Business + Marketing

Why Community Over Competition is Good for Your Brand

May 6, 2022

By Elena S Blair

Twelve years ago I had a newborn in my lap, a toddler at my heels, a dream in my heart, and a camera in my hand. Just like so many of us, I started down the path of photography for a personal reason and that reason happened to be the birth of my son. When he was born, I picked up a camera and that camera unleashed an artist and an entrepreneur that I never knew existed inside of me. After scouring the internet looking for education and community, I found that the community was hard to come by. Local photographers kept their tips and secrets close to their chest for fear that a new photographer like me would “undercut” our industry and online forums were harsh and unforgiving. As my success grew, I promised myself that I would always be welcoming and giving to our industry and always value community over competition, and I have wholeheartedly stuck to that promise.

[Read: Ways to Market Your Photo Business Compassionately]

Now, over a decade later, I have a multi-faceted, multiple six figure, mini empire…and I run the whole thing right from my dining room. In my mind we are all on the same journey, just on different parts of the path. We all have so much value to give and will always find ourselves in situations where we need help and guidance. As the quote says, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Thankfully, after being in business for a while I did form a community, and I attribute a lot of my success to that community. Some of my best friends in the world are actually my direct competition, literally competing for the same families. Guess what? We all have thriving businesses.

Here are four tips to help you embody community over competition:

  1. Be a positive, active member in photography online groups or forums. Even if you feel like you are new on the scene, you have value to share. Answer questions or give positive and constructive feedback to posts in groups that you are a member of. Folks remember who showed up in a positive and helpful way.

  2. Refer business to local peers. There are always going to be times that you get inquiries that just aren’t a great fit. Kindly refer those out to peers in your community who you know would do a great job. For example, I don’t photograph High School Seniors, so when I get an inquiry, I know I am going to send those to my good friend Mary Vance. Or when I get a wedding inquiry (don’t do weddings) I refer to my good friend Toni Christine. I know that I am sending those inquiries to talented photographers and the hope is that when those inquiries need a family photographer, they will think of me. I also know that my friends send their family inquiries to me. It’s a win-win situation.

  3. Join a group coaching program. I host a high-level group coaching program, The Elena S Blair Mastermind where community over competition is at the core of the program. Meaning that each member shares a collective goal of seeing massive personal and professional growth. Each member contributes their own life experience and expertise to make the program an enriching experience. This puts you in a curated group of photographers who all want to help each other achieve their goals and dreams. A true embodiment of community over competition.

  4. Attend a photography conference. When you attend an in-person event like a conference you are surrounded by your industry peers—it’s a photo community. An event like WPPI puts you in the same place as other photographers from all over the world. Nothing beats in person meetups and a conference is the best place for that. It’s like a sleep away camp for photographers! You will leave with new skills, inspiration, and above all new friends and connections that will last a lifetime.

[Read: The Portrait Masters: New Courses to Take Your Photo Business to the Next Level]

I have been in the industry long enough to know that there is more than enough business for all of us and there is absolutely a seat at the table for anyone who wants it. Together we can build a thriving industry of artists and business owners. I choose community over competition because we are truly better together.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elena has two courses currently available for purchase on The Portrait Masters Store: Behind the Scenes: Lifestyle Family – by Elena Blair and Behind the Scenes: Lifestyle Newborn and Maternity – by Elena Blair. She is also a scheduled speaker at TPM Conference this Fall. Buy Tickets to the Portrait Masters Conference | Sept. 11 – 14, 2022

Elena S. Blair

Elena S Blair is an award-winning lifestyle family and newborn photographer based in Seattle, WA. She is a frequent speaker at WPPI, and her work and words have been featured on popular online publications like The Huffington Post, Click & Co Blog, Dear Photographer, Adorama, Click It Up A Notch and many more.