Is it just me, or are you noticing it too? A slow homogenization of the photography (and video) worlds. More and more things are all starting to look alike. First it was websites. Website after website I come to in the photo world are looking remarkably similar. Here’s a funny story, at WPPI, luxury wedding photographer and marketing expert Kevin Swan did a branding consult in front of group of photographers. Part of the consult involved comparing the subject’s website to four or five others. Four of the five websites all had the same website template. It was rather comical, and totally unplanned.
With the onset of template blogs, they are staring to look very similar too. And now I’m seeing promo videos that all have a very similar look and feel, from the editing, effects, even the things the subjects say.
In an era where there are a ton of books like Purple Cow and Fast Track Photographer that extol the importance and virtues of being unique, of setting yourself apart, why are there so many professionals going in the opposite direction? Settling on bland branding and in some cases, outright copying. Check out these two videos:
And now this:
The first video by Scarlett was posted seven months ago on Vimeo. The second one was posted three months ago. Setting aside the fact that both videos use copyrighted music for their promo video (which I strongly suggest you don’t do), when I was showed this second video I just cracked up. It is an extreme example of this homogenization I’ve been noticing. The same thing is happening in my industry. Some colleagues of mine have noticed their websites copied word for word and image by image by new comers; or their videos copied shot for shot.
Are professionals who are supposed to be creative that starved for creativity?
IT’S OKAY TO BE INSPIRED
I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong to be inspired by others. It’s only natural. There’s nothing really completely new under the sun. But, there’s a difference between being inspired by someone, and copying. Or being lazy in your branding and settling on a template that has no distinction to it. If it’s the experience that you provide your clients (and potential clients) that will set you apart and justify your worth, you only hurt yourself in the long run by diluting your brand, or not having a unique brand. Get inspiration from those you admire, but then run with it in a different direction. Be different.
I don’t just want to be a complainer, so here are some suggestions of what you could do:
- Websites and blogs: I understand that these hard economic times may make it difficult for you to get a customized website or blog. So, if you’re going with a template due to cost, at least pick a template that every body and their mother hasn’t already used a million and one times. Many of these template companies have hundreds of templates. Go with one you’ve never seen used. Heck, even if you DON’T like it. Just being different will make it worthwhile.
- Promo videos: If you see a promo video by a colleague that you really like, and you hire the company that made the video, tell them that you want your video to be shot and edited different than the other videos they’ve done. If you recognize the talent in the video producer, they probably have the talent to do something different, but it may take your vision and insistence to get there. Use YOUR creativity to work with the video producer to make YOUR video different than the other videos done by that producer.
- Photography and videography: as a filmmaker, I’m inspired by other artists and by movies and by television. But I’m always looking for ways to do it different. Brett Culp is an extremely talented celebrity wedding videographer in Florida. I remember him saying one time in a presentation that he’ll go to a wedding and try to come up with ten different ways to shoot the wedding cake. Rather than fall into the same old routine, he forced himself to think outside the box. This is something you can apply to both photography and videography. As my friend Dane puts it, “get off automatic!”
GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you are in a position where you can afford it, get some professional help. Hire a pro branding agency to help you develop your website and/or other marketing collateral. Yes, it can be an expensive investment, but it IS an investment. One that can pay for itself in due time if you can truly set yourself apart. You small studios out there may want to give a call to Elevation, a southern California branding company that is offering a special program for pro photographers (and I’m sure they’d offer it to small videography studios too). For a limited time, you can get their Fortune 500 branding experience at a 30-40% discount. Check it out.
WHO ARE YOU?
So I ask again, “Will the real YOU please stand up. Or should I say, “please stand OUT.” Twenty-five years ago Apple Computer released a ground-breaking commercial during the Super Bowl to herald the release of the first Macintosh computer. Watch it below and ask yourself, “Who do you want to be in this video?” The mindless automatons marching in rows, colorless and bland? Or, do you want to be the hero with the sledge hammer making a statement and going against the grain?