Go Ahead, Reinvent the Wheel

By Anthony R . Socci

You’ve heard it many times before, “Don’t reinvent the wheel!” Well, that’s good advice if you’re trying to get rolling (pun intended), but it’s not good advice when you’re trying to establish a photography business.


Yes, there are certain rules that you must follow because they have proven to be time-tested for success, but you’ve also heard it said that you need to set yourself apart from every other photographer. You need to give potential clients a good reason to hire you instead of Wilson’s Wedding, Portrait, Architectural, Baby, Industrial, Food, Restoration and Aerial Photography Shop.

I’m sure you’ve seen photographers with similar braggadocio and if you read between the lines, they scream, “Help! I’ll do anything for money. Please hire me!” This type of approach will also scare away most of the preferred clients you’re trying to attract. The obvious lesson here is to become great in a specialized area of photography – so great that those preferred clients will think of you first, and put jingle in your phone as well as in your pocket.

So what should you do when someone calls your studio and requests a service that you have no idea how to provide? There are two options:

  1. Accept the job and bluff your way through it, ultimately delivering an inferior product.
  2. Decline the offer and instead refer the caller to a qualified photographer who specializes in the requested specific service. Yes, graciously decline the job.

In the first scenario, you’ll wind up with probable frustrations and an unhappy client who is now reluctant to pay you for your inferior service. This client will be lost forever and will not recommend you to her friends.

In the second instance, your honesty will be appreciated and remembered and will most likely lead to future referrals by the potential client and the photographer to whom she was referred. You might even give that photographer a call and tell him about your referral and, by the way, would he refer potential clients that he really doesn’t want but you’d be happy to accept?

So what has this to do with reinventing the wheel? You’re deciding on what tickles your photographic fancy and you’ve perfected it; you have become a specialist in your area of expertise. This alone could set you apart from that do-it-all photographer whether three blocks or thirty miles away from your studio.

One of my mentors in professional photography, Robert Stevenson, once told a class I attended at the Rochester Institute of Technology, “There’s nothing new in photography. Our job is to figure out how to do it differently.”

Speaking of Rochester, the Eastman Kodak company decided to sit on it’s big red and yellow film reputation while the competition was reinventing the new film-eliminating wheel called, “digital imaging.”

Kodak failed to reinvent the wheel. Will you?

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