers.

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Welcome to The Business of Photography podcast, powered by Sprout Studio, a studio management suite built for photographers by photographers. Here’s your host, Bryan Caporicci.

Hi and welcome to episode 489 of the Business of Photography podcast. My name is Bryan Caporicci, and I’m excited to talk today about something that I know a lot of photographers are worried about going into this last part of 2023 and also going into 2024. Let’s kind of back up and set the frame a little bit in the sort of changing market that we’re in today. As it has been changing and as a lot has happened over the last few years, I think one of the biggest struggles that so many photographers seem to be battling is how do you stand out in a very, very crowded market? There’s more photographers than ever before, all sort of vying for attention. And so photographers are wondering, how do you break through the noise and create a lasting impression? And so today, we’re going to talk all about this.

We’re going to get into the nuance and the nitty gritty and all of the strategies around this. Specifically, we’re talking about how to be magnetic to new clients and stand out as a photographer. Now, before we get into that, a couple of really quick housekeeping reminder items. For every podcast that we’ve been doing in this new format, we have both an article, a YouTube video, and a podcast version of this content. So if you would prefer to watch a video, you can watch me on YouTube. If you would prefer to listen to a podcast, you can listen wherever it is that you listen to podcasts or if you’d rather read, we basically take all of this structure and turn it into an article over on Getsproutstudio.com. So again, you can learn all of this content whatever way or even multiple ways. If you want to watch the video and then listen passively in a podcast and then also reference back the notes in an article, you can.

So there’s lots of ways to learn this stuff. And then we also send an email every single week with one actionable tip, one specific strategy related to the content. It’s called Seeds to Success. And it’s totally free. All of this is totally free, of course. So we just want to make sure that we are able to give this to you and help you and help you learn in whatever way makes the most sense for you. So with that being said, if you want to watch or listen or read or subscribe to the email, wherever it is that you’re watching, listening, or reading this, well, I guess you wouldn’t be reading me talking. But regardless, wherever you are consuming this content right now, somewhere above, below, around, in front somewhere, you’re going to see other ways to consume this content.

And so feel free to go and connect in those other ways instead. Last little Housekeeping is that if you want to surround yourself with this kind of content, if you want to surround yourself with these kinds of lessons, but maybe in smaller doses or in little bite sized chunks, then would love to have you connect with us over on Instagram or TikTok. We are basically taking these episodes and we’re splicing them up into smaller pieces and just constantly dripping them into the feed and into our stories. So if you want to create this sphere around you of this kind of content, just kind of always giving you little thoughts, little ideas and little nudges to keep your head in the business game, then that would be a really good way to sort of surround yourself with that by subscribing and following over there, actually also on YouTube, because we do YouTube shorts. So YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, we’re trying to be as many places as we can so we can help as many of you as we possibly can.

Okay, let’s get into today’s content, which is how to be magnetic to new clients and how to stand out as a photographer. And before we do that, let’s kind of define the problem a little bit and I want you to sort of follow along and see which of these makes most sense to you, which of these you feel like you can relate to the most or I mean, maybe it’s all of them. This is sort of like a snapshot of the industry today. There’s a few challenges in standing out. Let’s kind of run through them. Your clients appreciation for photography has decreased. Your clients consumption of photography as a medium has increased. Your clients have more options than ever before. Your clients can differentiate between good and great. Sorry, they can’t differentiate between good and great.

That’s been a problem that has been emphasized more and more and more as the other items that I just talked about. Their consumption going up, their appreciation going down. That’s been a real challenge there. Your clients don’t know where or how to look for photographers. Your clients will remember the last photographer they heard of. It’s called the recency effect. Your clients will read the same thing on every photographer’s website or most photographers website. Your clients will see the same preset, the same filter, the same treatment with a lot of photographers.

If you can’t say what makes you different, then your clients won’t be able to identify that either. And then lastly, your clients don’t know what to ask. So really what it all comes down to is you have clients who, one, have a lower appreciation for photography, two, feel like they can do it themselves, three, have more options when they do need to hire someone. Four, perceive most photographers to be the same, and five are uneducated about professional photography that creates this situation that is very difficult to cut through. And that’s why you’re feeling this burn. That’s why you’re feeling I don’t know how to market. I need to get in front of more people. People aren’t booking me.

