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Standing Out in the Digital Crowd – Part Two

Marketing: Standing Out in the Digital Crowd – Part Two

Originally Published December 2008

Several years ago, back before the current economic meltdown, marketing guru Seth Godin proclaimed the end of business as usual. From his wonderful bestseller “Purple Cow”: “The traditional [marketing] approaches are now obsolete. One hundred years of marketing thought are gone. Alternative approaches aren’t a novelty–they are all we’ve got left.” That may have seemed a bit extreme in 2007, but not today. Especially for portrait photographers, business as usual just won’t cut it.


In the pre-digital age, the key to being a successful photographer was looking and acting like every other photographer. But your competition is no longer other professionals, playing by the same rule book; you compete now with amateurs toting professional-quality equipment picked up at Best Buy. Take a look at the online photography forums, and you’ll find this group has its own acronym: MWACs (Moms With a Camera), or sometimes (less offensively) NWANs (Neighbors With a Nikon). Right or wrong, consumers believe that, with a digital camera, now anyone can take a great picture. In the old days, people owned Brownies, and they used them to take snapshots. Now they own 21st century computerized cameras that take incredible pictures. So the public no longer sees the need for a specialist (you) to document the important milestones in their lives. For a growing number of people, photography studios just don’t serve the purpose they once did.

With the economy in a tailspin, people have less disposable income than ever. People are looking to cut costs wherever they can. You won’t be able to compete with the MWACs on price, since they don’t have the overhead you do. (They don’t own a studio or professional equipment, just the camera.) To keep people coming in the door, you need to offer something the MWACs don’t have. As Seth Godin puts it, you need to offer something that is remarkable. You need to offer products and services that get people talking. Create images that they just can’t get anywhere else.

For this image, the background was created from other sources, composited, and then hand-painted in Corel Painter by A Work of Art Studio. Copyright The Portrait Parlor, Norton, VA. Reproduced with permission.

The Problem is its Own Solution

The good news is that digital photography gives us the very options we need to offer those remarkable images. For example, with Corel Painter we can turn photographs into images rivaling traditional oil paintings. With Photoshop, we can create exciting photo montages that appeal to seniors. And with both Photoshop and Painter, we can create imaginary backgrounds and sets, eliminating the need for expensive (and space-hogging) props.

Portrait photography is entering a new era, but only the studios willing to move away from “business as usual” will survive in this new era. I invite you to browse the articles available here on Digital Image Magazine, to help you get started on your way to creating truly remarkable images.

Marketing Tips: Standing Out in the Digital Crowd – Part One

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