A job market that is low on jobs, high on applicants has a pretty serious supply and demand problem. So for creatives in the similar industries, competition can be cut-throat.
So we asked three photographers and one filmmaker who work in similar creative fields, how they feel about competition, and if there is enough space in the creative world for everyone.
Hint: yes. There most certainly is.
We’re chatting competition. So we want to know, do you think there is enough space for everyone to be successful?
Monica: 100% yes BUT you have to create your own voice and brand. The photography market is over-saturated and copying another person's style or imitating their every move is not going to get you anywhere long-term. For me, I noticed very early on that the wedding photography market was very crowded so I had to shift gears and create my own niche with interiors photography.
Laura: A common complaint I hear in our little North East corner is that the market is over-saturated, so filled to the brim with wedding photographers, that you can't throw a rock [or toss a bouquet] without hitting one. And it's probably true, that there are more photographers now than ever before. Technology has made taking a decent photo much simpler for the masses, and the days of needing to have double-majored in technical engineering and chemistry to develop a dang picture are long gone.
That being said, roughly eleventy-billion people get married in this country every year, and of all of those weddings taking place, I need like 0.00001% to find me and my website full of awesomeness, in order for me to make a good living, and buy nice shoes.
I think there is plenty of space for the true go-getters, hard workers, movers, shakers and troublemakers to be successful, and I firmly believe in community over competition.
Sarah: Competition is healthy for us. It keeps us alert and fuels our passion for creativity. My biggest competitor will always be my inner self- everything I’ve ever created could’ve been better; there’s always something I could have moved or fixed just slightly to make my eyeballs happier. But when it comes to the outside world, I believe that there is plenty of success to be shared despite the heavy amounts of competition, which seems to increase exponentially year after year.
Trisha: With our current obsession over all things visual, the marketplace has expanded. We’ve seen businesses pioneer their way into new open market space by offering fresh concepts that weren’t available before. Or businesses collaborating to create new experiences for their clients.
The industry has really developed into a community, and it’s breaking barriers creatively.
There’s a lot, a lot of talk about women in business and how "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.” Thoughts, feelings, concerns about this concept?
Monica: I’m not much of a fan of the quote to be completely honest. I believe that women do need to support one another, but we don't all have to get along. That is just an unrealistic expectation. Yes shit happens, situations are unfair, and girls can be mean, but you have to move on.
Laura: I wouldn't be where I am today, making a living as a photographer, if it hadn't been for my tribe of peers who supported me through the thick and thin of it all. One of my BFFs fo' life is a stellar wedding photographer, and we have talked each other's ears off simply trying to figure shit out. That's just what you do. You should support all of your friends, and especially the women folk. Plus, you gotta put good juju out there in the world, unless you want to get hit by lightning.
Sarah: I try to stay away from all negative thoughts. I just worry about what I am doing and how I act.
Trisha: I’ve never heard that quote, but it’s funny! I appreciate and look up to the women in business who lift others up and can go so far as publicly promote another. It takes assurance of self and professionalism to be able to accomplish that in a genuine way.
How do you support a peer, while also making sure you’re carving out a space for yourself?
Monica: I try to set boundaries. Sharing photography notes and referring potential clients to a peer are okay. I am not okay with sharing all my editing techniques and secrets. Anything that makes you feel semi-uncomfortable should probably be kept to yourself. That goes for anything... your addiction to The Arrow, the tattoo you got in Mexico, your grandma's spaghetti recipe, etc.
Laura: Support to me, means being a cheerleader when they level up, bringing over a magnum of wine and two straws after a tough gig, giving advice on 'the obvious stuff' [technical mumbo jumbo, general marketing, the basic how to’s of running a small business] and being a sounding board for their thoughts and ideas, if they need one.
The stuff that makes me the ridiculously fantastical unicorn that I am, isn't all that poachable. It is how I interact with my clients, the way I present myself, my online persona, lots of wine, and really just me being me. My clients hire ME, and the great work they get as a result is just the cherry on top of a colorful and tasty sundae.
Laura: Oh, and keep your very best ideas to your dang self until you are ready and able to put them out into the universe.
Sarah: I love cross-promotion. Just make sure you are getting credit where you deserve it. Remember that it won’t hurt to kindly remind someone to tag you or your business in their posts, images, etc., or to make sure they give you a shout out for helping them put a project together. Just remember to do the same for them.
