Quantitative differences in cadherin activity have been proposed to play important roles in patterning connections between pre- and postsynaptic neurons. However, no examples of such a function have yet been described, and the mechanisms that would allow such differences to direct growth cones to specific synaptic targets are unknown. In the Drosophila visual system, photoreceptors are genetically programmed to make a complex, stereotypic set of synaptic connections. Here we show that the atypical cadherin Flamingo functions as a short-range, homophilic signal, passing between specific R cell growth cones to influence their choice of postsynaptic partners. We find that individual growth cones are sensitive to differences in Flamingo activity through opposing interactions between neighboring cells and require these interactions to be balanced in order to extend along the appropriate trajectory.