7 Steps To Finding Your Photography Niche
You may be reading this because, after months or years of exploring the world with your fancy digital camera, your online portfolio is strictly limited to: pets, portraits, weddings, landscape, street photography, macro, studio, events, nature, astrophotography, …and…other categories. OK, such a portfolio is not very limited.
First I’d like to tell you why you should “niche down”, your portfolio. Then I’ll make the case for identifying and showcasing your own photographic specialty.
What you need to know is that when a potential client visits your web site and can’t recognize a professional photographic identity, they might not only feel overwhelmed at the lack of focus but also lose interest because they aren’t seeing that you’re proficient in what they need from you.
Let’s say that you just took some fabulous portraits of your neighbor’s kids, and out of it came a referral of another mother of two who now wants photos of her precious youngsters. You direct the potential new client to your web site, and the first thing she sees is a succession of pictures of your cat. Cute, but the next few photos are wild elk from your vacation in the Tetons last fall. At this point the potential client will likely be confused, maybe even frustrated that they’re not seeing what they expected to see.
At the very least, I’ll advise you to organize your photos on your main site into categories. That way, you can direct clients to the bodies of work you’re proud of, rather than seeming like a hobbyist. You want your client to know that you specialize in this particular type of work. That way (for instance) when they hire you for portraits they can rest assured that you’ll pose them with confidence, or that you won’t blow it and miss a great moment at their wedding.
If your web site is called John Smith Wedding Photography, that is your niche and your image that you’ve decided to promote. It would be unwise to showcase your food photography in the same site your wedding photos, but believe it or not I’ve seen it happen. If you also do food photography on the side and it’s not just a hobby, make a separate web site for it — or at the least a separate gallery.
Practically all successful photographers specialize in one particular kind of work. An architect isn’t going to hire a wedding photographer, and a bride isn’t going to hire an architectural photographer. How do you decide on your very own niche? Take the following steps:
1. Research different fields of photography that people make a living in. Here’s a list of the many different types of viable photography fields.
2. Write down the ones that interest you, as well as the ones you’ve already tried and enjoy. Can you see yourself doing this kind of photography for the next year? What about the next five years?
3. Start narrowing down your list, based on viability (do people pay living wages for this?) and take into account how interested you are in them. Smartshoot has compiled a list based on a survey of average payouts for different kinds of photography from 2015.
4. Research what kind of special equipment you may need in order to excel in a particular niche. Take note on the potential start-up costs. Decide if you’re going to make a home studio (most cost efficient), rent a studio out, or just operate remotely.
5. Research how competitive each specialty is in your area. If you’re only up against two other baby photographers in Muskogee Oklahoma, you may be on to something. However, it may simply be that there isn’t much of a market for something particular in your area. Do the research!
6. If you still can’t decide, narrow it down to one or two and look more closely. Some people break into an industry by photographing for free at first, but of course this is only a temporary introduction. Be aware that working for free attracts the wrong kind of client. You can try Thumbtack to get paid gigs in your new prospective niches. See which one ends up being more profitable and enjoyable after a while. Keep in mind it will take twice as much time and work to advertise and grow in two different markets as just focusing on one.
7. Be patient and trust your instincts! If you just aren’t feeling it or get burnt out quickly with one niche, there’s no reason you can’t go another route.
Side note: If you’ve decided to niche down and only showcase what you’ve decided to focus on but still want to share your adorable cat photos with the world, I suggest linking to your Flickr account from your main site, so clients can, if they care to, see what you shoot in your free time.
How did you decide to choose your niche? Share in the comments below.