The Best Way to Compete with Amateurs is… Don’t!

[by Rosh Sillars]

Trying to compete with someone whose purpose is to make a little extra money on the side without the overhead of a professional business is not realistic. It is a quick path to business failure.

Technology has set the bar lower then ever for entering the field of photography as a hobby, part-time job or career. The mystery of the photographers’ black box has been made simple and easy for anyone to use. The best way to build a career in photography today is create new mystery and magic that cannot be easily replicated.

Today’s professional photographer must set himself apart from the pack by offering advanced style, unique concepts, and an incredible photographic experience.

It’s easier said than done. Professional photographers cannot market solely on 20 years of business experience, great service and a portfolio of famous clients. If people don’t see the magic in your portfolio, they will be unwilling to pay the premium price you deserve.

Rosh Sillars is a media and corporate photographer, host of and co-author of the book Linked Photographer.

By Rosh Sillars | Posted: July 13th, 2010 | 10 comments


10 Responses to 'The Best Way to Compete with Amateurs is… Don’t!'

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  1. Differentiated value is what it is all about. And I’d like to add that the successful professional is also one who takes the time to assist new and up-coming “amateur” photographers, help out in the community, and deliver un-matched customer service. Taking better pictures is only part of the value equation.

    By Michael Van der Tol | Jul 13, 2010


  2. Oh, how I miss the days of the 4×5! Clients who hired you because of your skill and photographic creations. And they loved the elevated work that you could produce for them. Today, nobody seems to care.

    By Joel Silverman | Jul 13, 2010


  3. Amen.

    By Dan Fried | Jul 13, 2010


  4. Good comments.

    It is a different world that has hit creative people across many industries.

    Having been in the industry for over twenty years I can get mad from time to time. But, I find myself more in awe of the level of creativity expressed today compared to then. Also, the creative options I have available to me to create images I could only dream of twenty years ago is incredible.

    The next question for every photographer is how best to take advantage of the overwhelming options available today.

    Not easy.


    By Rosh | Jul 13, 2010


  5. Recently interviewed w studio for marketing position and was told by professional photographer w 30 years experience that his goal was to make a little more to cover his overhead. He was on social security and the quality of his photos were…well traditional photos with no retouching. I was quite taken back and basically told him I was looking for much much more and this was not a good fit. Sad to say he was taking young students in to teach camera skills money on the side perhaps? I spoke to him about WPPI, PPA, social media and trends. No interest I literally ran out of there knowing I must work with true professional photographers.

    By jo | Jul 14, 2010


  6. Show your clients what makes you so valuable. Is it your experience? Your amazing album designs? The best thing you can do is do not drop to a level where you are giving your art away.

    By Andrew | Jul 14, 2010


  7. As A Photographer myself I must agree with the comments. I have stuggled with this economy like most ,however I am not going to let my Photography stoop to an unprofessional level.I have noticed most people still want the best and if you spend some extra time and “sell” your quality I have noticed you can still get them in the door to pay.I think my best trick is to get the phone ringing with a special and then upsell in the end.

    By Senior Pictures | Jul 27, 2010


  8. The almighty dollar speaks louder that your beautiful portfolio and client list.

    The link is a discussion of how Time magazine purchased its cover photo for $30 from a microstock site.

    The end is near……

    By Sean Davis | Jul 27, 2010


  9. [...] The line between not-for-profit use like this and risking the reputation of a ‘cheap photographer’ is a little fuzzy for most of us new shooters. It’s just like the rivalery between full-time-working pros and hobbyists. In the end, cheap photographers only kill themselves and I have no suicidal tendencies. However microstock seems like a much worse legitimate way to make photos available to people with small or no budgets… This discussion has been going on for so long, I wish the old school would get over it. [...]


  10. Interesting article. As an English photographer teaching photography in Barcelona, I see both amateur and professional photographers.

    What’s often forgotten by sore professionals who’ve been working for years is that some amateurs, besides often having more expensive gear, could make it as superlative photographers but make more money in a different career.

    They’re then free to take bigger risks with their work and undercut a professional photographer in price.

    The answer seems to be specialisation in more boring/ fiddly areas of photographer and stronger client relationships.

    Ben @

    By Ben | Nov 23, 2011



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