Trying to find something to write about has been a difficult task as of late. I’ve recently retired from the military and had my main source of income go away. I’m too stubborn to want to get a real job and work for someone else, so my main focus has been on trying to go full time with my business, which is more than just photography, (diversification is key in this industry). So far, it’s been more of a freelance venture than anything else, but it has made me really consider where I want to go with photography.
This brings me to my point, finding your niche. I think this is something most, if not all photographers should strive to do. Why? Isn’t photography, photography no matter what it is you’re shooting? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the technical sense that in all forms of photography you need to know those basic principals that have been hammered so many times on this site and pretty much everywhere else you look on the web. However, the different types of photography require a different approach to each and involve different logistics.
For example, portrait photographers do not use the same approach as a landscape photographer, nor do they use the same equipment. You can even get into subsets; wedding photography is much different than taking senior photos, etc… you get my point.
So why do I say, “find your niche”? Simply because I’ve discovered there are just certain types of photography I don’t want to do. If it’s true with me, I can only assume it’s true for a lot of you out there. Now, before you start yelling at me and saying, “you should try all types of photography, you can’t just do one!” Well, you’re right, you should try them all. Just like anything in life, you can’t say you don’t like something unless you try it. In doing so, hopefully you’re going to discover where your talent and dare I say “passion” lies. Hopefully you have that realization that maybe you enjoy working with bees over brides, or high schoolers over hydrangeas, who knows. But at least you’ll narrow it down to what you’re really good at.
Another great reason to discover your niche is equipment. When people ask me, “what should I buy?” I always follow that up with “what type of photography are you interested in doing?” Wedding photographers are going to use a completely different set-up compared to a commercial photographer. This decision will drive your future lens and lighting purchases. Your asking yourself “well, how am I supposed to try out different types of photography if I need different equipment for each one?”
First, go cheap. This is a time when you should not be charging people for your services, you’re learning your craft and figuring out what you like. You can pick up some cheap glass that will get the job done. Second, network. Find people in your area that have been doing serious photography in one area or another. Go on some shoots with them, borrow their equipment while under their supervision. Third option, rent. This is a bit pricier, however, there are a lot of places that you can rent equipment. Depending on where you live, they could be local which will help with the cost. Here in Topeka, Kansas, I have to rent online. It’s a great way to play with all the cool stuff, without having to pay full price.
After you’ve experienced everything, gotten some worthwhile critiques, hopefully you’ve begun to narrow your area of expertise. Now is the time to make the investment in your professional gear. Now is also the time to decide if this is going to be an expensive hobby or a career choice.
My final piece of advice, one I wish someone had given me, do not put yourself out there as the person who will shoot anything. While it afforded me the opportunity to try different types of photography, I did it with paying customers in most cases. I found myself more stressed out and frustrated than anything else. Instead of enjoying doing photography, I found myself getting worked up over meeting client expectations in situations I had little control over.
So what did I finally decide on, what is my niche? I found myself inspired by the work of a local Kansas City horror photographer, Josh Hoffine and as I’ve mentioned before in a previous article, the conceptual work of Dave Hill. As it turns out, I have a talent for conceptual artistic photography. This form of photography combines my love of people doing cool things in interesting places while allowing me to tell a story simultaneously. It allows me the control I want and best allows me to meet (and in most cases exceed) everyone’s expectations, especially mine.
So go out and find what works best for you. No one says you have to do it all, unless that’s what you’re good at, in which case, more power to you!