What’s Your USP?

Toni In the SpotlightEvery business tries to have a unique selling position (USP) and that should include your photography business. So what will you do to give clients a reason to hire you instead of another photographer? How will you present your business to get the financial ball rolling in your direction?

There’s one school of thought that proposes price cutting to get people in your door. Here’s how I look at that:

You’re flying a small airplane at 2500 feet above ground level and something on the ground catches your eye but you’ve just passed it and you make a hasty decision to turn back to take a look. You crank in what you think is a reasonable number of degrees of bank as you turn your neck sharply to the right. Your airplane follows your head and before you know it, your “reasonable bank” turns into an ever increasing downward spiral. If you don’t do something to recover very soon, (like right now!) you’ll crash and burn! Not a good way to spend the rest of the afternoon!

Your fledgling photography business could end faster than you’ve planned, just like that ill-fated airplane ride. What would be your USP to keep you from crashing and burning? Do you have enough reserve cash to keep your business flying?

One Canadian photographer created his USP by offering one product at one price. He opened his studio with a 20×24 Polaroid camera and a fee of $1000 per portrait. He was unique because he stepped out of the traditional work in the late 1970s when 4×5, 5×5, 6×4.5 and 6x7mm films were king. These were the medium format cameras utilized in almost every studio. It took a while and he actually had to sell some of his furniture to keep his studio doors open, but eventually his first client came through the door. Whew! His USP worked as he became the only studio offering a one-of-kind, instant, large portrait. Most people at the time didn’t even know you could purchase a 20×24 Polaroid wall portrait.

Fast forward to today. You might want to view the video of Chuck Close and the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue at //www.20x24studio.com Mr. Close’s USP takes an interesting slant in that he instructs his subjects to wear no makeup, no special wardrobe and they comb their own hair.

Looking at your photography you might notice your own individual style. Do you work mostly outdoors? Are your photographs mainly moody? Do you prefer semi-silhouette subjects? Do you prefer black and white or color or extreme HDR (high density resolution) images? Digital enhancement? Your own USP could be staring you in the face but you haven’t noticed it.

If you decide to go B&W exclusively, you’ll be in great company. Ansel Adams, Mary Ellen Mark, Irving Penn, Henri Cartier Bresson, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, and Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, who created the iconic portrait of Ernest Hemingway – all of whom impacted my own photographic career. (I always wanted to look like Ernest Hemingway in my old age.)  Follow this link for a more in-depth view: famous b&w photographers. You’ll find images from Abraham Lincoln to Marilyn Monroe to Leonard Nimoy.

Decide on your USP and run with it! You will be happier and you’ll attract clients who appreciate your work and will pay you well for it. And, that’s much more fun than crashing and burning, isn’t it?