I’ve recently started a conversation with other photographers about the topic of “specialization.”
My photography partner Bill and I have discussed this seemingly endlessly. I would say that the majority of pro photographers recommend specializing in one area or genre, and not straying from that. Guys like Joel Grimes and Erik Almas think you should have an area of distinct expertise.
For instance, in this long recommendation for aspiring photographers from Ming Thein, he talks about specializing, but he also discusses diversification of income. In other words, he specializes in product photograph, watches in general as well as some architecture and street photography.
Although, if you look at his portfolio, who knows what his area of expertise is. He’s great at everything he shoots.
Ming isn’t the only pro who makes this “specialization” recommendation.
One can criticize me for not specializing. I like shooting everything and anything. I aim to deliver beautiful work whether you ask me to shoot an interior, a child, or a product.
Although I love fashion and beauty photography, I’m not settled on a specialization. I’m still trying to work that out.
And as long as I’m getting paid to do a variety of photography genres, I’m not going to stop shooting and posting the variety.
We do motion picture/video as well, which I think every photographer should get their hands wet with, if they haven’t already. A lot of our income comes from video, because the editing process often triples to quadruples the photography cost. So while a photo shoot will price out at a day rate plus rates for delivery, video is the day rate, plus two more days to accommodate editing.
I need video production to keep my business going, as photography (at least where I am right now in my career) isn’t enough to pay the mortgage.
I also think specialization is a dead end. Pro photographers might be pros now, but the industry has changed so much that photographers who think the same as they did in the 90s either went out of business or assimilated to nuances and changes within the industry.
The print/analog market has declined, and digital has taken over.
This discussion is much longer than this short blog post. Take for instance an aspiring photographer. He may want to break into the business, but needs income. One option would be to work at what you can get hired doing and use your income to support a part-time, amateur to pro effort.
My effort has been to diversify the income, as photography and videography is similar. You need an understanding of light + sound to achieve it.
One day, I may be able to specialize in one area. But until then, I’ll make money — and more importantly successes and mistakes — doing what I love to do.
The mistakes I’m making now will make specialization easier to achieve. Right now, I’m working with a variety of clients on a variety of jobs. The mistakes in one market are going to inform how I deal with something in another.
The more background and experience, the better and more efficient I’m going to be.
Plus, I’ve recently taken the nose dive into medium format photography. I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out. But I’m going to do it while getting paid doing it.
I’ve been self employed for eleven years. I consider myself a pro … a pro with soooooooooo much more to learn. I love the path I’m taking, and highly recommend it to everyone.
Because as Erik Almas said in his 10-point list on becoming a pro:
#10. And more important than anything: don’t give up on your dream of becoming a photographer. It will take longer to get there than you think.