People are price shopping. It’s become increasingly competitive. Those are the reasons your clients have a lower appreciation for photography. They feel like they can do it themselves. They have more options than ever before. They perceive most of us to be the same and they’re uneducated about professional photography. So it is a situation that is changing and is very difficult to stand out in that kind of world. Again, you are here and you’re listening, and so you’re going to get some cues and some clues and some ideas and some strategies for how you actually can stand out in this sea of photographers.

And so I have seven tenets, seven sort of core principles, some pillars that if you start to check these things off, if you start to pay attention to these things, and it actually all boils down to just two, I’ll tell you about that in just a minute. But if you start to check off these things, you’re going to be able to stand out. You will start differentiating yourself from other photographers and you will start attracting clients and the right kind of clients for you. Let’s run through these seven things really quickly. Number one, your clients must trust you. Number two, your clients must like you. Number three, you must connect and build rapport with your clients. Number four, you must have credibility with your clients. Number five, you must instil confidence in your clients. Number six, your clients must be excited to work with you. And then number seven, you must add value to your clients lives.

Those are the seven pillars. If you can do those things and focus your energy on those seven things, the guaranteed outcome is that you will stand out in the market. The guaranteed outcome is that you will have clients knocking down your doors looking to book for you, book with you. The guaranteed outcome is that you will be able to charge the prices that you know you’re worth for your clients and your clients will be happy to pay them. But if you’re not focusing on those seven things, then you’re not going to be able to stand out as a photographer in today’s market and in the future.

And it’s so important to be really critical about these seven things because you can see in here, there’s a lot of things that a lot of photographers spend a lot of energy on that is not in that list of things. A lot of the things that we often consume ourselves with, that we spend so much time and energy focusing on, that we think is so important, that we think is just like, that’s what’s going to help me stand out. It’s not on that list and they’re not the things that we think are actually going to move the needle for us in our business. So really, at the end of the day, I said that it all boils down to two things, and it does. How your clients are judging you, how your clients are looking at you as a photographer, and how your clients are comparing you to ten other photographers that are available in the area, all comes down to two things. So those seven things kind of boil down to two things. One is your work, and two is you. And you need to focus on those two things.

Those are two massive levers that you can be playing with in your business. And there’s very specific levers that you can be working for each one of those both you and for your work. And we’re going to talk about that today in the episode. But those are the two things that you can be focusing on, that you should be focusing on. That’s what your clients are judging you on. That’s what your clients are comparing you on. That’s what your clients are evaluating whether you’re worth the money or not. That’s how your clients decide if you’re adding value to their lives in a way that is worth more than what you’re charging them.

So you and your work, let’s kind of look at those and let’s dissect those a little bit and understand what are the levers that can impact both the you side of the equation and your work side of the equation. So I’ve got a couple of examples for each and I think this would actually be a really interesting process to walk through, like for yourself, sort of like on your own piece of paper or on your own whiteboard or on an iPad or whatever on a sheet of paper. Just start brainstorming. What are the levers that you can be pulling for the you piece of the equation and the your work piece of the equation? If you can eliminate some maybe biases that you have going into that based on things that you want to be doing, but instead focus on the things that you think will actually drive impact, that will actually drive differentiation both on the you piece and on your work piece. Let me give you a few examples. Again, this is not exhaustive, but these are a few examples of some of those levers that you can start pulling on the you piece and your work piece. So let’s talk about you first. The one thing that we like to start with, with this is your digital presence.

And that really ultimately comes down to you. Like your website, your social profiling, your profiles on various directories and things like that, but just your digital presence. And here’s the thing, and I’ve talked about this for years and I think it’s more relevant now than it really has ever been. And that is that your website. And again, you have to think about it just before I even go there, think about this. We’re talking about the levers that impact how your clients judge you and compare you. Now again, that’s not the same thing as your work, your photography. I’m talking about you, the person.

