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Ed's subject was minimizing competition in your marketplace. Ed rightfully contends that having a website and/or portfolio with images that look much like everyone else's photos (in a given photographer's marketplace) simply means your photography is competing with everyone else in terms of style and other elements of a photo. Because of that, factors which have little to do with the actual photography become more important than, well than the photography itself. Factors like price and other things that are more of a business nature, rather than a photography nature.
I couldn't agree more.
Ed suggests offering something that others may not be able to deliver: a unique vision. In other words, your own brand of photography. (Actually, those were Ed's words too.) What Ed is talking about, of course, has mostly to do with the creative and artistic elements of photography. You'll still have to produce technically competent images, but being mostly focused on the tech stuff isn't going to help too many photographers stand out, especially since so many other photographers you may be competing with can likely match your technical skill without too much of a problem.
As I've mentioned numerous times on this blog, I spend quite a bit of time on photography forums, Facebook photography group pages, and those sorts of places on the web. In doing that, I can't help but notice how similar many photographers' work seems to be. I'm not talking about the content of the images, but the approach. The tech stuff.
For example, I've noticed that HSS (High Speed Sync) is quite popular amongst many photographers these days, whether they're shooting portraits, weddings, children. HSS can certainly deliver some very dramatic looking images. Especially since those images are overpowering the ambient daylight and, sometimes, the sun itself. But when so many are shooting that way, a lot of the wow-value is diminished. Instead, it becomes more the same.
I'll add to Ed's suggestion about delivering what others may not be able to deliver by saying that photographers might do better going against the current visual trends, offering images that stand out simply because so few other photographers in the marketplace are shooting them. Doing so means focusing more on the artistic aspects of one's photography rather than the technical aspects. It could also mean using approaches, technical approaches to lighting and more that fewer photographers seem to be employing these days. Likely because many of them follow the trends more than they work at developing their own style or utilizing a style that may not be currently in vogue.
Ed warns that all your potential clients probably won't "get" or appreciate what you're producing. He allows that it takes a certain amount of courage to buck the trends and go with what may only (at first) appeal to the individual photographer or a small group of potential clients rather than shooting for the masses. But he also notes that the people who will appreciate what you're shooting, who will "get it," will not only become customers, they'll likely become loyal customers. If there's one thing that I've learned over the years, it's that loyalty is incredibly important. Perhaps more important than almost any other aspect of working as a photographer. Leastwise, for me it's been that way.
The half-naked pretty girl at the top is Sasha Grey. Sasha was wearing that wig which, as you can see in the second image, is pink. I'll admit I wasn't overly thrilled with the wig. (It wasn't my idea to have her pull it onto her head, it was the client's idea.) My "issues" with it weren't so much about the wig itself or wearing a wig in general, they were more about the wig being pink. While I was shooting, however, I was already thinking, "But it might look cool in monochrome."
I used three lights: a 5' Photoflex Octo set slightly camera-right and a bit above her, plus two shoot-through umbrellas, either side from behind. For the second image above, I dropped the Octo down a bit so as to better reveal Sasha's eyes. Both images were snapped in manual mode, ISO 100, f/5.6, 160th with my Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime on my 5D classic. Monochrome conversion for the pic at the top was with PS's B&W tool.