How to Make Your Photography Work Stand Out

By Kyle Wilson

No doubt, photography is a highly competitive field. Whether capturing stunning landscapes, intimate portraits, or documenting once-in-a-lifetime events, you need to make your work rise above the noise and be unforgettable, especially when everyone with a smartphone thinks they’re a photographer. 

How can you make your photography work stand out and be recognized?

Cultivate Objectivity

Lose your attachments

Time to lose the rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, we can get attached to our ideas, even if it isn’t flattering to the client. Or, our vision can be tainted by our relationship with the client or the recent experience of the shoot. Practice taking an objective look at your work and culling photos that just don’t hit the mark. 

Raise the bar

Sharpen your vision by comparing your work to photographers you aspire to be like. Genuinely ask yourself if your work looks like work inspired by them. This is how you get in the lane you want to be. Comparing your work to the local market sets the bar for mediocrity. To elevate and differentiate, weigh your images up amongst the experts. 

Pay Attention to the Right Kind of Feedback

Hint: It’s not from Instagram

Getting likes on social media feels nice, but it doesn’t help you improve your skills. Professional critiques from your peers are more valuable than the opinions of your friends, your mom, or some random strangers who don’t know a thing about good photography. 

How to get helpful feedback: 

  • Attend workshops to learn from others and get critiqued on your work. 
  • Join online photography groups and post your images for others to comment on. 
  • Take online courses to find a supportive community.
  • Learn from photographers you admire by watching them work or asking to be their second shooter. 

Listen to what the pros say to fine-tune your distinct methods and approach. 

Find Your Style Through Your Work

Start by saying yes to everything

It’s a journey to becoming a distinctive photographer. Sometimes, your work may not match what you aspire to create. Lots of artists experience that failure and stop there. They are frustrated by the gap between their taste and their abilities. But the only way out is through. 

Ira Glass, the iconic American radio host and producer, has a message for all creative people that he wishes someone had told him at the outset. “The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work,” says Glass. “It’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.” 

In a nutshell: Always be shooting.

Until you find your sweet spot

Producing a high volume of work is the fastest way to teach yourself to quickly recognize great work and sharpen your skills. Your unique style will reveal itself in time. At this point, you can start saying yes to only the work you are enthusiastic about and that cultivates your defined style. Your work will improve when you’re excited about what you’re doing. 

Intentionally Curate What You Show

Focus on what you want to be known for

Be selective about what photos you use in your portfolio or share online - show only the work you want to do more of. This helps establish your brand identity and sets you apart by showcasing who you are and what you do that is uniquely you. Share what you absolutely love rather than what you think you’re supposed to be doing, e.g. if you don’t love table settings, don’t put them in your portfolio. You don’t have to display every single thing you shoot. Tell the stories you want people to associate with your brand. 

Only show your absolute best work

You’ll make more of an impression by sharing one or two genuinely great photos rather than muddy the waters with ten so-so ones. Curate your portfolio and online image to get you where you want to be. 

Check out your favorite photographers' Instagram pages and observe how their gallery portrays their best work in a cohesive style. Aim for yours to create a similar impact. Utilize the latest tools like Narrative Publish to save time creating professional blog posts that showcase your best images and reflect the type of photos you want to shoot.

Choose What You Consume

Use your social media for good

Fill your feeds with the art you wish you could make. Create a social media echo chamber that feeds your creativity and passion. Follow renowned photographers and designers who inspire you. Make it so that when you log on, your feed is filled with catalysts for creativity, not poorly made lunches. 

Tailor your environment

Surround yourself with other creatives. Build an environment of talent and artistry, both online and off. It will keep you from getting comfortable with where you’re at and encourage you to strive to improve. After all, we become like the people we surround ourselves with.

Zig When Others Zag

Be contrary

The fastest way to fade into obscurity is to do what everyone else does. Buck the trends and differentiate. If everyone is shooting in muted colors, take a bold approach. Or go black and white. Experiment - it might not work out every time, but it will set you apart.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” - Judy Garland

Give yourself room to fail

Involve your clients in the process when trying out new ideas. Let them know you’re trying something new, and it might be garbage or it might be cool. Doing this means they don’t have expectations that this specific shot will amaze their friends while giving you a canvas to try new techniques.

Love What You Create

If you don’t love your work, it isn’t going to speak to anyone. Ryan Reynolds said it best: “Great work only comes from a place of enthusiasm.”

We hope these tips help you to make your photography work stand out:

  • Cultivating an objective viewpoint.
  • Seeking constructive feedback.
  • Producing work until your style matches your ambitions.
  • Curating what you show others.
  • Consuming creativity and inspiration daily.
  • Being contrary to the crowd and unafraid to fail.
  • Focus on what you truly love.

Now get out there and get shooting.