And if you think about it, if you go back up to those pillars that we talked about and we talked about the different things that you can be doing to stand out, we talked about your clients must trust you, your clients must like you, you must connect and build rapport. You must have credibility, you must instil confidence. Like we talked about those things, none of those are about your work, none of those is about your photography. Not to say your photography doesn’t matter, I’m not saying that at all. By no means am I saying that. But there is so much more that goes into the you piece of the equation, in my opinion, than your work piece of the equation. And so I appropriately put the website piece under the category of you because I believe that your website should not be a portfolio. Your website has a portfolio, but your website, inclusively is not a portfolio.

Your website has a portfolio. Your website the whole point of this, and I’ve done entire courses on this, I’ve done entire keynotes on this, we’ve had podcast series that have gone on for several episodes just about this idea of your website being your digital storefront. It is supposed to welcome your clients to sort of your little corner of the internet and build that relationship with them and help them trust you and like you and connect with you and have rapport with you and invite them into the experience of doing business with you and demonstrate to them how you can add value to their life. And that is all accomplished by so much more than just a portfolio. And so that’s why it’s, I think, really important for you to be critical about how you connect, how you build trust, how you build rapport, how you build relationships, how you communicate about what you do and how you can help your clients on your website. Beyond just having the most beautiful pictures that you possibly can imagine on your website. Again, I’m not saying don’t put beautiful pictures on your website, you absolutely should. Your portfolio should be stunning, no question.

We’ll talk about your work in just a little bit. But your website needs to do so much more than that. And so consider that as a part of the equation. That your website’s job is to build that relationship, is to start that relationship, is to build that connection. And arguably your social should be doing the exact same thing. Now let’s move on to another piece, another lever that you can be pulling as it relates to the you piece, and that is social proof. This often typically shows up in the form of testimonials or reviews or client love or whatever kind of language you want to use for it. But showing that other people have done business with you, other people have engaged with you and have come out of that process better than where they were when they started.

The process is a really important piece of social proof. And again, it bears repeating that this isn’t just about the photography, this isn’t just about your clients, past clients saying like, oh, I loved Jane, the pictures were beautiful, or I loved John, I really love the album that we got that’s about the work. And I’m not saying that you don’t have clients that promote your work and advocate for your work, but I believe that social proof is really most useful and most effective when you can have it. Actually, comment on the entire experience when you can have it. Comment on you, on trust, on credibility, on likability, on rapport, on experience, on customer service, on just things beyond just the work. Because the work, potential clients will be able to see your work and we’ll talk about your work in a little bit, but potential clients will be able to see that. But social proof needs to enforce back up, speak to the things that are perhaps not as obvious to see. So be mindful of that.

And again, I’ve done entire episodes, I’ve done entire keynotes, I’ve done entire courses just on how to get the best testimonials that will actually drive your business forward. So I’m not going to go into all the nuance of how to do that right now in this episode. But it’s something to be mindful of that social proof needs to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to credibility, authority, trust, and all those things that you should be thinking about when it comes to differentiating yourself as a photographer. And the last piece that I want to underscore here is the importance of having client focused language, and that is you should be talking more about your clients than you are talking about yourself. And I’ve been advocating for this for a very long time. And the best way that I’ve seen it summarized in sort of a sentence is in Donald Miller’s book “Building a Story Brand”, where he says, your clients are the centre of the story. Your client is the hero, not you. You are the guide.

And I think that really sums up what I’ve been teaching and talking about for a decade now, which is that you should not make everything that you do about you and you shouldn’t make your social about you. You shouldn’t make your website about you. You should be making all of that about how you can help your clients, how your clients can get something out of this relationship together, how you can add value to their lives, how you can help them, help them see themselves as your client as opposed to the other way around, which is it’s all about you. It’s all about the photographer, it’s all about the awards, the accolades, your background, your story what you love your coffee, your this, your dogs like no one cares. And I’m not saying that you don’t sprinkle those things in to build rapport, to build those elements of how people can connect with you. But it’s important that you adapt a client focused language model and a client centric business model and when you do, it’s going to have a massive impact on the U piece of the equation. Okay, those are a few items on the U piece of the equation. Let’s transition and talk a little bit about the work piece of the equation.

