If you’ve questioned whether or not you’re in the right photography genre, chances are you aren’t alone. With the knowledge of how to use a camera comes the responsibility of taking on multiple genres of photography, or so we’ve been taught to think. What if we narrowed our focus and pinpointed a genre that best fits our abilities and personalities? Our close friends at Fstoppers released a new tutorial ‘The Well Rounded Photographer’ which inspired me to create this guide for those looking to find a path to stick to when it comes to a specific photography genre.
Video: Which Photography Genre is Right For You?
This guide is broken into three sections to help you select a genre that best fits your needs. The goal is to focus on one genre and avoid burning yourself out of creativity or, worse, resenting the art of photography.
Before we get there, I want to start with what I think is the most fundamental tip here. And that is don’t base this decision off of simply money. Too often I see photographers jump into a specific area because they see that that genre earns them more money and they are enticed by those numbers. If you make your decision based on money, you’re going to pick a photography genre that doesn’t match who you are. Instead, if you choose an area of photography that doesn’t match your personality and values, you’re not going to be able to stick with it long enough to actually command that type of dollar. You need to stick with a genre for 5-10 to develop your skillset and network. Your thought process needs to shift – money needs to be the byproduct of what you’re going to do.
Once you’ve gone through the guide and answered these questions to your best ability, you’ll have more of a solid understanding of where your skills are best suited and which photography genre fits your style. You will benefit from this if you are brutally honest with yourself as you dive into these questions.
1. Are You a People Person?
This brings me to question number one, are you a team-oriented people person? Genres like wedding or commercial photography are highly team-oriented jobs. You have to be a people person and learn how to navigate relationships. Too often I see wedding photographers become wedding photographers for all the wrong reasons (money and notoriety). They end up feeling stuck in a profession that doesn’t align with their value system.
That being said, it all goes back to that same fundamental question: are you a team-oriented people person? If you answered yes, then you’re going to choose portraiture or team-based genres. If you’re not, you’re going to lend yourself more towards architecture, product, landscape, other areas that are a bit more self-dependent.
2. Do You Thrive in High-Pressure Situations?
Do you thrive in high-pressure situations? If the answer here is yes, then weddings or commercial-type work is going to be great for you. And when I say do you thrive in those environments, I don’t just mean complacency. Do you actually enjoy it and do those environments make you better at what you do? Because that’s what’s critical there. You have to not only be able to rise to the challenge, but you also have to actually enjoy the process.
So if you answered yes to question one and two then I would assume that wedding photography or commercial photography would be a good fit for you. You’re suited for these high-risk/high-reward areas of photography On the other hand if you answered no to question one and yes to question two, but you do thrive in high-pressure environments, I recommend venturing into product photography, architectural photography would be a good fit for you. Mike Kelly is a great example of this, he usually deals with one client at a time. He has a very technical, high-pressure job because of the client’s expectations. But the work that he’s doing doesn’t require involvement with a team and a crew beyond maybe one person, maybe two tops. So even if you’re not a team-oriented person, there are still photography genres that you can thrive in. That said, I would avoid things like wedding photography, or being on large commercial sets.
3. Technical or Intuitive?
Okay, so what if you said no to question one and two? There is still a wonderful space for you. I actually have quite a few product photography friends who do all their work in their homes. They are extremely technical and so they chose a niche that best works with their personality.
Which Photography Genre is For You?
I hope this framework has helped you better understand yourself and which areas of photography might be a good fit. Think longevity, the money is going to come so long as you can stick around long enough to differentiate the quality of your work. Build up your business and money will come as the byproduct. I honestly wish a tutorial like ‘The Well Rounded Photographer’ existed when I first jumped in the industry because what you really need when you first jump in is the knowledge, enough knowledge in each of these little areas to deliver a good product then you need to throw yourself into it. Go try it and see what sticks.