Specializing your photography can be a VERY daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be! You should build a business that you love, otherwise, what’s the point? When I started my photography business, I was a full-blown Generalist. I lacked focus and direction. I photographed everything. And I mean everything. My marketing was all over the place- depending on what I was promoting at that moment. Being a generalist caged me into a role as a chameleon. I couldn’t define the type of photography I offered. This made branding authentically almost impossible for me, which also prevented me from being able to move forward in my photography career. I looked up to people like MICHELLE MOORE & JASMINE STAR, two amazing trailblazers who carved the path for future specialists. They each built their business based on what they loved and it inspired me to do exactly the same.
In 2009, everything changed. While on vacation with Jeff in Las Vegas, I wanted to take advantage of my new surroundings. So, I scheduled two trade shoot with two high school girls, MEGAN & HARLEY. I had a few ideas of some poses I wanted to try and even put together a simple concept shoot for one of the girls, who was a dancer. This was my first attempt at designing a concept and the feeling of turning my vision into a reality was unlike any other feeling I had ever experienced. For the first time in years, I wasn’t overwhelmed by photography, I was actually excited about it. As Jeff and I walked back to our hotel after the shoots, we couldn’t stop talking about how fun our afternoon had been. I discovered a new passion for senior photography that day and there was no way I could ignore it.
I redesigned my entire business model that week in Vegas. I wiped out my website and decided to specialize in seniors. Senior girls, to be precise. Once I made the decision to specialize, I didn’t hesitate to jump in with both feet. Yes, it was a little extreme to go all-in, but I knew what I wanted and dragging my feet to get there would only prolong the process. I was tired of wasting time. Senior photography has been happening for a very long time in Oregon, so I knew I had to do something to make my photography standout. Making my business all about girls gave me the edge in my market that I was looking for. It best decision I have ever made for my business.
YOU CAN BE AS BROAD OR AS SPECIFIC AS YOU CHOOSE
There is a misconception that specializing means you have to narrow it down to one very small demographic. This isn’t true. The choice is yours. Specializing basically means that you have a focus. Defining who you are as a photographer also allows you to define who your ideal market is. This is vital. Keep in mind, narrowing your business down to one demographic can be risky. You have to make sure that you live in a market that will support this decision. Do you have the clientele to maintain a profitable business? If not, you need to rethink your decision. Don’t narrow the scope so much that you put yourself out of business. Sometimes it isn’t possible to strip away everything and focus on just one demographic right out of the gate. That’s okay. Make it a goal and start working away at making it happen. Sometimes the path to specializing requires a ladder and you have to climb your way to where you want to be.
Final note, don’t specialize too early. Take the time to dabble in all areas of photography. I did and it unveiled a passion for seniors. When I started in photography, I planned on becoming a child photographer. A year or two in, I switched gears and set my sights on being a wedding photographer. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I am a hands-on photographer, so weddings weren’t the right fit. Now, here I am, happier than ever, working with teen girls. Becoming a Specialist should be an organic process. Take your time and do a lot of soul searching. Above all else, allow yourself the freedom to dream and always follow your heart.