Niching Your Photography: Choosing The Right Specialty For You

This post is Day 16 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

So you want to be a photographer. You want to start a business and make money doing what you love. Once you make that decision, the next most obvious question is “What will you photograph?”

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I could find a million examples of people that have found a niche and are making money doing what they love. In fact I even highlight ideas in my One Great Idea series.

However thinking through the question first has its advantages. If you start out as a generalist, you’ll be climbing an uphill battle against hundreds of other photographers in your area who are doing something similar – and in many cases doing it better or receiving more recognition for it.

Niching means you’ve chosen one area to focus on and to grow your business with. Niching means you’ve chosen one area you love, and are willing to work harder in that one area than any other. You’re ready to become the best you can be, and are willing to put everything you have into that one area.

Why Niche Businesses Appeal To Customers

As a customer, I want to hire a company that has experience and specific knowledge in whatever I’m looking for.

If I need a new water heater, I’m going to be more attracted to a company that puts in dozens of new water heaters across the city every day. The small time plumber who does a little bit of everything may know water heaters, but his expertise won’t show up as well.

And if I am newly engaged, I will be much more attracted to a photographer who has hundreds, maybe even thousands of wedding images for me to look through, and who showcases their wedding skills again and again. Finding a photographer who talks about families and babies and seniors and weddings occasionally too, the expertise isn’t there, and I won’t expect near the quality or the price.

While niching has always been an important part of business, one thing changed the importance of niching forever. And that is the Internet.

The Internet has made everyone excellent researchers. If you want to buy a new car, you head over to Google and start your research. You may start with a simple search to find out the safest cars in your price range. Then you choose several, and you start doing comparisons. You wind up on manufacturers websites and start designing with their modeling software. You see the car online, and in many cases have watched videos and read reviews over and over again. You have become well informed through simple search.

The same happens within any business.

If a new mom wants a portrait of her baby, she searches for baby photographers in her area. She may find a bunch of photographers that have a gallery of a few dozen portraits in every genre imaginable. But then she comes to the site that is devoted exclusively to babies. She reads how to have an ideal portrait experience with a newborn. She sees image after image of babies. She learns what props to bring to personalize her portrait experience. She may even recognize some of the portraits of new moms from her Lamaze classes. She becomes focused and engaged because the site speaks out to her.

And its not just babies. The same can apply to families, weddings, fashion, commercial, nature and underwater. When you need something very specific, something that applies directly to who and what you do, you become engaged when you find exactly what you are looking for.

Niches Have A Higher Perceived Value

When most photographers design their web site/blog, they start with general items and create a simple site. An about us, contact us, services page listing a hodgepodge of items, and a gallery of images with the best from each type of photography he or she specializes in.

But when a photographer specializes, they focus in on exactly what is important to their clients.

As wedding photographers, we knew exactly what a wedding client wants. They want to plan the most exciting wedding event of their lives. Every persons wedding is unique and exclusive for them. Even if they gain ideas from others, they still create their event around their own preferences. As a wedding vendor, it’s a simple matter of making suggestions, and letting them take over with the planning.

So suggest we did. We built a gallery with over 20,000 images – hundreds from every wedding we photographed. We built a resource list of other wedding vendor sites that maintained a certain quality. We listed out timetables of sunsets within our local area for brides to plan outdoor weddings.

In other words, we thought “weddings” every day, all day long. And because we thought about them, we were always on the lookout for ways to give our clients a little bit more.

It showed in our website. It showed in our marketing. And it showed in the way we approached our business.

And it showed in the way our clients paid for our services. They were willing to pay more because they got more. They understood we knew everything about weddings, and their special day wouldn’t be handled by a generalist; it would remain in the hands of someone who dedicated time to become the best at what they were looking for.

How Can I Pass Up Money?

One of the hardest parts of becoming a specialist is passing up paying clients while you build your business. As you start out, you’ll get phone calls all the time asking for some type of photography.

But if you are building for weddings and you agree to photograph a family on a Saturday afternoon, you’ve just knocked out the chance to take on a wedding client for that day. And you’ve agreed to spread yourself beyond the wedding mentality. You have to come up with new package pricing. You have to come up with props and backgrounds. You have to come up with new output sources – frames, folios, etc.

And you’ve confused your potential for more referrals.

If someone gets engaged, and you are “The Wedding Photographer” in your area, your name will pop out immediately. But as a generalist, you are lumped into the pile with all the other generalists.

So when a future bride says, “I’m getting married” those around her will think of “The Wedding Photographer” while the others remain in the pile.

Once you specialize, you ultimately begin receiving more referrals because you are the first person people think of. And because of the laws of supply and demand, once you begin receiving referrals on a much greater demand, you can be more selective about who you take on as a client. And the easiest way to do that is through your pricing.

Pricing controls everything.

Niching – Is It A Specialty or a Demographic?

While we’ve looked at why it’s important to pick a specialty for your photography, it’s also important to note that demographics work in a similar manner.

Every bride is not the same. Just like every new mom is not the same. Just like every travel magazine is not the same. And therefore you shouldn’t target them all the same.

If you niche yourself as a travel photographer, you can approach who and what you shoot in many different ways. Do you look at photography from a local perspective? Do you focus on popular destinations around the world? Or do you focus on going to places very few people have been before? Budget Travel is completely different than Afar Magazine. And one would never accept the same story or the same photographs as the other. It comes down to knowing your client and giving them exactly what they are looking for.

So the only question left is:

Who is your client and what are they looking for?

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clientexperience@todaysgrowthconsultant.com' About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • http://www.bycostello.com bycostello

    hmmm food for thought… think i might have to split my websites, once for each speciality…

  • Alaskan photographer

    I don’t have a website, yet, and my passion is landscapes, nature, my niche. So you discussed wedding photographer, what about someone like me. I live in Alaska and really want to market my work. I am working on my portfolio, and I have entered some contests, but, my goal and target is to get published and have people from all over buy my prints. Where would I start then? Thank you. I understand that landscape photography is one of the toughest areas to be successful, but if it were easy everyone would be doing it that’s just how I see it.

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    You’ve got the attitude to make it work! There are many photographers that make a great living with landscapes. Here in Denver, we have John Fielder – http://johnfielder.com/ – who has been photographing Colorado for years. He has books, prints, workshops and events, all based on what he loves the most.

    I would recommend finding a few mentors like this that you can follow. Find their websites, buy their products, maybe attend a workshop or two. Use what you learn as you grow.

    It is possible – good luck.
    Lori

  • laura

    I’m having a really hard time choosing my niche its between events, senior photos, and weddings. I really don’t know how to decide.

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Laura
    I do know a lot of photographers that combine weddings and events because they are parallel in many ways if you stick with the party side of things. We did that for years, and many of the wedding coordinators we worked with also put together bar/bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, anniversary parties, etc. Its a great way to fill in days too as many events don’t take place on Saturday’s, meaning you can shoot more than one day a week.

    Lori