And again, this is sort of interesting because at the beginning I talked about some of the challenges that you face today and standing out. And a lot of that had to do with this idea of your clients are reading the same thing on every site, they’re seeing the same preset in every photographer. They can’t differentiate between good and great. If you can’t talk about what makes you different, how are your clients going to do that? So all of that has to do with your work piece of it. But I just want you to think about this idea of visual styles like your work, your artistic touch and consistency and how do you stand out from a pure photographic standpoint. Just think about that for a moment. And for risk of ruffling a few feathers, I want to just underscore this idea that if your differentiator is that you’re light and airy well, yeah, you and every other photographer in your market, that’s not a differentiator, that’s the same brush, right? That’s not a differentiator brush. That’s the same brush that is going to have you blending in with other photographers.

If your style or if your sort of brand voice or your differentiator is that you’re dark and moody. Yeah, you and every other photographer. Again, this is one of those things where if you latch onto these things that we know internally, like in the industry, as terms, as words, as ways to talk about what we do, or even just as trends to attach onto. If you attach onto a trend by the very nature of the fact that you’re attaching onto a trend, it means you’re not differentiating yourself. And I’m not saying that you don’t adapt. If you love that style of light and airy, cool, go for it. Do it. But that needs to be a starting point, that’s not the finishing point.

And so you have to build a visual style that you can call your own, a way that you can differentiate yourself photographically, but then also a level of consistency. Because if you’re always following a trend, well, trends change and so you’re constantly changing. And the very definition of a brand is something that is consistent and reliable and predictable. Trends are not that at all. And so you just need to balance this idea of like yes, you want to be on trend. Yes, you want to be styled in a way that is attractive for today’s market. Yes. But at the same time, if you’re constantly just playing the chameleon game, you’re never going to be able to stand out as a photographer.

So be mindful about that. I know I’m kind of, like, getting a little bit controversial in some of these ideas here, but it’s just something that I think I see too many photographers that just try and ride that wave of the trend and then they’re just, like, constantly changing and they’re always evolving their logos and their styles and their websites and their approach and their equipment and their presets, and they’re jumping around all these things and then they never end up having anything that looks consistent and cohesive and that’s not going to do well on the market. That’s not going to help you grow a consistent business and build predictability into the work that you’re creating for your clients because it’s always different. It’s always changing.

The last part I want to talk about on your work part is one of those problems I talked about earlier, which is that if you can’t talk about your value proposition, if you can’t actually put into words what makes you different, then you’re going to lose this game altogether. It’s going to be a race to the bottom. You’re playing in that messy middle, and you’re not going to be able to grow the kind of business and have the kinds of clients and charge the kind of prices that you want to. So you need to be able to articulate in words, in language, what makes you different from a photography standpoint, from an artistic, from a creative standpoint.

You need to be able to talk about that. And the true test on this is if you write that out into a paragraph and then give it to a friend or give it to someone that doesn’t know you, could they read that and say, well, yeah, that sounds like every photographer I know. Oh, my style is this, and I really believe in this, and I’m a hopeless romantic. It’s like, okay, yeah. So I could say that about any photographer, you need to have an approach, an opinion, a stance, a brand, a way of talking about your work that is uniquely you because otherwise it’s so easy to compare you with anyone else because you’re the same. And that’s how clients are going to see it too. So there’s kind of like a breakdown and a bit of an analysis from maybe a bit of a harsh perspective of how you can be standing out as a photographer and what are the ways that our clients are judging us on. How are they looking at what you do as a photographer, how are they looking at how they can connect with you and how they can build rapport with you and how they can trust you and like you and know you and want to do business with you and get excited about it and have confidence in you.

These are all the ways that you can impact that. And I hope that maybe this gave you a bit of a refreshed perspective on how you can stand out in an ever changing market in a sea of photographers that are now more than ever blending in together. And I hope that with this, you can create a business, create a brand, create a style, create an approach, create a value proposition that stands out from everybody else.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode, for watching this episode again. Would love to have you connect on the YouTube video, on the podcast, on the article on seeds to success. If you want to get this, an email on Instagram, TikTok, on YouTube shorts to get this stuff dripped into your feed as well. We’re trying to be everywhere and everywhere to help you. And if you know a photographer that might find value in this content, we’d love it if you would share this with them because it just helps us reach more photographers and help more photographers like you.

Thank you so much for listening, watching and looking forward to connecting on the next episode. Bye for now.

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