Tech Talk – Specializing; to do or not to do?

downloadI thought I’d try something a little different this week and open a discussion of sorts (mostly just my mad ravings), but it is something that has been on my mind.

So should you specialize?

As a photographer should you specialize in just one field and hone that to perfection, or should you be a little more flexible? Do you have or can you create a style that can cross barriers, fields and mediums? Perhaps it is just me, as I am still fairly new, but I want to try it all. Each field has it’s own ups and downs I am sure.  As a relative newbie, should I pick something I really like and concentrate on it, or should I try it all?

Trying Different fields of photography?

For instance I really like to dabble in Macro, but I do not have the patience to spend ALL my time doing stacked macro shots in Photoshop, also I am not overly excited about bugs and flowers all the time, it’s a patience thing I guess.

I love doing portraits, in particular newborns and kids, and I think I am fairly good at it, but does that mean I will be any good at weddings? or Models? Taking that a step further, I like Portraits, but love getting out doors, photographing nature, true you can combine that and do portraits outside, but it’s not the same as photographing a waterfall. Then there are different types of portraits, studio, garden, street, grunge, artistic…….the list goes on.

Landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes; Beach or Forest? Mountains or Cities? I know as a rule I am not a huge fan of architecture, but then sometimes I find a really old building which is incredibly interesting. I am always up for beach shooting (as long as it is not too hot or too crowded), I love the forest and mountains (as long as I don’t have to hike for days to get to it, or up it). Cities can be interesting, but they can be crazy full of people, too crowded to shoot.

Sunrise, Sunset or Night time……….I love to shoot them all, but sometimes I am too lazy to get up early, or even stay up too late. I get frustrated as you can make the effort, get up real early, or stay up late, travel somewhere fabulous, but the conditions are bad and you have wasted your time. I really enjoy light painting, but I don’t want to do it all the time, it is often dangerous and you need lots of room.

Making money from Photography

Then there’s the old brain teaser; do you want to make money from this or is it just a hobbie, something for yourself? From a financial side, weddings can make good money, but are a huge amount of work, and are probably not for everyone, portraits are easier and often more fun, with less headaches (no Bridezillas!) But, there are so many portrait & wedding photographers out there, how do you stand out? What do you need to do to get peoples attention? Yes, word of mouth is the best, but you need to build up clientèle first,  I can only do so many freebies to get out the word, but at some point you have to make money – don’t you? At least cover your costs. When is enough……well, enough? I work on the theory if I am least paying for my kit, or adding to it; new lights, or lens or remote, petrol, or whatever; anything over that is a bonus? This then allows me to plan and pay for my day trips. I know I am never going to make a lot of money off my landscapes, I don’t have a hook, I don’t specialize in anything, but I love doing them. I would love to be able to occasionally sell a picture, that would be amazing. Come to that do you need a hook, that special something that says it’s by you? Mind you I will probably never get rich off portraits either, but while I really enjoy doing them I will continue.

How do you work out what to charge, when you finally do get paying customers?

Good question, and not necessarily just for a portrait sitting or a wedding, or anything else? What if someone asks to buy one of your prints, how much do you charge. How can you justify what you are worth? Surely if you work it out on an hourly basis, like a lot of other businesses; say an accountant or a house painter or even a hairdresser……it just doesn’t add up? Does a photo straight out of the camera sell for more than a Photoshop genius piece of art that took 100 hours to complete? Even though you have not put the man hours into it? Perhaps that 100 hours was not exactly used for anything else and that shot straight out of the camera involved a 4 hour drive, a aeroplane flight or a 3 day hike to reach that spot to get that amazing photo. Or you had to put up with the child from hell for a 1 hour shoot that suddenly turned into a 3 hour shoot, as the child was throwing tantrums. It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on something that potentially has your heart and soul in it.

What classifies as a Professional Photographer?

So what classifies as a professional photographer? If you sell one photo, or 1,000? 1 or 100 portrait sittings, 1 or 10 weddings? Or can you just get a business registered and hang a sign on the door (hypothetically speaking).

Then there is travel photography and journalism, I thought perhaps it was in my blood (long story there, maybe one day), but perhaps I am just day dreaming there? A blog is very different from an E-Mag or Magazine, even Newspapers etc. I would love to travel the world, Australia or even just Victoria and write about it, and get paid for it……..who wouldn’t love that as a job? I can do the travel part, do I have what it takes to write and are my images good enough? I mean I don’t even have a full frame camera.

Do you need professional level gear to be a professional?

That leads me to my next question, they say it is the person or artist that makes the photograph great, not the gear; however is this really the case? I use cropped sensor cameras and I get nice photos, but not full frame and certainly not large format. Where do you draw the line? With the quality and range of cropped sensor format, does it really make such a difference? I see and hear about photographers who have less gear, older gear, and still take great pictures and make more commissions…..or is it all in the marketing?

What do YOU think?

I guess it all comes down to; Do you do it for love or money? Is it just fun or deadly serious? Do you do one for money and one for fun? I don’t have any of the answers, just the questions, and to be honest I probably have not even though of all the questions.

So do you specialise?
If yes, in what?
If no, do you have a style that speaks across fields or mediums?
Is that even possible?

Please feel free to make a comment, add to the discussion or re blog. Your ideas could help answer mine or someone else questions!

-Julz