Titles, Careful Not to Dilute Yourself

In today’s working environment we have to be diverse in the services that we offer in order to stay competitive.  Creative colleges and trade schools are driving this home by offering supplemental courses to expand students’ skill set beyond their original core focus.  Experienced industry pros are even moving into new areas in order to fill their schedules. Our younger generations are forced into learning multiple trades to stay employed in a flooded market.  However, in doing so we must be extremely mindful not to dilute ourselves away from what we do best.   And that is key… focus on what you do best!

Everyday I see people who lay claim to numerous titles; more than they could ever hope to provide all at once or be a dedicated professional.  It normally starts something like this… Jane Doe goes to school for graphic design but dabbles in photography, but is into fashion and does hair and makeup as well.  In setting up fun photoshoots with her friends they call her a photographer, a hairstylist, a makeup artist, stylist and so on.  Did she do all of those jobs… possibly.  But is she a dedicated professional at all of them? If a client hires her to do all of those services, can she deliver? Does doing those job duties make that person eligible for those titles?

I see so many people that claim to be a professional photographer simply by owning a DSLR and understanding basic principles, but this is a title that is earned through many other challenges just like any other profession.  This article isn’t to tell you that you’re doing things wrong but rather to broaden your perspective, earn more money and work less, and protect yourself and your clients from potential disaster by avoiding the temptation to offer services you aren’t prepared for.

As you lay claim to titles, be sure that you are as prepared for those responsibilities as you are with your core focus!

Its one thing to be able to help out in a crisis but I’m referring to the people actively advertising all of these services on their website, social media, business cards, etc. Do you have all the tools required to do the job right? Can you deliver quality results? Are you confident in your abilities?


Increased Responsibility – If a client hires you to be a photographer, a stylist, and a hair and makeup artist, all of these responsibilities are battling for your attention.  There just isnt enough of you to go around to properly cover all of those different aspects of a photo shoot. What happens if things don’t go as planned (and they rarely do)?  Working as a team helps spread out the responsibilities and each person has their own focus.  Putting all responsibility on your shoulders leaves no margin for error on any front.

Sales, Price, & Expectations – If you tell a client you can deliver all of these services for a job, they will probably believe you because they are assuming that its saving them time & money on hiring separate providers.  Because of that perception you have to do more work for less money.  If you hire out for the other services its easier to justify a higher price because they hiring a team, not a individual.  You must present the quote and price in a way that makes this clear.

What is the difference?

Someone who is dedicated to their trade will focus on their responsibilities  – they over-prepare, pack extra supplies, have a backup plan and backup equipment, have insurance, and are able to improvise.

Makeup, hair, photography, and wardrobe styling all require specialized knowledge and equipment in each of their related fields.  Do you think a professional makeup artist can do the job of a photographer – will they have backup cameras, lenses, and lighting if something breaks, will they have insurance if someone gets hurt?  Also, will a photographer understand the health precautions required for applying makeup with brushes or false lashes and will they have the right color pallet to blend with multiple skin tones? Will a hairstylist know how to mend or alter a garment if clothing doesn’t fit, will they know what fabrics photograph well under different lighting and different skin tones like a stylist would?

Will a still photographer understand and have the equipment that it takes to do video -do they know what IMAG is when a speaker requests it, do they have fluid mount tripods, understand display ratios and HD input/output and be able to compose a 5 minute clip from 10hrs of raw footage in a matter of hours and coordinate with AV staff for presentation.

All of the above are taken from experiences that I’ve witnessed first hand from people trying to over-sell their abilities.

Lasting Effect on Industry:

Diluting yourself as a professional has a long lasting affect that is hitting the entire industry of creative professionals. Not that long ago it was typical for photographers to bill for costs like wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, and models.  Today we face clients that expect a whole lot more for less.  A lot of it has to do with this misleading perception that 1 person can do the job of 5 or more specialized creatives and achieve the same quality results.  This is almost never the case.  Although we try to educate our clients on these points, in reality they don’t want to hear it and are more likely to go to one of these “all-in-ones” that will do it all for less.  Some of this is simply the realities of changes in modern business, managers without any experience in creative industries, and changes in perception from digital content, etc.  However, you can prevent a lot of these negative factors by channeling your talents towards your strongest qualities.

Case Examples?

Rather than offering 5 different services, pick 2 of your strongest most compatible ones. In addition to photography, my education is in marketing and I have 6+ years experience providing support for organic SEO, social media, content writing, e-commerce, website creation, branding and more.  Although my core focus is photography, my experience and education has given me the skill set needed to provide these services on a professional level. I still hire out for PPC and Adwords work because thats not my area of expertise.

I’ve helped out on video production jobs including DSLR video and HD pro camcorders, glidecams, LED and other continuous light sources, I own a copy of Final Cut Pro, but I don’t claim to be a videographer.  My equipment records video, but that’s not my gig nor do I feel I’m equipped with the knowledge to offer this on a professional level.  Videographers hire me to shoot stills, I hire them to shoot video.

The two best makeup artists that I work with are both great at hair, better than a lot of dedicated hair stylists, but they never advertise it… because makeup is their main thing.  The hairstylists I work with are awesome and they can do great makeup, but they don’t claim to be makeup artists… but it sure helps in emergencies.

One of those makeup artists is a very talented stylist with an active blog with a solid fan base and social media presence.  She really doesn’t advertise herself as one though, because she’s a makeup artist and she has a separate website and branding persona away from her style blog.  However, she is great at networking and people have recognized her talents and approached her in private and she is now a content writer for 3 different style and beauty publications.


Lets wrap this up on a positive note.  If people are coming to you for multiple services on the same job – photographer, makeup, hair, styling, etc.  You are really more of an agent than any one of those separate jobs.  As we’ve discussed here, you cannot do all of those jobs yourself at the same quality level as dedicated professionals in their trade and you are only harming your future value if you try to do so.  Rather than claiming those titles as an individual, try marketing yourself as an agent that provides these different creative services.  Go into the quoting process from a different angle listing each service on its own line with its own dedicated provider.

Even though you aren’t getting the profit from providing those separate services, I’ve always found the profit margin to labor ratio to be much higher.  More importantly, when the manager sees that he’s getting a team of professionals and not 1 person – it takes things to a whole other level and the price/quality perception is much higher.  It makes them take the project more seriously and also realize the work that’s required to make it happen; more respect.  This helps maintain a higher level of professionalism while employing additional people in the industry, good things all around.

About the Author:
Ryan holds a Bachelors in Marketing from Grand Canyon University, graduating on the dean's list. He has been providing professional photography services starting in 2003 and internet marketing services starting in 2007. His experience in specific industries including e-commerce gift/retail, aftermarket automotive industry, and Beauty/Cosmetology education and salon, and high-end designer fashion market provides him with unique insight for practical application of photography as it applies to modern advertising mediums and business needs.

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error: All Images © 2016 Ryan M. Walsh