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Photography is an extremely broad field in which professionals work in all walks of life; from real estate to portraiture, from wildlife photography to abstract minimalism. When you first start your journey in photography it’s generally a good idea to try out as many things as you can however as your skills develop and you begin to work in a professional capacity a certain amount of specialization becomes almost essential.
There are no hard and fast rules of course, and some photographers do work in a range of fields however in most cases you’ll naturally end up specializing as you are drawn to certain genres. Selecting a niche to work in though is not always easy, particularly if you are just establishing yourself as a freelancer and don’t want to rule out potential opportunities that may arise in the future.
Why Should You Specialize in Photography?
Specializing will increase your changes of making money as a photographer. If you are doing it for fun, specializing is not that important. From a practical point of view, specializing in a specific genre, or a few at most, will help you grow your skill set and become an authority in your field.
This is especially important if you are working in the competitive industry of photography. As you work in your particular genre you will come to understand the requirements of clients better and deliver accordingly.
Your Skills Will Improve Faster if You Specialize.
Once you start to specialize or ‘niche down’ in photography and spend your time focusing exclusively on your chosen field your skills and knowledge will rapidly improve. As you work with similar subjects each day you’ll pick up tricks and techniques that work well for you. You can also narrow down your study and practical education which will help you to take better and better pictures each day.
You Can Build Up Your Gear More Easily if You Specialize.
Once you have started to specialize in a genre of photography you can build up your equipment in a more logical way. For instance, certain lenses are suitable for one genre but not another and if you don’t specialize you might not be able to justify the expense of getting high quality kit.
So if you’re working in real estate photography you’re bound to need a wide angle lens but if you were working in portraiture it wouldn’t be so helpful. Once you specialize you can put together professional grade equipment that helps you succeed in your genre and from a financial view it will pay itself off as you progress in your chosen field.
Your Knowledge Base Will Grow as You Specialize.
When you’ve started to specialize you will naturally learn more and more about your field. If you are a wildlife photographer, for example, you’ll start to learn how to track animals and take photos without spooking them! You’ll quickly learn their names, habits and the features of their environment, all of which are essential to succeed as a professional wildlife photographer. This type of knowledge is very different to what a fashion photographer would be learning in their genre of work!
Work within Your Comfort Zone.
Once you have settled down in your genre you’ll find that you have much less stress and fewer complications in your life. That’s not to say that things will get dull but instead it means that you’ll be comfortable with what’s required of you and be able to focus on improving the quality of your work each day. Knowing your way around your own specialized genre means that you’re not constantly having to study up and learn how to get the basics done!
Also if you’ve chosen a niche that you genuinely enjoy working in then your day to day life will be a pleasure! Someone once said that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life – and it’s true! If you love pets then maybe working as a pet photographer would suit you better than a commercial product photographer. If you’ve specialized in what you love you’ll find it easier to put in the extra hours and really dedicate yourself to getting to the top of your field.
Contrary to what you might think specialization won’t hold you back.
After you have specialized down to a particular genre there is still a great deal of creativity and imagination that goes into making it work for you. You can still develop a unique style and even specialize down further in your field.
You can still build up an incredibly diverse portfolio in your chosen genre and experiment with new techniques and methods as you develop as a working professional.
Specializing is Essential to Stand Out as a Pro with Authority.
Most photographers take all kinds of photos in many different genres but if you really want to make your mark in the industry you’re going to have to specialize. Clients want to work with photographers who are dedicated to their genre and have a good back catalog of work to show for it.
There simply isn’t enough time in the day to become an expert in every genre of photography and so at some point you will need to focus your efforts on a particular genre, or two, to build up the authority as a pro.
The 2 Most Important Things to Consider Before You Specialize.
Your Interests and Skills.
To successfully specialize in photography you’re going to have to be very honest with yourself! You can use a pen and paper to write down a list of your interests and skills and start to narrow down some genres that you would really like to work in. From that point, once you’ve made a decision, you need to start looking at the practical ways you can make it happen.
Try to combine your skills and interests with your genuine passions. This will help to ensure that you love your work and land on your feet in the perfect genre for you. Remember nothing is set in stone and if you realize that you’ve made the wrong choice you can always change later!
The Realistic Profitability of Your Genre.
When you choose a genre to work in you need to consider what the market size is and if there is a good potential for you to succeed within it. Real estate photography is a huge market that you can quite easily get to work within whereas it may be much harder to monetize abstract photography.
You can easily do research on line to establish if there are opportunities available in your genre and if so, how many there are. Are there jobs advertised in your genre and clients who are looking for photographers? If the answer is yes then you could probably specialize in this genre and earn a good living.
You’ll need to use some common sense and judgement about the potential markets for your work. Depending on where you live and what the major industries are in your location you will find that different genres work better in different places. Fashion photographers can thrive in fashion capitals around the world such as New York and Paris whereas in Nevada real estate photography is a booming industry!
Pros and Cons of Specializing as a Photographer.
When it comes to specializing in one genre as a photographer, especially if you are a freelancer or professional, the pros outweigh the cons.
- You Can Hone Your Skills and Knowledge: Working in a specific genre allows you to become the very best you can be. As you get through the challenges that inevitably arise and overcome them you rapidly develop your skill set and experience which will serve you well in the future. You can focus your studies in one area and master not only basics but every aspect of your work. Your work will evolve and your client base will grow as you refine and improve your techniques.
- Many Genres Overlap: If you’ve decided to specialize in wedding photography there are also other areas of photography that may overlap in terms of your client base and the skills needed to deliver professional grade work. For instance, many wedding photographers also take portraits of the families they have worked with before. If you delivered amazing results at the wedding then the same family may well want to hire you for an anniversary party, a family portrait photoshoot or even a family reunion! This type of cross pollination within your overall genre keeps the work interesting and varied and helps you build up a portfolio of regular clients.
- Specializing will help you to Streamline Your Workflow: Once you have settled down in your chosen genre your workflow will quickly become more productive as you develop systems that work for you. If you are using auxiliary freelance help or an assistant you can build up relationships with them that improve your efficiency and help you deliver great results for your clients every time.
Specializing Will Help You Reach the Top Of Your Field.
When you specialize in a specific genre in photography you are more able to target your audience and build up personal authority within your field. You also put yourself in a position where it is easier to develop your skill set in a focused and concentrated way which will inevitably lead to more opportunities for you in the future. Finally, specializing in a particular genre allows you to build up a client base and leverage a higher salary than if you spread your efforts more widely across many different areas.
It can be a daunting and often difficult decision to make when you realize that you need to start to specialize in photography. Trust your instincts and go with what feels good and you will be on the right path to making the right choice for you.
Are you thinking of specializing in photography?