So You’re a Professional Photographer… Why Should Anyone Hire You?

It’s about more than just being ‘creative’, you know.

Photo by the author.

“Why should I hire you to shoot this job for us?”

This is one of the most challenging questions you will ever get.

It happened to me in the early days of my career, and I had no answer. None.

My brain simply stopped doing anything as I sat there wondering what in the hell I was supposed to say? Was the CD asking me a personal question, a business question, or a stupid humiliating question?

I honestly didn’t know.
Maybe all three?

The portfolio showing seemed to have gone well. They liked my fashion work and complimented me on more than a few shots. In fact, they seemed to have loved the presentation.

And now I sat there like a deer in the headlights… totally blank.

I blurted out “Because I really want to do this job.”
<insert sound of blood pumping through the veins of my head>

In all of marketing hell, there was probably no worse answer than that one.

Let’s parse it out.

“Because”… why is ‘because’’ important? Answer — it isn’t. It really has no bearing on why she — or anyone for that matter — would want to consider me for the gig.

“I”… Yep, she asked me about how I could help her and I answered “me”. I took her question and turned it into a ‘me’ situation where my needs were paramount to her gig.

“Want”… seriously? Who the hell cares what I want? Want is infantile, and basically vacuous. What really matters is what she wants. How what I do will benefit her, not give me what I want… you know — ‘because’.

It may seem subtle, but actually, it is the 800# gorilla in the room. It is the base point of our brand as photographers, our ability to stand out, and our doorway into the gig.

Why should I hire you?

“This is the kind of shoot collaborative effort I excel at. I know what you want, and I know how we can get it done with even more than what the client expects. I have worked with most of the models you are considering and we get along very well. In fact, our collaboration skills can give your images much more impact.”

Why should I hire you?

“Well, for starters I am a very good still life shooter and because of my 10 years of experience, I believe the image we will make together will rock your client’s world.”

Why should I hire you?

“You are looking for something more than just a photograph on this project. That is exactly what I do. I will move mountains to get a shot that is beyond anything you are expecting and still be exactly what you need.”

Photo by the author.

Recently Ash Ambirge discussed a movie in which a deceased woman’s daughter, mother, and grandmother decided to make her life’s dream a reality.

They started a bakery. Baking consumed them. They loved to bake.

Bake, bake, bake, bake.

They assumed that being outstanding bakers would be all that they needed to become successful.

“Once they taste the delicious difference in our pastries, the skies the limit!”

They thought that being great bakers was enough.

In their neighborhood, there were at least four other bakeries within 4 minute’s walk,

Those bakers also thought they were terrific bakers as well.

They baked and baked and baked.

And the people of the neighborhood showed up at those bakeries every day for a baguette or cupcake.

You see, being a great baker means nothing if no one ever bothers to come in and try your pastries and yummy cakes. Clients don’t simply fall from the heavens.

Other, more established bakeries were already in existence and everyone in the neighborhood knew what to expect from each of them.

Why on earth, other than to get out of sudden rain, would anyone come into the new bakery?

Most people’s first thoughts turn to price.

“Let’s cut our prices to the bone and be the cheapest bakery in the area.”

Yeah, like that’s a terrific idea, right?

Nope. (Unfortunately, it is too often the answer at first.)

Then you are just the cheap bakery no one has gone into yet, and who wants to go into the new, untested, cheap bakery?

Exactly how they pivot from being the lonely, sad, unhappy bakery to the unbridled success they became I will not go into detail on. Watch the movie.

“Love, Sarah” is available. It is a charming little movie worth a watch.

In a capsulized version, they pivoted from a ‘generic’ bakery to a specialty bakery.

Instead of trying to get every person who wanted a loaf of bread or breakfast pastry to only those who wanted a particular type or style of delectable goodness, they turned the store around.

If you merely wanted a bagel or a cupcake, you had plenty of places to go and they all made terrific bagels and cupcakes. But if you want this special and somewhat unique set of flavors with your pastry and breads… well, you only have one destination, baby.

What does baking have to do with photography?

I think you already read between the lines and know exactly what I am talking about here.

Can we be too generic?

Even in our own niche?

Yes, of course. If our work looks generic, uninspiring, casually comfortable within the confines of a Shopify store selling $20 chachka we may need to get out more.

Out of the box, out of the normality of commercialism’s base level.

Kate Abby: Storytelling with multiple images to sell a concept. Perfect for these days of social media appetites for more and more content.

Chris Burkard: Adventure, beauty, and majestic landscapes. He not only shoots this stuff, but he also lives it and his authenticity is infectious.

Jaime Travezan: A singular approach to still life, people, and places mixed with technology as a mixer, Jaimie’s work is not for ‘everybody’. It is for those who seek his unusual approach.

Now, of course, we must maintain a level of base community standards where we can certainly provide photographic services to those who are not as adventurous visually… BUT, we have to find a way to stand in that environment as well.

Photo by the author.

And it isn’t price.
It isn’t Photoshop.
It isn’t cool parties or fancy promo items.

It is a brand experience.

Here are three ideas:

  1. At each shoot, take a moment to do a quick “Three Questions With ___” with your client. Do it on video. Do a still image and record the questions and answers. Do it audio-only. Find three questions that make them look great. Do all three and have 12–15 pieces of ‘content’ for your platforms.
  2. Make it a habit to introduce your client to two others who you think would be a good mix with them. For instance, say you are shooting a portrait of a Yoga instructor. Cool, introduce her to the fitness trainer you worked with last month, and the personal finance expert you did a Social Media package for. Voila, you become a business matchmaker and are the creator/owner of a huge network.
  3. Help your clients with ideas for other places to use their images. If you are well versed in social media platforms, it may be a wonderful way to get that client who is old-school interested in digital by encouraging them to build a profile, upload some images, and get more engagement.

Whatever you do, it will be more than the average. Always.

Photo by the author.

If I ask for 10 bids, I know I will get 9 boring emails with a few lines of text. But one of the bidders will send a treatment, a breakdown, and some options for me to peruse.

If I need a headshot, I know that 9 of them will be straightforward shots with little to no individuality, but one will try to find something deeper within me to bring the headshot to the fore with the viewer.

If I ask for a website to be built, I will see 9 documents full of what version javascript they are using and blah blah blah, but one will present the magic the website will bring. The passion for the design, the strength of the proposal, and the confidence of the bidder will make an impact on me.

So here is the challenge:

Think about what YOU can do to position your photography in such a way that you are less commodity and more specialized, although maintaining the ability to shoot for a wide variety of clients.

We are commercial photographers, and each of us also has something special we do — or know — that can bring more value and additional engagement to our business.

Try it.

It works.

Here are two articles you may enjoy.

It Is Far Better To Be the Only, Than To Be The “Best”

Portrait Photography: Keeping the Subject in Motion

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Don Giannatti

Don Giannatti

Designer. Photographer. Author. Entrepreneur: Loving life at 100MPH. I love designing, making photographs and writing.