“You should consider specialising in one field of photography”. This is often given as advice to young photographers by veteran photographers who have been around a bit, and it should carry some weight.
It troubles me, though, whenever I hear or read it, or if I’m asked a question about my specialism. I wonder how far it really works. Freelance photographers these days must have many strings to their photography bow in order to squeeze out a living.
Sometimes people ask “do you specialise in any kind of photography?” And it almost sounds like it’s an attempt to work out if a photographer is for real, serious and dedicated, as if a simple reply of “yes, food photography” would be rewarded with a casual accreditation.
It’s easier to be processed and understood by an audience if you have a niche or a specialism; easier to confuse or be unmemorable if you don’t.
I feel weakened by giving the reply, “erm, no not really”, which I think is unfair.
If you’re lucky enough to work for a press agency, of course dedicate all your energies to press photography. If you’re fortunate enough to have the capital to invest in a nice studio and perhaps you move in moneyed, celebrity circles, it makes sense to focus on portraits, style and fashion. If your career has always been concentrated on wildlife photography, live music or sport photography, stick with that.
And if you’re a hobbyist photographer, specialising on a single type of subject is a great way of improving a craft.
However, it’s my view that many freelance photographers aren’t able to, and maybe shouldn’t specialise in such a dedicated way, for many reasons. One of these might easily be that there’s loads of amazing stuff and wonder in the world to be fascinated and inspired by. How can you possibly restrict yourself? Who is to say an athlete at the pinnacle of their sporting career is more compelling than a leopard taking down a buffalo?
On a more practical level, if you’re trying to make as much cash as you can, it’s foolish to turn down anything, within reason. Every job is a learning curve and a different experience; improvements can always be made, at any stage of a career and at any age.
With the weddings market as competitive as ever, freelance photographers needing to make a living on usually less lucrative jobs should be as agile and open to different opportunities as possible, whether that means being proactive with the business world, pushing family portraiture in social circles, or trying to work the stock photography outlets using a range of material.
Specialise if all your efforts have been pointing down that single path, and have been for some time. But if you’re an early-stage independent trying making a living exclusively by selling fine art landscape photography, for example, it’s an approach likely to end in disappointment.
I posted a link to this blog and started a discussion on a LinkedIn photography group, generating a number of responses from photographers across the world. Might be worth joining the group and taking a look if you’re interested.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.