I hear it all the time. “My market is so saturated with photographers,” or “I can’t set myself apart from my competitors because there’s so many of them.”

It seems like at least once a month, I hear a complaint about how saturated a photographer’s local market is, and how they can’t find any jobs because of it. Instead, they’re forced to work another job, putting photography on the side or keeping it as simply a hobby.

Here’s the thing. You CAN make photography work for you. You just have to put in the effort.

Talking about competition

What I said above can be applied to virtually every industry. There will always be competition, and while it makes our job a little tougher, it ultimately means more of an open market for consumers.

Not every business, family or high school senior is right for you. You might not have a certain style that, say, others in the area might have. You might not give the feeling that one of those prospective clients is looking for. You might be out of their budget range.

Your competitors might seem like they’re doing everything right. Like they’re killing it. But the truth of the matter is, they’re putting forth a ton of work getting a client to sign. You can do that too.

Evaluate your business

There are a few things to do when you think you can’t make it in a saturated market.

What’s your pricing?

Cold call other photographers who compete with you and ask what their hourly rate is. Ask for a bid for something you regularly get hired to photograph (or want to get hired for).

This helps to know what your market is like. You might be too high, or too low. And depending on how far off you are from your competition, it might make you look unprofessional and inexperienced. If you’re too low, it might look like you’re desperate, trying to get any client you can. If you’re too high, it’ll turn off prospective clients, knowing they can get a better price elsewhere.

What are your results?

It’s important to be able to showcase the photographs you take for a client. If you don’t already have clients, here are some ideas to get you started. Showcase a wide diversity of images.

Don’t compare your photographs to other photographers, but if you have a mentor, get their honest opinion on the photographs. You can submit them to the Photofocus team as well, and we might feature you in an upcoming webinar.

What’s your experience?

If your market is saturated, it’s important to be able to stand out among a wide variety of factors. One of these is simply your client list. If you’ve worked with some big-name clients, be sure that’s easy to find on your website. I personally put a few logos of the companies I photograph for the more on my homepage, in addition to some I’ve been very lucky to photograph for (in my case, CNBC).

This is obviously more important with corporate photographers, but the same can be said for family, wedding and newborn photographers too. Instead of showcasing names of companies or logos, get some testimonials from clients you’ve worked with that you can showcase. Make them short and sweet so they can be read quickly.

Ways to stand apart

When I hear photographers talk about saturation, it’s almost always due to them thinking there are too many photographers in their area to compete with. They think there’s not enough work to go around.

Think about it though. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, there are thousands of companies, families and more. Are there thousands of photographers in that area? Probably not. And if you’re in a smaller area, the same principle applies. There’s plenty of work to go around — you just need to make yourself noticed and stand apart. Here are a few ideas:

  • Host a free or cheap headshot day for entrepreneurs
  • Host free photowalks
  • Start a unique project and showcase it at a local coffee shop or gallery
  • Become active on social media, and tag companies in your area that fit that particular photograph. Be careful not to spam them!
  • Reach out to local newspapers or magazines to see if they have any upcoming needs
  • Photograph public events outdoors. Think food truck rallies, celebrations, etc. Then tag the organizing company on your social media with a few photos.

In today’s market, everyone can be a photographer. And as long as you have a strategy, you can make it a successful business, too.

For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.