How Do You Stand Out?

A producer I worked with in the past brought it to my attention that another client/producer in the community called me a dime a dozen photographer. I guess she wanted to inform what was being said about me because this inside knowledge would be of some benefit. To me this side talk is meaningless and truthfully, we’re all a dime a dozen dun dun dun!

Using myself as an example:

As of today there is 7.1 billion people living on our planet (and counting!)
4.45% of that population lives in the United States (316,486,444.)
12% of that population is a California resident (38,041,430.)
10.1% of Californians are in the Los Angeles area (3,857,799.)
11.3% of those Angelinos are Asian American (435,931.287.)
50.2% of those Asian Americans are female (218,837.51)

Assuming that I’m a truly unique and individual person there could be potentially 218,000+ others just like me. Since working in the creative fields is highly subjective and competitive, how do you stand out?

Stop Trying to be Original

While sitting in lectures halls and critique circles, I remember having casual conversations with fellow creatives on developing ideas for projects. A good portion of the time we discussed ideas that either have already been done or were a derivative of other ideas. It was hard to come up with something original because every idea that could have been conceived had already been thought of. These early talks would either go off on a tangent due to lack of progression in critical thinking, end in frustration over being unoriginal, or would actually develop into something interesting because it combined a lot of unoriginal ideas. Nothing is completely original and all creative work builds on what came before.

Think of it this way. We are all vessels that carry and collect difference experiences. Because of life’s randomness, we grow up in different places, in different social structures, and experience different things. Thus, we become original remixes of combined ideas. Ironically, once we stop trying to stand out from the crowd and accept the notion that we’re all remixes of life’s experiences, do we actually stand out.


Go Down the Rabbit Hole

Now that we’ve accepted that we’re remixes of prior ideas, it’s time to go down the rabbit hole! Naturally we’re all attracted to different interests and activities. The best way to make more creative work is to constantly keep your mind stimulated by exploring the things that naturally interest you. Meaning, be open and be curious.

For me I want to be able to tell stories with visceral energy through my photographs. Therefore, I am constantly studying and immersing myself in all other forms of narratives such as films, graphic novels, and theater. Although I can’t say that there is a direct correlation between the amount of studying of random interests and the quantity/quality of ideas you have, I can say that in-depth ideas and the ability to create on a moment’s notice have a higher frequency of occurrence.


Embrace Yourself

This last point might be off the charts on cheesiness, but to stand out from everyone is to embrace you. Yep, right now I probably sound like one of those “let’s bond!” or “accept our differences!” assemblies that high schools make you sit through during your teenage years. They are, however, right on point. Once we stop trying to be what we believe others perceive as successful/trendy/cool/etc., can we be successful.

One way to think about this:

The majority of world looks at the late Steve Jobs as a successful entrepreneur. He’s done a plethora of interviews, talks, and even has a bio-pic coming out about his life. If you wanted to be like Steve you would follow his journey and every move, but in the end, you’ll never actually be Steve Jobs.Even if you created a consumer electronic company rivaling Apple (let’s call it Orange!), you still won’t attain the status that Steve had.


It’s much easier to grow, progress, (and if we want to get into it –market) ourselves if we’re completely honest and grounded in our identity.

That’s it for now! Go out and be weird.


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