Stop Following the Masses

Stop Following the Masses

Intro by Skip Cohen

I heard a great expression the other day about the pandemic when a friend said, “We’re all in the same storm, just different boats!” We’ve all felt the pandemic’s impact, but as everyone works hard to rebuild the business, you’ve got to make yourself unique. You’re in a different boat! You’ve got to establish your own style and signature when defining your brand.

This recent Tuesday Tidbit from Bev Walden couldn’t be more on point to help you define what’s going to make you stand out with your target audience.

Bev and Tim Walden are two of the finest portrait artists in the world – yes, I used the word “world,” and it’s no exaggeration. Their black white Relationship portraits are unique and ALWAYS stunning. There’s never a compromise on the quality or the emotion they capture with each click of the shutter.

As you get back on track, it starts with your skillset and then what you choose for the ingredients in your finished presentations. Think of yourself as an exceptional chef, and you want your cuisine to be unique to your restaurant. While there are some entrees important to have that everyone offers, what makes a steak cooked by you worth the visit?

Right now, every photographer is fighting to re-establish themselves as a leading artist in their community. How are you going to make your work stand out?


By Beverly Walden

Never compete with others, you are not running the same race.

Gift Gugu Mona 

Ask yourself, “What is possible for me?” and not, “What is everybody else doing?”

In today’s environment, you must distinguish yourself. 

We got the first glimpse of the power of being unique when we developed our Relationship Black and White portrait line years ago. At that point, in our studio, we were all things to all people. No style, no consistency and failure as a studio. However, as our Relationship style matured, it took on a life of its own and formed the foundation for our success.

It makes up 60% or more of our sessions and the public still embraces it with gusto. Why? It is very distinct, narrow, focused, emotional, authentic and it appeals to the masses. These characteristics are what form any successful style.

Relationship portraits were “different” in a sea of “sameness.”

Here are 8 UNIQUE things we determined when we first started with Relationships several years ago and why they succeeded. We decided to either sink or swim but never compromise these parameters.

  1. They were always in black and white when the rest of the photography world was in color. We took a huge risk. While many photographers were coming out of the darkroom, we decided to go back in! Color photography was just becoming overwhelmingly popular and we decided to do this style ONLY in black and white. 
  2. It was named Relationship Portraiture…who had ever heard of naming a style at that time? Nobody! But the name has carried this style beautifully over the years.
  3. It was more about capturing the moment and body language and less about rigid poses. It was all about the client’s story, not about a camera smile or a nice pose with everyone looking into the camera.
  4. It had a strong emotional pull by showing moms, dads, babies and children interacting with each other, snuggling, kissing, hugging. 
  5. The composition was much closer and all about the faces as opposed to “pictorial” portraiture that made the subjects very small.
  6. We allowed ourselves the freedom to crop into subjects’ heads, sometimes cropping entire heads off! Whoa! Is that ok to do??? Answer-YES, when appropriate.
  7. They were dramatic and stark. Simple and dark. The lighting highlighted the main subjects while shadowing the secondary subjects. We closed the eyes of those in shadow to add to the emotional impact.
  8. We only offered it AS FINE ART BLACK AND WHITE IMAGERY, ONE COLOR OF MAT, ALWAYS SQUARE, NO SEPIAS, LIMITED SIZES AND LIMITED AVAILABILITY and we included Certificates of Authenticity and registered each image.

In other words, as you can see from the 8 points made above, we created a distinctive style with attributes we could consistently do again and again and tighten parameters.

We never strayed from these and today, our Relationship portraiture is still much sought after and very successful.

If you are currently all things to all people, you have diluted yourself in the marketplace and that makes it harder for people to choose you unless you are the cheapest or the easiest to get to.

Think about who you really are. What does the artist inside of you say? What makes your heart beat faster? 

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This article was written by
Beverly Walden

Beverly, along with her husband, Tim, took over Walden’s Photography in 1980, taking the studio in an entirely different direction when they developed their trademark “Relationship” Black and White Fine Art Portraiture. Today, they run a high-end studio, providing beautifully crafted portraits with impeccable customer service, along with Walden Coaching (www.WaldenCoaching.com) helping photographers build a stronger brand and business.

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