Carving out a niche for your photography business can be the key to standing out in a crowded market. Specializing in a specific genre or style not only allows you to hone your skills to perfection but also helps in attracting the right clientele who are searching for the exact expertise you offer. Here are four compelling reasons why specializing when creating a photography business isn’t just a strategic move—it’s essential for long-term success and fulfillment in the industry.
Video: 4 Reasons To Specialize
One of the biggest mistakes professional photographers make is not specializing. In this video, I’ll be giving 4 reasons why you need to specialize when creating a photography business.
Reason #1: You might not be as good as you think you are
Generalists often look at being able to photograph everything as a way of opening up their potential audience when creating a photography business. In theory, this makes sense. However, when I look at their portfolios, their work is often decent at best.
In psychology, this is known as the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Basically, when we approach something with limited experience, we tend to have more confidence than we should. Only by diving deeper do we realize how much more we need to learn and this process of growth never really ends.
The photographers at the top are there because they dedicated all their efforts to one particular genre. Because a generalist is spread across a little bit of everything, they usually don’t get the experience necessary to truly compete with the best.
Reason #2: Your time and resources are limited.
It can take decades to master a single genre of photography. Still, the masters insist that they have a lot left to learn. Now you don’t have to be a master, but it still will take time to develop a skillset worth paying for. I’d say 2-3 years for the average person.
How do you do this if you’re a generalist with 4-5 different focuses? It might take a decade to get enough experience in each of these genres to make considerable money. Most of us don’t have that time. Specializing is going to be the quickest way to develop the skillset necessary to generate revenue when creating a photography business.
Reason #3: You’re competing with other specialists.
Generalists tend to compare their work with other generalists. They fail to recognize that they’re actually competing with other specialists.
Put yourself in the shoes of a client looking for an architectural photographer. Photographer A shoots architecture but also showcases automotive, fashion, and corporate headshots on their portfolio. Photographer B, on the other hand, spends all their time shooting architecture. Unless Photographer A’s architecture photographs are out of this world, you’ll likely choose Photographer B.
A client is going to be looking for exactly what they need, not everything else you might be photographing. They’ll be looking to get the best product for their money. In order to provide the best product, you need to invest the time to become the best. How do you do that while creating a photography business if your time is split across multiple genres?
Reason #4: Marketing is virtually impossible.
A specialist knows exactly who their audience is. They can then design their portfolio to showcase exactly what their potential clients are looking for. For example, a wedding photographer, whose clients consist of brides and grooms, will find it incredibly easy to create content curated just for them.
What about a generalist? Who is their target client? What do they put on their website? What do they say that they actually do? Automotive, wedding, corporate, real estate… These are all different clients. It’s virtually impossible to communicate one message to all of them.
More Reasons to Specialize
We discussed the importance of choosing a niche and specializing in order to best market your business to your ideal client, here is short video summarizing that discussion with fellow Ambassador Tanya Goodall Smith:
We also asked several top professional photographers “How has specializing helped you and your business?” and here is what they had to say:
“Specializing has helped me by being recognized as an expert in the field. This has become very evident within my online social network. Often I’ll see someone post “Can anyone recommend a good wedding photographer?” and I’ll see people I’m friends with online comment, “Check out Raph, he’s amazing”… even though these people have not worked with me, but seeing that I specialize and often share only wedding-related images, they are confident in recommending me to their friends. In addition, being consistent with posting within your niche has helped me reach a wider audience on potential clients.”
“Choosing to specialize in commercial/branding photography for local businesses has helped me be able to more effectively market my services. I know exactly who needs me and where to find those people. It’s made my brand super recognizable, people hear about WorkStory Photography and know exactly what we do. I get a lot of referrals and stand out from the hundreds of other photographers in the Spokane area because of my specialty. I’ve received awards by local publications for “best commercial photographer,” voted on by the public, based 100% on my reputation and have had the opportunity to be interviewed on local radio and podcasts because I had a unique point of view and “specialty”. I highly recommend specializing!”
“Specialization as a new photographer is tough because when you are new you want to dip your toe in all the buckets. You are so excited about the art and creativity of the craft that is photography, that it is hard to decide where you will thrive and be able to make a real ‘go of it’ as a business owner. After a year or two of practicing and honing in on your passion, it is critical to find one area to concentrate on. I think there is an assumption that you have to ‘micro specialize’; only families, only infants, only couples. That isn’t true. I think it is important to ‘macro specialize’ and hone in on one genre – event photography, commercial photography, portrait photography, etc. Each of these areas has so many ‘micro specializations’ that if you are exploring every facet you will have so much to do it will be hard to do it all. You will be able to perfect your workflows and automations and answer questions your clients didn’t know they had. When you truly specialize in an area you will be able to anticipate your ideal client’s needs before they are voiced and meet expectations they didn’t know they had. Your value will outweigh your price which will, in turn, lead to more leads, bookings and allow you to scale your pricing as your value increases.”
“Anytime you have a very important service that needs to be done, regardless of what it is, if it’s important to you, you’re likely going to seek out someone who has mastered that service. Through years of trial and error, I have found that to be the case regarding my business and photography. Certainly, I can photograph more than one subject type, but by focusing all my energy into one specific genre (weddings, in my case) and into a specific aesthetic within that genre (creative photojournalism) I have better aligned myself with ideal clients who want exactly what I enjoy creating and who value me as the expert in just that.”
“Over the last few years, our studio has worked towards specializing in luxury client experiences. All of the focus is on quality, instead of quantity. The photography has to be great, that is a given; however, when you genuinely take care of your clients with five-star service, they will not only refer great clients but also become an advocate for your studio. We have spent considerable time refining all of the details that are part of our client’s experience. Every little detail matters and there is always room for improvement. We continue to work on creating the ultimate experience for our clients.”
Jay Cassario – Website | Instagram
“Creating a unique brand was the most challenging piece of the puzzle when it came down taking my business to the next level. For the first few years that I was charging for photography, I was more of a “jack of all trades” studio. I quickly learned that the clients I wanted to market to were hiring specialists, who’s photography centered around only one style. Their focus was very clear and only for clients who needed their expertise. Whether it be family, newborn, senior, or in my case, wedding photography. In 2015, my wife and I knew what we had to do and completely rebranded to represent exactly what our photography and our studio are all about. We created a very specific brand that made it crisp and clear what we specialized in. That brand is what took us from shooting 10 weddings to over 120 with multiple photographers working for us. While a lot of photographers think of rebranding as changing a logo or color scheme, it’s so much more than that. If you look at our site it’s not hard to tell what we specialize in which is weddings and engagements with a unique style which also offers a very specific experience. It’s not for everyone, and that’s the point. To be successful in this over-saturated market you need to be willing to accept that and know that the clients you hire will appreciate your work that much more.”
Have you selected a niche to focus on and specialize in? If not, what are your thoughts on the subject? If you have, how has it helped you and your business? Join the discussion in the Master the Business of Photography community!
Many photographers think that by specializing, they’re limiting their potential customer base when creating a photography business. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. By specializing, you actually open yourself up to everyone in a particular niche.
I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Specialization is only one piece of the complete Photography Business Training System, available at SLR Lounge Premium. This is an A-Z course on how to build a 6-7 figure photography business or studio of your dreams. Be sure to check it out to learn more!