An Argument for Photographers to Specialize

Despite what a few folks may say on the web whilst contracting themselves, the absolute smartest thing that a Photographer can do is specialize. Just because many photographers don’t want to, doesn’t mean that it’s not the best thing to do and that they necessarily have to. But if Photographers really care about the way that they’re perceived online and potentially want to make income from their work, then there are extremely valid reasons why.

Part of this, has to specifically do with the nomenclature used in this article.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus food photography (5 of 5)ISO 16001-160 sec at f - 2.2

Like I’ve done in previous articles, I’m going to use very specific nomenclature here. There are four different major terms here:

  • photography
  • photographers
  • Photography
  • Photographers

Notice the difference in between big “p” and little “p”? That’s part of what I’ve been talking about for a while. Little “p” refers to photography with very personal and self serving intent and it often constitutes the photos that are thrown up on Instagram by most people. They’re often just photos.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master portraits with Megean (2 of 4)ISO 1001-400 sec at f - 2.8

Photography with a capital “p” refers to the more refined work that uses and focuses on the intent of creating sometimes artistic. It can include capturing moments like what Street Photography gives us but it can also include creating moments in with portraiture. Photography is much more hard lined and serious–it acknowledges that anyone can do photography but not everyone can do Photography.

The biggest problem here is that anyone and everyone thinks that you can take a photograph and that it’ll look amazing. Lots of people that do this are the ones that choose to not pay for photos or that choose to find a way to not pay. The reason is because they think that anyone with a DSLR or a Sony camera can do it. But they don’t understand the hard divide between photographers and Photographers.

And that’s what we’re all responsible for ensuring.

If You’re a Hobbyist

Ignore this. You’re probably sitting here and saying “Chris, what the hell are you saying?”

You also probably don’t have the intent of creating art for commercial purposes at least in some ways. So you’re excused. Do whatever you want and have fun; but realize and please respect that fact that some of us do this to put food on the table. I’m not saying that you’re not, but please keep it in mind.

Fernando's skin tone is associated with orange, his shirt is blue and the trees are green.

Fernando’s skin tone is associated with orange, his shirt is blue and the trees are green.

If You’re a Pro or a Semi-Pro

The reason why Photographers should specialize is that it’s incredibly tough to otherwise market your work. What that means is that you can have one specific and big main push for your art, but you can also do personal artistic projects on the side. However, those personal projects won’t necessarily get you work. Instead, they keep up your creativity and exercise your Photographic mind.

Let’s put it this way: no Photographer in the history of the world has been celebrated for all the work that they’ve done. I’m sure Bresson at one time or another photographed a landscape, but he’s known for his work with people. Same goes for Ansel Adams being known for his landscapes. They specialized and when it comes to actually marketing yourself it honestly has less to do with yourself and more to do with your clients.

The Impression a Client or Editor Gets From You

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 85mm f1.8 review sample portraits Jenna (1 of 1)ISO 16001-60 sec at f - 2.8

Let’s put it this way: it has to do with the client, their intent and what they want to possibly hire you for. Here’s an examination:

  • A bride or groom won’t come to your website to hire you as their wedding photographer if all they see is photos of dogs.
  • An actor inquiring with you about headshots doesn’t want to see your work on landscapes
  • A restaurant owner looking to hire you to photograph their food doesn’t care about your family documentary work
  • A band looking for you to create portraits of them really don’t care very much for your food photos.
  • A real estate agent doesn’t want to see your urban geometry images, they care about your photos of buildings and interiors. And this involves a lot of creation with the right light usage and all.

See where I’m going with this? You NEED to specialize because your potential clients need to see the type of work you can do that can help them and therefore justify paying you. On top of this, you need to find a way to prove to them that you’re doing much more than just taking a picture. There is creative intent involved and when you create and help capture the most amazing moments, then you help to make a more convincing argument for yourself as a photographer.

Let’s chat about this in the comments.