To Specialize or to Generalize?

Photographers starting a new business face an important decision either immediately or shortly after going into business: whether to specialize in one area of photography or generalize and offer multiple types of photography services.

A Lazy Evening at Red Rock, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

It’s a difficult decision. I think it is better to specialize because specialization allows you to define yourself and your brand. You can establish yourself more easily as an expert in your chosen area and become known as the person to go to for that kind of photography. You can build a strong portfolio of images and use that portfolio most effectively to target your marketing to a specific customer base.

On the other hand, photographers just starting out may not yet know what they want to do, and they may have varied interests. Further, it is difficult for a new business to turn down any kind of job, because revenue is scarce and expenses are plentiful at the beginning.

As the owner of a newer photography business, I have faced this decision. I have been in business for almost two years, and for me it’s a little easier because mine is a side business. I have a separate income that supports me and subsidizes my business expenses, so I don’t feel a need to generalize and start taking all kinds of photography jobs. I still must face this decision, however.

Right now my primary business is selling fine art prints of my landscape photographs. I sell my work online at my website, at art festivals throughout the year, and in other retail venues. Before starting my business, I worked very hard to find my artistic vision and develop my style, and I continue to grow and develop as an artist. So I have specialized in fine art landscape photography.

Even at this early stage it is clear to me that I have a profitable business model as a fine art landscape photographer. Profitable, however, does not necessarily mean much. In fact--at least at this point--it is also clear that if I want my photography business to provide a living income which would free me from having to maintain a separate primary source of income, I am going to need additional revenue from my business. It’s difficult to make a living as a photographer of any kind, but landscape photography is one of the more difficult ways.

I will soon be expanding my business into a new area of photography: architectural photography. This area of photography nicely complements my landscape photography because, even though it is a commercial area of photography and has highly technical requirements, there is still a lot of artistry involved in it. My landscape photography influences my architectural photography. As I have developed my architectural photography knowledge, skills, and experience, I have also found that my architectural photography has influenced my landscape photography.

Davita Dialysis, Las Vegas, NV. Daniel S. Amster (Dakem & Associates, LLC), architect.

Although I am expanding my capabilities, I’m not completely generalizing. I really feel it is important to specialize in one or two (preferably related) areas of photography. Landscape and architectural photography are my chosen fields.

I love both fine art landscape photography and architectural photography, and I look forward to the day when I can support myself fully through photography. Stay tuned for an announcement about my new architectural photography business!