Why I Don't Have a Photography Niche
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A year and a half ago, I met up with a freelance photographer friend to discuss making the jump to freelance myself. He asked if I was going to put all of my focus into food photography since that had been such a large portion of my work up to that point. At the time I was working for a restaurant group. The logic with picking a niche is that you become known for doing one thing and everyone hires you to do that one thing. It’s a theoretical cheat code for getting work as a freelancer.
My answer then and now is that I don’t want a niche. For many years, I was known as the person to go to for cinemagraph work (see below some of my work for Universal Studios on the left and MGM resorts on the right) and I had a steady stream of commercial cinemagraph projects. In some ways it was great but sometimes I started to feel creatively stagnated. The work was incredible but I got really good at one thing and one thing only.
Marketing vs. Reality
For a while I tried to label myself as a photographer and multi-media artist. This I thought would encapsulate my range of interests in different photography subjects as well as my cinemagraph and GIF work. It also felt honest and true.
I tested it out this title at a few events and quickly found myself looking at blank stares as people tried to figure out if I was in fact slightly deranged and possibly unemployed. It’s important to describe yourself in a way that’s easily understandable I came to realize. As a person, I always want to feel like I'm conveying myself in a way that feels true to me. As a business owner, it's also important to convey my work in a way that's quickly understandable. So I tried out various combinations of “photographer”, “photographer and gif artist”, “food photographer” and so on, eventually growing most confident in food and travel photographer.
When I meet new people, I introduce myself as a professional food and travel photographer and while that's true, it's only a snippet of reality. For example, I started this week out by wrapping up a large industrial photography project. On Tuesday, I had a shoot with an interior designer to capture his newest project. Wednesday started off bright and early with an event for a women’s makeup line and then I had shoot at a new restaurant. Friday is a wedding day. So just in one week, I'll be working on everything from industrial photography to wedding photography.
I’m absolutely thrilled for each of these shoots. Maintaining a wide range keeps things fresh and exciting for me. Over the last 2 and a half years, I’ve photographed over a 100 restaurants and have taken over 25,000 images of food. It’s a huge part of what I do but it's not a niche that I want to settle in.
Progressing as a creative
Each new thing I photograph gives me a fresh perspective into photography. It also jolts me out of creative ruts. These days, I feel very comfortable photographing restaurants and food. I know the angles I like, the lighting that works best and the type of styling I like to see. It would be easy to shift into autopilot for weeks at a time if I was predominately focused on food but fully delving into a range of photography subjects pushes me to stay present and to constantly think about my work. When I'm photographing a large industrial space or a newly finished interior design project, I'm much more aware of my lens distortion and the angles of each shot. With portraits and weddings, I have to feel extremely confident in my technical skills so I can focus entirely on the people in front of my lens.
Do what works for you
I love variety and change. Jumping into a new project is thrilling for me. I realize that's not true for everyone and there are plenty of photographers I admire that go deep into one subject matter. The great thing about being a photographer is that you choose your own destiny. Create the reality you want.