Defining Your Photographic Specialty

Defining Your Photographic Specialty

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Recently I came across a photography page and the photographer’s About Me said “I specialize in everything photography.” I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people had stumbled across that particular page and dismissed it because they wanted someone who had a more defined photographic specialty. When you are looking for a photographer to capture images of your newborn, family, or senior, aren’t you looking for someone who really knows how to take images that really grab your attention?

Photographers spend so much time trying to figure out what their style is and during those times they shoot whatever sessions are available to them. If you are shooting weddings, babies, seniors, products, and anything else you can, are you really defining your specialty?

The first thing you should figure out is what your favorite photo shoots have been. If you shot weddings and hated it, then you should reconsider booking them. If you think newborns and small children require too much time to be set aside and too much patience, then you should rethink advertising for newborns and children. It might take some time, effort, and networking, but finding your niche can be well worth the wait once you get your foot into that door.

If you are new to the photography business and are considering shooting weddings you should find an experienced wedding photographer who would let you be their second shooter. (Yes, you should be paid for your time. Don’t spend hours and hours shooting for free!). Do your homework on wedding photography. Looking at wedding blogs and even Pinterest for ideas of shots that people frequently request can help you figure out if shooting weddings might be a good fit for you. Keep in mind that weddings are often long, long days and some photographers don’t really get breaks (or even meals). Meetings ahead of time with the bride and groom and a firm contract are always key items for weddings, even as a second shooter you will want to know ahead of time what the expectations they have of you are. Personally, I have shot weddings and realized that is not where I wanted to focus my time and energy and so I stopped booking weddings. You will know if it’s something you want to forge ahead with or not after a few under your belt.

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Newborns and small children require lots of patience and even though those shoots dates are not as extensive as shooting a wedding, you will still be working without a real break. Kids have those rare little ‘windows’ of time that are perfect for shoots and if you miss that it’s very hard to get it back. Talking ahead of time to the parents about naps and feeding schedules can help you get into that small window of time and help you to nail the shoot. Shooting newborns requires a lot of props (blankets, pillows, etc.). You will also be shooting in all sorts of odd angles that can be hard on your back and limbs.
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Adults (models, couples and seniors) are easier to work with because you don’t need to fine tune that window of opportunity for a good shoot. Their shoots don’t take as long as weddings and generally they can be scheduled any time that works around a school or work schedule. They can take direction easily and most of the time they are welcoming at getting their images taken.

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Getting your contracts in order, meeting with your clients ahead of time to let them know how your shooting and editing works, and knowing what your client expects of you can all be huge factors in helping you figure out where your business heads. After shooting a few sessions you will get a general idea if those shoots are where you want to take the direction of your business. Don’t be afraid to stop shooting the things you don’t enjoy. A lot of photographers get nervous about turning away shoots when the reality is that when you really put your time into shooting what you love that you enjoy what you do more and that can only increase your business.

The areas that you specialize in should reflect your best work and it should make you want to get out your camera and shoot more. If you are finding it hard to get motivated or excited about shoots, then those shoots may not be where you need to be concentrating your energy and creativity. Ask yourself “If I could only take on one more photo shoot and then have to retire my camera, what would it be?” You might surprise yourself with your answer or you might really understand where you need focus more. It’s hard to specialize in everything, so find the things you love to shoot, the ones that feed your creative soul and run with it. You can do great things once you really start pointing yourself in the right direction.

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Lori Peterson is an award winning photographer based out of the St. Louis Metro Area. Her dynamic work ranges from creative portraits to very unique fine art photography. Lori's work can be seen at www.loripetersonphotography.com and also on her blog. You can follow her on Facebook.