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4.2 Finding Your Look

Finding your niche and getting known for a certain style or specialty is the key to becoming popular in your area. This lesson explores how to define a niche for your business by building a creative commercial identity.

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4.2 Finding Your Look

In the last lesson, I showed you several common assignments that you'll get as a commercial photographer. In this lesson, we're going to look at how to create definition for your business by creating a creative commercial identity. The first step is to make a list of your favorite photographers. Once you've made a list of your favorite photographers, break down and analyze what is it about them that you like. There's a lot of photographers on my list, and each photographer is on there for another reason. So there's no one specific photographer that I draw from. But for purposes of this example, I really love the work of Dave Hill. If you breakdown an analysis of his work, you could say that it's hyper-realistic, it creates a fantasy scene that you really can't get in camera, in kind of a cartoonish, but always a high energy and that hyper-real way. You can see an example of what I mean in this photo that I took for the web series, Job Hunters. Step number two is look at your own work. If you can analyze critically if there are any themes and consistencies that run throughout your own portfolio, then you can identify what is like the photographers that you like. Do you draw on bold colors? Do you draw on that hyper-realistic fantasy? Do you draw on more of a subtle street photography look? Whatever it is, building that key consistency and theme throughout your portfolio is the next step to getting yourself a creative identity. Third, keep an inspiration board. Online sites like Pinterest are ideal for this, but even before the Internet, there was good old taking magazine clippings. I actually have a binder of paper, yes, real paper, because you never know where inspiration could strike. Anything from the lighting that I saw in a makeup advertisement, to I actually have a Sunday church bulletin because I liked a specific graphic design element that they used. And that graphic design element actually informs some of my photography. It doesn't matter what it is that you put inside your inspiration folder, whether it's online on Pinterest, a folder on your computer, or physical paper clippings. As long as it speaks to you, put it into the inspiration folder. Or if you don't want to have a folder, put it up on a wall. If you have the space for that, that's great because you can always refer to it with a quick glance up on the wall versus actually saying, I wanna look at it and pulling out the folder. Next, make a list of dream clients. Who is it that you wanna work with? Even if you think that that company is beyond your reach right now, you never know. If you wanna work with big name brands such as Intel or Coca Cola, even Mercedes, yes, I did a shoot for Mercedes. I never thought that would happen, but by creating a dream list of clients and looking at the types of photos that they use in their advertising, and then being able to build that up to that level, you might actually be surprised and get those dream clients. If you see that a company you want to work with uses the type of photography that is resonant with the photographers that you liked, and resonant with the themes that you see running throughout your portfolio. Then you have a lot better chance of working with them, and focusing your efforts to being able to reach that client than if you were just saying I want to work with big companies, and not having any specific goals in mind. A goal, when it's not written down, is a wish. So actually create names that are real names to be able to put on that dream client list. And finally, if you're looking at themes in your own portfolio, and you're having a hard time finding them, that might be a clue that you just need to shoot more. You need to keep building your portfolio. Keep building your portfolio to the point where you have a very clear, consistent idea of those themes running throughout it, and your style, and that you can articulate that I shoot candid street photography. I shoot that hyper-realistic Dave Hill style. I love that Dave Hill created the "Dave Hill" style, because if you can create a style after your own name, then you definitely know that you have a creative brand identity. In the next section, we're going to take a look at the importance of retouching in the commercial photography industry.

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