I am an equine photographer.
I’m not a wedding photographer. I’m not a family photographer. I’m not an event photographer. I’m not a newborn photographer.
I photograph horses. And I turn down a fair amount of work where people ask me to photograph subjects other than horses.
Because I think that one of the reasons people enjoy my work is because I’m totally passionate about what I do. And I feel that by choosing a niche, sticking to it and telling the world ‘This is what I do’, I inspire trust and belief in my clients.
I’m not telling potential clients that I can do everything with moderate skill. I’m telling them that I do one thing with focused expertise. I’m telling them that if they want photographs of their horses, I am experienced and skilled in achieving this for them. That I’ve honed a technique that will get them the images they are after. I’m telling them that if they want photographs of their baby/children/wedding/family, then they should find somebody who is an expert in that field, in order to get the best results.
If I’m browsing a photographers page (which I spend a lot of time doing) and read ‘I photograph families, children, newborns, dogs, horses, sports, landscapes, weddings, events and goldfish,’ I automatically think, ‘This person doesn’t know what direction they want to go in.’ It makes me wonder if they’ll just take any job that pays, regardless of whether they think they’ll make a good job of it or not. It makes me wonder what they’re passionate about? What are they really good at? Are you going to get the best results, if you book them to photograph your dog, when really it’s newborn babies that they love? Do they even know the first thing about photographing a wedding? Or will they just say yes to the job because you’re paying them?
That age old saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none,’ came about for a reason.
By specialising, I’m not telling people ‘Yeh, I’ll give that a go’. I’m saying ‘This is what I am best at. This is what I know how to do. If you book me for this, I am fully equipped to deliver the best results.’
The reason I originally decided to exclusively specialise in equine photography is because I truly believe that if you are passionate about something, if you really love what is in front of your lens, if you live and breathe your chosen subject matter, it absolutely shows in your work. If I photographed cars, or football, I know that I wouldn’t pour half as much love into my work as I do when I photograph horses.
I love what I do so much, that if I didn’t have any bills to pay, I would happily do my job for free. I’m being totally serious! In fact, if I go for a prolonged period of time without photographing horses and their humans, I get itchy fingers. It sounds so dramatic, but I honestly feel compelled to photograph horses. And it was only when I started doing something that I’d be happy to do for free, that the bookings started coming thick and fast. Because, ironically, when you aren’t so quick to deliver the hard-sell, people are more inclined to do business with you.
And because I adore what I do, I’m confident in my ability to do it. Because it’s second nature.
My advice, to a photographer struggling with which direction to go in, would be to pick something you love, something that inspires you, that makes you want to create and capture, something you’d want to get up and photograph every day, with no danger that you’ll ever get bored with it, and commit to building your business around that something
It’s taken me a long while to be secure enough in my decision to get to this point. Turning work down is a daunting thought, for a new, struggling artist. For a long time, I’d take on anything that paid. In fact, my Dad still often thinks I’m mad for turning down paid work. And I’m not saying you should never, ever photograph anything outside of your niche. I have clients that I’ve met through equine photography who have then asked me to photograph their family. Or friends who want me to photograph their kids, or their wedding. In these circumstances, I might say yes. But on my own terms.
And of course, you don’t have to just choose one speciality. That’s just my personal preference, and every now and then, I’ll agree to the odd dog shoot. Some photographers claim to specialise in families and weddings. But that is still showing a commitment to a certain niche and skill set.
For the most part, if a client approaches me out of the blue, asking me to photograph their children or wedding, I’m confident enough in my choice to specialise, that most of the time, I’ll advise them that this isn’t my area of expertise and that they should search for another photographer.
I’m an equine photographer. I photograph horses. And I love every second of it!
What’s your niche? What do you love?