Advice for Photographers: Don’t be Afraid to Specialize

I often am asked to review websites and blogs for different photographers and provide feedback to them.  Although I don’t mind doing this, I am finding that I frequently responding with a recurring theme: specializations.

About 80% of the websites/blogs I read contain an ‘About Me’ section.  I like having an ‘about me’ section on a page because it’s a way of introducing yourself to your clients and letting them know what you can uniquely offer them that no one else can as well as provides insight into who you are as a person and a professional.  Some people, however, have a short ‘About Me’ section that consists of 1 or 2 sentences and more times than not, these sentences list all of their specialties.

That’s right… I said ALL of their specialtiesssss….. plural.  Yikes.

My dear, dear photography friends – please listen carefully to me.  Take an evening to go through your portfolio and reflect on your shoots.  Think about what it is that you not only loved shooting but also loved editing!  Determine what type of photography you love and consider specializing in it.  Maybe there’s two types you love and you want to specialize in both… that’s fine…. but if your website’s bio section looks anything like this:

“My name is so-and-so and I’m a photographer who specializes in: weddings, newborns, maternity, portraits, landscapes, macro and candids…”

… then the only thing you’re really telling your potential clients is that you’re a glorified amateur.  No one can “specialize” in everything…. you specializing in one… maaaaybe two thing at most.  Think about it in terms of healthcare… if you had to have your tonsils taken out, would you be more comfortable visiting an oral surgeon or someone who is an esthetician/mechanic/oral surgeon/circus-clown hybrid?

Although it’s common for many people who dabble in several genres of photography as their first learning, it’s absolutely crucial to put your foot down at some point and decide to specialize if you want to grow!  Does that mean that you have to give up all other forms of photography?  Well… no, not necessarily.  Okay, so there’s a bit of a grey area here: you can offer a few kids of photography if you want, but you should only be SPECIALIZING in one type.  This is the type that you research about, attend conferences and workshops about, dream about!

When I entered the big bad world of photography, I intended on only photographing weddings.  Weddings were what thrilled me, excited me and inspired me.  My life was all about weddings – I was even planning my own.

After friends and family started getting the news that my hobby had slowly morphed into a successful business, I started being asked to photograph events other than weddings.  It started with a few birthday parties, then a christening, some family reunions and even a bachelorette.  Then it morphed into family photos, then baby photos, newborn photos and maternity photos.  I dabbled in the world of boudoir photography and even pet photography.  Exploring the wide world of photography genres was fun but my passion was still red hot for weddings!  Oh, glorious weddings!  The excitement, the beauty, the love and energy present during the day – everything about weddings made me smile.  As much as I enjoyed photographing these non-nuptual based events, I still found myself thinking only of weddings.  I had to do something…

After lot of self reflection, I decided to return to my roots and photograph only weddings.  Although I was reluctant to do so (I didn’t want my previous portrait clients to feel abandoned after the time I spent establishing a rapport with them) it was one of the best decisions I ever made!

The first thing I did, after making the decision to specialize, was sell all of my studio equipment.  If it wasn’t portable enough to use at a wedding then I didn’t want to keep it.  The reason I was so keen to sell the equipment was because I didn’t want to let myself be talked in to doing ‘just one more’ newborn/maternity/child, etc. session.  I knew that if I sold my equipment, the answer would have to be “no”.  This ensured that my focus did not stray from weddings.

A few seasons have passed since I began photographing only weddings and, in all honesty, things have only been getting better and better.  Allowing myself to focus on my true passion has allowed me to grow and nurture my skills far beyond anything I could have accomplished had I continued to spread myself too thin.  After much soul searching, I will be re-introducing a fine-art portrait package into my mix of services later this year.  My speciality is still weddings and always will be, which is my the fine-art portrait package will be very specific as to the types of portrait photography I will be providing (ie: no newborn, no maternity, etc.) so that there is no confusion as to where my speciality lies.  Will this be a popular decision?  Probably not for those who want newborn photography, but it’s a decision that I am comfortable with and will stand by.

It may take you some time to decide what your true passion is, but please – take that journey!  Discover what your true love is – what brought you into the world of the photography in the first place!  Do everything you can to learn about your speciality so that you can excel and not only impress your clients, but also yourself.  Learn, shoot, grow – but always remember the most important secret of them all: remain humble in the face of all your success!

Happy shooting


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