I have had a few sleepless nights lately from trying to follow the advice of the pros. They say that in order to have a successful photography business, you must find your niche – your passion, your unique gift to the world, the one thing you can do that no one else can. Wow, talk about pressure! Is there really something I can do that no one else can?
I spent days trying to figure it out. I’m good at landscapes but of course there are a bazillion photographers doing that. I like architecture, and macros, and abstracts, and wildlife, even still life.
I need to be more specific. The ocean. Ok, but not underwater because I’m terrified of that. Boats. I’ve been boating for years, I teach safe boating classes, and have many many photographs of a splash where a whale used to be. More advice from the pros: don’t let what you think you can’t do hold you back. Ok, I can learn how to be a better photographer on the water. The fact that it isn’t my specialty right now shouldn’t stop me. I am driving the boat and photographing at the same time after all. Maybe it is yachts. No one can photograph their own boat moving in the water. I have the insider advantage in the industry. I already know boat builders, sailors and people who own yachts and classic sailboats.
Research. There are a bazillion photographers doing that.
Disappointment. I am not unique in the world. There is nothing I can do that another person cannot do. Isn’t that what made me think of being a pro photographer in the first place? Knowing that other people are doing it so why can’t I?
Maybe it is just too early to define myself and fit in a square box. There are certainly plenty of types of photography I have never done. Like architectural interiors, fashion, portraits, weddings, anything at all that has to do with lighting, product photography, commercial, and the list goes on.
Maybe I haven’t found my niche because I haven’t found it yet. It’s like when something is lost you always find it in the last place you look. I think I might be better off making myself a well rounded photographer by trying all the things I haven’t done yet rather than fitting myself in a box.
Is round better than square?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Steve Cole says
I think trying to consciencely determine what might be your niche is a lot like trying to tell yourself to be creative. I don’t think it works.
A better tact might be deciding what you DON’T want to do and go from there. I know that I don’t want to do wedding, portrait, product, or architecture photography so without really overthinking, I’m narrowing down what interests me.
I can’t explain what my niche or style is but, over time, I’ve been able to recognize what makes me “me”. I think your suggestion of trying things might be good because you never know where that will lead!
I say don’t sweat it- it will work itself out. Unless you’re planting your tripod exactly where 1000s of others have before and are taking the same photo (Delicate Arch, etc), you ARE being you!
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Steve, thank you very much for your comments. I feel kind of relieved now that I don’t feel obligated to define my uniqueness! You’re right, I think it might work against me to try to define myself. I appreciate your feedback.
Sharon Hinze says
Anne, I’ve just recently read a photog. blog saying just the opposite: that there is room in the field for the generalist so to speak. The truly competent photographer! Besides, I personally refuse to only work on one thing over and over because I’d be bored to utter tears. I do love portraiture but that is not all I want to do and it is not all that I’ve always wanted to do with a camera since I was 10 and was given my first little brownie. So, my conclusion is I have to do it my way whether anyone approves or not. : )
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Sharon, nice to see you! Thanks for your feedback. It’s great to hear that there is room in the field for all types of photography. Although it is nice to find unique ways of doing things, trying to force it seems to have the opposite effect.
ah you’re on the right path if you are asking these questions!, I reckon. I thought it was Diane Arbus who said photograph what you love or hate until all avenues are explored – something like this.
Russ Bishop says
It does seem like a catch 22, Anne. But I think Sting put it best when he said, “if you love someone, set them free”. The same could be said for anything you’re passionate about – including photography. You’ll find your niche by shooting what you love and the rest will fall into place.
Andy Nixon says
I’m new to your blog but have just spent an enjoyable hour or so reading your posts. I wanted to chip in on this post because I feel like we are on very similar paths (turned out to be longer than I had intended!). At the moment I can’t make the numbers work to justify the switch to pro but that’s a topic for another time.
I can’t help but feel that even if there are a gazillion other photographers out there doing something similar, there’s only one you, and you bring a unique voice to the conversation. As long as you remain true to yourself and pursue what you are passionate about, your voice will become clearer.
I’ve been doing a fair bit of coaching in the last few months and one of the things that I’ve realized is that our energy is best put into enhancing the things that we are naturally good at, rather than trying to become well rounded. It’s easier to be excellent in what already comes easily to you – and that has to be the goal.
The question almost then becomes one of marketing. I recently watched a Q&A with Chase Jarvis and he strongly made the point that you have to be as creative in your business as you are with the camera. I like your idea of boat based photo tours – perhaps you could hire the boat until you had a sense of whether it was going to work? To me it seems like you’re doing all of the things that you need to do to cut through the low level chatter – you’ve won competitions, are doing the social media thing, all looks good to me.
I would put yourself out there. I’d be inclined to start small & local looking for clients that are interested in the the kind of photography that gets you out of bed at 5 am for the good light.
Good luck – you’re an inspiration!