Trisha: We try to support our peers by referring work to them when we cannot do the work ourselves, whether that’s due to date conflicts or some other reason. It’s very rare for us to tell a potential client that we’re not available for a date without giving them a couple of our favorite industry peers' contact info. We also try to support new upcoming businesses that have shown an interest in what we are doing. The more we share with them our processes, philosophies, and techniques, the more we learn about ourselves. It’s an opportunity to be kind and also leads us to reevaluate our business as a whole. Win-win!
Have there been times when you’ve recognized an unhealthy competitive edge in yourself? Times when you've realized, this is not useful energy?
Monica: Yes, and it stemmed from an unhealthy amount of scrolling on Instagram, which I now limit. It has gotten a bit out of hand... hasn't it? The moment I notice myself feeling an inkling of jealousy or competitiveness I stop myself! Cold turkey.
Laura: Dude. When I first started a Facebook business page in 2010, I had a crazy stupid obsession with getting a ton of likes. I would stalk other pages and set goals to surpass their amount of fans by 'x date', like a jealous jilted lover stalks her ex while eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's under the covers late at night. It was bad.
The good thing that came from my Single-White-Female-Fatal-Attraction Era was that I learned A LOT about Facebook. It really helped me cultivate a good following of legit fans and I can honestly say that 85% of my business I owe to Mark Zuckerberg's desire to score chicks.
Sarah: There have definitely been moments where my healthy competitive nature has taken a turn to an unhealthy obsession with being better than someone else vs. just being the best I can be. Sometimes you have to check yo self! Never forget that the one thing no one else can be is YOU! Be authentic. Stay true to you.
Trisha: There have been times when we would hear about other businesses working on a high profile project, and I would wonder if we were considered. Part of that allows us to examine our style and see what our brand positioning is. However, the other part is time wasted, because we might spend valuable energy dwelling on something that has already occurred, and making assumptions that could be totally incorrect.
Where do you get your inspiration? And how do you balance the delicate line of being inspired by someone’s work, and copying it?
Monica: I get inspiration from reading books, playing the piano, going to the flower market, watching classic movies, and traveling. Doing it the old fashioned way! Everyone copies to some degree and I think it is ok. The best way to balance it is to get inspiration from something and then, twist it and make it your own version.
Sarah: Traveling inspires me more than anything. Leaving the comfort zone and forcing myself to explore personally unchartered territory expands my brain and really gets my creativity going. From the vivid colors of India to experiencing the northern lights in Finland, it all comes home with me and helps me add more layers to my artistic soul. You have to take it all in then magically morph it into your own expression. It’s an art form which takes a lifetime to perfect. I live life in the pursuit.
Trisha: I love watching documentaries about business owners who started small and went thru growing pains. Or reading about Pixar’s model for teamwork. We also look to our peers on social media. I love seeing what they are working on and how they are developing as visual creators. Their editing styles, equipment, and even what they ate for dinner is interesting! However, it’s not about trying the same drone shot or purchasing the same lighting. It is just wise to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses in your industry to be capable of meeting the needs of your client. I may need to copy what they had for dinner though!
Laura: So, I don't follow any other photographers' work, because the great ones [and there are plenty great photographers all over this planet] sometimes make me look at my shit and say, "well, this is shit." I have a hard time getting out of that headspace, so instead I get my inspiration through other means, mainly architecture, talking to people, and literature. I also have a really vivid imagination, so there's always ideas floating around that I try to flesh out into a photographable concept.
"Complacency in a creative industry is a nail in your well-planned, well-designed, well-photographed coffin."
Laura: As for 'being copied'; you might think you're the first to do something, but chances are you're probably not. And if you are, and people are copying your hard work, use that indignation to light a fire under your bum to take your stuff and make it even better, newer, shinier. Complacency in a creative industry like the wedding world is a nail in your well-planned, well-designed, well-photographed coffin. And just imagine that first planner to style a wedding with mason jars, wild flowers and burlap galore...he or she probably wishes they trademarked that ish.
Arianna Schioldager is Create & Cultivate's editorial director. You can find her on IG @ariannawrotethis and more about her on this site she never updates www.ariannawrotethis.com