Above: Image by Gina Milicia
I read a lot of emails and social media posts from discouraged newbie photographers about how crowded the photography market is and how hard it is to get a break. Sadly it’s true. It’s jam-packed at the entry-level.
Everyone and their dog is a photographer these days.
So why the increase? I blame the Oxford dictionary and all the other dictionaries for this new phenomena.
The Oxford dictionary defines a photographer as follows:
A person who takes photographs, especially as a job.
This means that anyone who takes photos is a photographer – it doesn’t need to be a job – that’s a bonus.
So anyone with a smartphone that photographs their lunch or takes selfies showing off their six-pack #blessed is a photographer, right? Well, no wonder there are so many more photographers in the world today. It’s never been easier to become one. Anyone with a camera is a photographer.
Yesterday my dog knocked my phone, and it accidentally took a photo. My dog is also a photographer.
The girl I sat next to at the beach who took a bazillion selfies #blessed is also a photographer.
If I expand on this definition and apply it to other professions, my resume starts looking a whole lot sexier.
This morning I brushed my teeth and flossed so I’ll add dentist to the list.
Last night I made a grilled cheese sandwich (chef).
Two weeks ago I removed a splinter from my finger (surgeon) popped a zit on my cheek (cosmetic surgeon) helped a friend unclog their sink (plumber) moved my couch to the other side of the room (interior designer).
Wow! I never realized how extensive my resume was. I could probably find more qualifications, but I’d like to remain humble.
The truth is I can call myself whatever I want to and join the entry-level of that profession. Anyone can move a couch, unclog a sink or take a photo but not everyone can do it in such a way that is unique and different and stands out from the crowd.
The entry-level of every profession is crowded but not everyone has the stamina to get past the “shoot on auto and whack an Instagram filter on” phase.
“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer
The best way to get noticed in a crowded market is to find ways to set yourself apart from the masses and take your work to the next level. There are millions and millions of average-to-good photographers. There are far fewer great photographers.
Taking your work to the next level as a photographer requires discipline and hard work. It’s not one single action that will make your images stand out but a combination of many small changes.
Shoot in manual mode
When you shoot in auto mode, you decide on the composition and the subject. The camera is making all the other creative decisions for you.
Shooting in auto is an excellent way to learn photography, but if you want to take creative control of your images and stand out from the crowd, you need to shoot in manual mode.
Understanding the subtle differences in light are a complete game-changer. Learning how to “see” good light or manufacture great light is a quality that will rapidly elevate your photography to the next level.
Instagram and Lightroom filters are commonly used by entry-level photographers. Knowing how to edit your photos will become an extension of your unique style, and this small shift is a powerful way to set your images apart from the pack.
There are few subjects remaining that have not been photographed. You don’t see many photos of Mars on Instagram or unicorns; everything else has been done to death. It may be difficult to find a unique subject to photograph but finding subjects that are meaningful to you are unique because no other photographer sees thinks or feels the same way that you do.
Focus on one thing you can improve at a time and dedicate time each day or week on that particular discipline. The good news is most people can’t be bothered doing the extra work, settle for being good enough and then complain about how crowded the market is.
“He who waits for roasted duck to fly into his mouth waits a long, long time.” – Chinese Proverb