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The Real Differentiator: You

by Stephanie Faris
featured, photo & video

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Join Jeremy Cowart for his upcoming class, Lighting For Your Target Audience.

It was late on a Friday afternoon when respected photographer Jeremy Cowart walked into the offices of one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. Although he was armed with an extremely impressive portfolio, filled with breathtaking shots he’d taken of celebrities like Taylor Swift and Hayden Panettiere, the agency’s art director wasn’t wowed. He regularly worked with the best photographers in the business.

This wasn’t Jeremy’s first meeting with this advertising agency. In fact, he’d attempted meetings before with no success. While the art director was impressed with Jeremy’s portfolio, it was obvious the meeting was on the verge of ending with a dismissal. At the last minute, Jeremy was inspired to do something different.

Making It Unique

As the art director was reaching out for a goodbye handshake, Jeremy stopped him. “Can I show you a few more things?” he asked.

The art director hesitated. Finally, he agreed. Jeremy decided to take a different approach. He began giving the art director background on his life, sharing photos of his children and personal interests. He described a life-changing trip to Haiti and showed photos from his journey. He also described his work with Help-Portrait Worldwide, through which he provides portraits to those in need.

Sharing His Heart

By the time Jeremy finished discussing the many passion projects that are close to his heart, the art director was dumbfounded. He left the room, returning moments later with all of the employees who were still in the office.

“This is Jeremy Cowart,” the art director told his co-workers. “He is an idea guy, thinks like an art director, thinks so much bigger than any other photographers we work with, and I want to work with him.”

As impressive as Jeremy’s portfolio was, it wasn’t enough to win over an art director who had seen it all. Yet when Jeremy revealed his own true personality, one of the top art directors in the business was motivated to hire him immediately.

Branding Yourself

From that meeting, Jeremy learned to redefine how he thought about his brand. Photographers across the world have websites that are filled with stunning shots, yet they rarely step out from behind the camera to show who they are. Today, Jeremy’s website has a more personal touch. His blog regularly features snippets from his own life, interspersed with photography lessons. His About section goes beyond listing his credentials to show what sets Jeremy apart from the many other photographers out there. So far, he has seen nothing but benefits from his new approach.

Photographers work hard to create winning portfolios that wow art directors and potential clients. But what truly sets a photographer apart goes much deeper than the photos he takes. As Jeremy learned, when photographers show who they are, they are more likely to connect with the customers they’re trying to win over.

While Jeremy isn’t coming back for Photo Week this year, his presentation was among the best moments of Photo Week 2014. His story is just an example of the many ways CreativeLive’s Photo Week inspires and motivates photographers.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Piper Morgan series.