How to create a photography business people can’t copy

Our last blog post was about ‘How To Become A High End Photographer‘ and today’s post neatly follows on from that.

Your business will always be extremely fragile if someone else can easily offer the same service as you but at a lower price.

The most obvious example of being easy to copy is to be a shoot and burn family portrait photographer who photographs everyone on a white background. Here in the UK, Venture photography studios were extremely successful with their colourful, high contrast, high energy photographs against a white background. Then, everyone started to copy their style and some of their studios had to close down.

However, Venture still have high end studios across the country, even though most photographers can replicate their style.

How do they survive when many of their framed portraits are over £1000 while many other photographers offer the same style of image for a fraction of the price?

How do you compete with the swathes of cheap (yet sometimes still talented) photographers?

How do you stop them copying you when you have a great new idea?

The secret comes in 4 parts:

  1. Do lots of things differently so it’s hard to copy your entire system.
  2. Do things other photographers aren’t prepared to do
  3. Do things that are difficult or expensive to copy.
  4. Learn how to promote and run your business more effectively.

Here are some of the ways you can differentiate yourself and create a photography business people can’t copy.


Compete on service

Compete on service, not on price! Click To Tweet

If everyone else is burning CDs in your area you’ll really stand out if you offer high quality printing and framing and albums. That’s one small way I differentiate my business.

I help my clients get excited about wall portraits and albums and they’re happy to spend more than they’d planned because they see the value of finished products over CDs. Very few of the people who get in touch with me are interested in only having digital files. Even the people who mention them to start with are rarely very committed to the idea.

I meet my portrait clients before they’ve booked me so we can plan the session. We discuss the style they like, the ideal clothing for portraits, the locations we could create the images etc.

Taking this extra step shows I care about creating something bespoke and personal for them. Since they’re becoming more included in the process they’re more excited and much more likely to be delighted with the images.

I show all my clients their photographs in-person using a projector so they can see their photographs at a decent size. I help them choose their images and frames and albums and they appreciate the service. Many photographers won’t take this step for a variety of reasons (fear, perceived time constraints, lack of knowledge etc.).

I even use ProSelect software that enables me to show my clients their photographs on the walls of their home, to scale and with my supplier’s frames around them.

I offer a signed guarantee that my clients (including wedding clients) will receive all their money back if they don’t love their photographs. Not many photographers are prepared to do that, so I focus heavily on it in my marketing.

The fact that my prices are high (and they’re not on my website for competitors to copy) means other photographers are less inclined to copy me. They can’t see how anyone can make a living selling high end products because they see all the cheap competition. Of course  the opposite is true – the fact that no-one else does it is why I CAN make a living selling high end in my low income area.

My frames often cost me more than my competitors are selling there’s for! I’m selling quality and the people who want something of quality will choose me over my competition.

By offering quality and service and by investing in some extra tools to help you sell you can quickly separate yourself from the rabble. Most photographers simply aren’t prepared to take these steps. Are you?



One thing your competition definitely can’t copy is your network of alliances. I work with local businesses on projects that are mutually beneficial. For example, I offer a special gift for their clients and in exchange they promote my business (Get Pro Photo Club members get access to the complete system for doing this, including the template download).

Again, other photographers aren’t prepared to go out and network so you get access to many more clients than they do. Even the ones who do take action will never be able to use the same alliances you do. You just keep adding to your alliance list until you have all the clients you need.


Become a marketing black-belt, ninja, Jedi, Samurai

What’s the point of being a great photographer and offering a wonderful service if no-one knows you exist? The cheaper photographers don’t tend to have the profit margin or the time to do any marketing.

But if you’re mastering Facebook adverts, getting referrals from wedding suppliers and local businesses, getting your website well ranked on Google, going to networking clubs etc. etc. then you’ll have all the clients you need. Even if you’re more expensive than other photographers.

You won’t book everyone who calls, but that’s ok you only want to work with the people who value what you do anyway.


Acquire and use testimonials effectively

Set up a Google business page and ask every client to write a testimonial on it. It will help your Google ranking and builds ‘social proof’. Social proof is where prospects can see you’re popular and therefore they feel safe about choosing you. Even though you may be more expensive they can see that other people were more than happy with the results.

Asking for testimonials is the easiest thing in the world, but they’re incredibly powerful. I use them in all my marketing. Most photographers just don’t think to ask. Even when they get them they simply tuck them away on a testimonials page of their website.

Use them liberally throughout your marketing. You can never have enough.


Create a photographic style

Photographic style is something that can be copied, but not always easily. And not always by the cheaper photographers who are just starting out.

Take a look at Jake Olson or Bradford Rowley and you’ll see that their work isn’t going to be easy to replicate.

As professionals we always want to be improving our skills. My feeling is it’s good to have a style,  but to keep pushing your boundaries so you’re always one step ahead. As soon as you sit still people will catch up.

I feel our clients are getting more knowledgeable about what can be achieved through photography. They’re getting used to seeing stunning images online. Becoming a master of off-camera flash and Photoshop will be worth the investment of time and money because it’s one more thing many photographers put off.

This is just a tiny list of the things you can do. But the reason most photographers don’t do them is because they either:

  • Don’t know how
  • Don’t want to
  • Didn’t realise it was important in the first place

Since you’ve taken the time to read this post you clearly appreciate that business skills are rather important in a photography business. It is a business after all.

So you have to ask yourself, do you want to do the things that are required to run a successful, full time photography business?

If you do, then we’re here to show you exactly how to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Get Pro Photo Club membership is the emergency services for photographers. We don’t just tell you what to do and how to do it, we’re available to answer your questions every step of the way. You can try it out free for a month, so what do you have to lose?