Intro by Skip Cohen

This is one of my favorite posts Bev Walden has written. Everything she shares in her Tuesday Tidbits email blast is ALWAYS on point, but this one on “Style” hit home. From finding ways to separate yourself from your competitors to stay focused on what’s in your heart to never stop learning – she hits all the ingredients to help you become an even better business owner.

Remember, you can’t create images that tug at people’s heartstrings if your own heart isn’t in it. At the same time, you need to have fun in what you’re doing and so do your clients when working with you.

And when it comes to the importance of never stop learning, keep in mind that growth only happens outside your comfort zone. As you plan your travel schedule for conferences or workshops in 2023, sign up for at least one class a day that’s completely outside your comfort zone. 

You can’t be in business today as a “one-trick pony.” And while nobody can be everything to everybody, the greater your expertise in imaging, the better your ability to create great images within your own specialty.

If you have ever heard us teach, the topic of STYLE is always at the top of our list. Why? Because to succeed in the photography business today, you must stand out from the “sea of sameness.” 

What makes you stand out? Why should I come to you and pay your prices and not go to my neighbor who will shoot and burn for $25.00?

The two reasons you would NEVER want clients to darken your doors are PRICE AND LOCATION. Are you the cheapest? Are you the most convenient location?

Let’s talk a bit about STYLE and FIVE INSIGHTS we have gained over the years.

Insight #1: The more specific your style, the more you will experience people not liking it. It is more important that people KNOW what you do rather than LIKE what you do.

It’s ok! You will never, ever please everyone with who you are and what you do. Those that love it will travel and pay your price to come to you and those who don’t won’t bother you! What touches you deep inside? What is your inner artist speaking to you? Define it in your mind and then start working on Insight #2.

Insight #2: Narrow your style down even more than you think possible to speed up the recognition of it.

Yep, this is the scary part. When we were developing our iconic Relationship style years ago, we set tight parameters that we never broke; always square, only 3 sizes, only one choice of mat, etc.

We called it our “trophy” style and worked to elevate it so that we could finally stop doing what we didn’t love to do. It took time and consistency to break through to the public and when it finally did, it was like a rocket ship! 

Insight #3: Don’t do what you sincerely don’t want to do.

Photography is tied to your heartstrings! Listen to your heart…do what you are passionate about or risk losing the joy you once had.

I often think about what I loved as a child and those same things are what I love as an adult. This is how I found my style when I first started shooting. So often, we get pushed and pulled in a hundred different directions as we search for our style. We drift this way and that, trying to find our way in the turbulent waters of starting a business or trying to turn a failing business around.

But when you go against your soul, you feel
Lost—Fake—Adrift—and an imposter!

If something doesn’t feel right to you, or for you, don’t do it.  Just because every other photographer in town is doing it doesn’t mean it is right for you. 

Don’t be so desperate to find your photographic style that you lose yourself in the process. This is a lose-lose scenario. 

Insight #4: You won’t create a Loan print (or masterpiece) every time you shoot.

Even though we go into each session with this as a goal, we are ok if things don’t turn out as we envisioned. However, I will say, the longer you are in business, the better you will be at doing amazing work even under difficult circumstances.

I love what Tim once said, “We may shoot a lot of junk, but the gems lie among the junk!”  In other words, keep on shooting until you feel you have what you want. Then trash the junk and keep the gems.

Just keep moving forward, keep your chin up and stay joyful!

Insight #5: Never stop learning.

When we stop being teachable, we drift backwards. Nobody has it all figured out and never will. There is always something new to learn; there is always room to grow.

Surround yourself with those on the same path as you are on or desire to be on, then incorporate the bits that speak to you. Don’t be a copy, but find your own voice. It will not happen overnight, but over time and with study (and consistency), your style will become clearer.

Finding your photographic style is a journey. Finding your voice as an artist is what makes what we do so fun and interesting. It’s what makes your work different than mine, and my work different than the photographer’s work down the block. It’s also what makes this world rich and beautiful and wonderfully exciting.

“You see this pattern over and over with many creative people: they have this little bit of magic, a spark of something that comes naturally to them, and it’s often messy and weird and a little bit off, and that’s why they catch our attention in the first place. The odd magic is what we love about them.” ~ 
~Austin Kleon