Contemplation on Competition

Competition within the photography world can be brutal. I felt it even before I entered the realm. I never wanted to be one of "those people" who pick up a DSLR and suddenly think they are a photographer. I had a lot of anxiety about this at the beginning mostly due fear of what other people might think. I forced myself to get over it because I pretty much didn't have a choice. 

I *get* it though.

There are a lot of photographers out there who have spent years and years perfecting their craft, learning, investing their time and spending money on equipment. Then here comes newbie with their "barely not a point and shoot" camera, fresh out of the box charging $20 for a disc of images. It may kind of suck and it may not be "fair", but its life and you have to learn how to deal instead of complaining about things you can't really control. 

When I first started my business, I could almost physically feel the pressure of competition from other established photographers in town. I didn't want any of them to feel like I was in this to steal their business, but there wasn't really any way I could control what they thought. I tend to worry to much about what other people think and this was no exception. 

About a year into business I had a little bit of an epiphany with regards to competition. Its not really a new concept as I formulated my thoughts after reading about the experiences of others.

I discovered I had one of two choices:

A) I could worry about competition. I could fret about established photographers not liking me and potentially being mean to me because I started a business, and/or worry about brand new photographers entering the market and charging next to nothing for photos. 


B)  I could embrace the fact that there is a market for everyone and I pretty much just need to worry about myself since that is the only thing I can actually control in all of this.  

I choose B. And I have to choose it over and over again, almost every day.  It can be hard, but in reality it's freeing.

It frees you up to really focus on YOUR technique, YOUR customer service, YOUR style, YOUR pricing, YOUR client relationships. Not focusing so much on what everyone else is doing and letting it get to you frees up so much time to focus on you and your business and growing it how you see fit. 

Also, competition is a good thing. There needs to be competition to support the market for what it is. Here is an example by the numbers. 

The population of my current city (Ridgecrest, CA) is 28,325 people. Lets cut that number in half to account for children, spouses come up with a very ROUGH estimate of the number of FAMILIES that live in Ridgecrest.

14,163 (rounded up.) 

People have all kinds of photo needs: family, High School Senior, engagement, wedding, anniversary, child's birthday, newborn, maternity etc....and so these families might have needs for multiple sessions throughout the year, one or none. 

So lets take that family number and divide that in half as well because we know not EVERYONE has some sort of photo need going on every year. That leaves us at 7,081 (rounded down).

That is potentially SEVEN THOUSAND photo shoots per year even in this tiny little town. 

I don't know about you, but I definitely do NOT want to shoot 7,000 photo shoots in a year. Even if I shot 5 a week for the entire year that would only equal 260.

You HAVE to have competition to support the market. 

Even though I would say there are about 10-15 established and legal photographers in town, I know for a fact there are many others in town who may take pictures or call themselves photographers even though they do not have a business license and are not operating a business legally. 

So lets go crazy and say there are 100 photographers here in town. Seven thousand photo shoots and one hundred photographers equals about 70 photo shoots a year for each photographer or about 6 shoots per month. 

Granted, my number of both photo shoots and photographers may or may not be on the high or low side, but I think you get my point. 

There is enough business to go around. 

You and you alone will determine your success. I have learned from others as well as personal experience that it is possible to be successful in this business if you want to. No amount of "people who pick up a camera one day and decide to be a photographer" will make you go out of business.

There will always be a market for BMW, Ruths Chris Steakhouse and Nordstrom just as there will always be a market for Kia, McDonalds and WalMart. All of these places operate differently, cater to a different kind of client and are all successful according to their business goals. 

I choose what success looks like to me and I work towards it. Worrying about others is counterproductive. Make the choice. See what works and doesn't work for your business. Learn from others. Be inspired. Stick with it and love what you do.