As a photographer, is it better to specialise in a particular type of photography, or to market yourself as more of a general photographer?

Most photographers will come across this dilemma at some point, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Ultimately, you’ll need to look at your own situation and decide what’s right for you.

Wildsmith Photography offers specialist food photography due to Mark’s background working as a chef in fine dining, but this doesn’t mean that we’d never take headshots or product shots; it just means that we wear our food photography skills as a badge of honour. That’s what we’re best at, and that’s what our clients most often hire us to do.

Here are some points to consider when deciding whether or not to specialise in a particular area of photography.

What do you enjoy most?

If you specialise in something, you’re going to be doing it a lot, so it might be worth thinking about what you actually like to photograph.

Some photographers are very people-focused and love taking portraits and candid shots, while others prefer still life. Consider the various jobs that you’ve undertaken over the years, and think about which ones you enjoyed the most.

What are you best at?

Although it might not directly correlate to what you enjoy doing, it makes sense to specialise in something that you’re already good at.

This will make your work more professional and appealing to potential clients and will allow you to more quickly develop your portfolio of work.

Are there any gaps in the market?

If you take a look at the current photography market, can you identify any gaps that you could fill?

By specialising in something that nobody else is currently taking care of, you can build a name for yourself within this sector and monopolise the work.

What do your clients want?

We’ve previously discussed this with agencies that we work with and find that, overwhelmingly, they prefer to use specialists.

Opting for a photographer who is particularly experienced in the desired subject matter means that clients can trust that they will do the job right, and suggests that the outcome will be better than images taken by a generalist.

However, it could be that you work with a client that requires a lot of different types of photography and is more comfortable working with one person across everything instead of a handful of dedicated photographers. In this instance, being able to provide top-notch results in diverse styles would be beneficial.

If you’re still not sure, consider these pros and cons.

Pros of specialising

  • Building a strong and consistent portfolio for your business.
  • Ability to charge more for a specialist service.
  • Working within your comfort zone and minimising unexpected problems.

Cons of specialising

  • Finding enough work within your niche to sustain the business.
  • Requires additional travel to cover specialist jobs further afield.
  • The work may get repetitive.

Pros of generalising

  • Gives flexibility to work in lots of different sectors.
  • Exploring many different photography styles and techniques.
  • Access to a greater range of work.

Cons of generalising

  • Being seen as less professional than a specialist photographer.
  • Lower rates due to the more generalised nature of the work.
  • Only reaching a certain level of expertise across multiple photography styles.

Of course, you can always try one avenue and see how it works out for you. If you decide to generalise, there’s nothing stopping you from choosing a niche in the future.