Once you discover how much you love photography, it can be hard to put the camera down at all. As you work on your skills taking photos at high-speed, portraits, still life, animals, landscapes… the list is endless of everything you will want to capture.
Eventually, the idea that you’d like to turn this into a career will creep in, or perhaps just a well-paid hobby. Turing your creative ideas into a money maker isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, however, it is always interesting to learn more about it.
But going from hobbyist to professional and being paid for your work usually requires understanding and leaning into your skilled area. Also known as your niche.
You don’t need to have formal photography training to be great at photography. Some of the best photos are taken with feel and passion over the rule of thirds.
But there are some simple steps that you can take and probably are already taking to work out what your niche is and how you can maximize your potential in that area.
Try, Try and Try Again
You might not know that you excel at taking macro photos of insects until you do it. You might not know that you have an eye for sunsets with bite.
You have to try as many different photography styles as possible and as many different subject types as possible.
There might be a few areas that you are naturally enthusiastic about. If you have a love of knitting and photography, the two things can be combined.
You have an endless amount of creativity and style and access to some of the best editing software to help you bring your vision to fruition.
So go wild.
Try a different theme each week, and within each theme, use 3-4 editing styles so that you can narrow it down to your most loved ones over time.
When you have the editing style and the photos that you love the most, you can spend a few weeks working on those.
In the end, if that wasn’t your niche, you can try another one.
In the early stages of taking photos, you might want to keep everything. The chances are that many of the images that you have saved will end up taking up space on your camera and on your computer.
So take some time and learn to be critical of your work, and delete what doesn’t capture your vision or isn’t ‘great.’
Of course, great is subjective, but try only to keep the photo you really wanted to take.
You can move the rest to an HDD if you choose to, but most often, you won’t go back to them unless you have a long-term project in the works.
While you do not need to have formal photography qualifications, there is plenty that you need to learn. Or, you might really enjoy learning, things like the history of photography.
There is a lot to learn about various camera types, and while many people take digital photos with a DSLR, there is joy in learning how to develop your own images too.
You can also learn from other photographers; there are many blog posts with tips and tricks that can change how you take photos and edit them.
If you don’t wish to spend much money, photography magazines often have some great tutorials that can elevate your work.
While client work might be your end goal, personal projects can quickly build a portfolio and show your style.
Over time you will get more of a feel for how you take your best work and will be able to offer a lot to your clients.
But it all starts with personal projects. Here are some ideas for your next unique photography project:
- Street photography
- Negative space
- Dark and light
- Landscapes over time
- A film series
- Black and white
- Long exposure
Of course, you might have something else in mind. Your personal projects can make complete sets and make a great addition to your portfolio.
Over time you will build up a big collection of photos, and as you look through them, you can start to pick out the ones that really make an impact.
Start building a portfolio that makes sense and shows off your style.
Need some tips for building a portfolio?
- Think about the final goal: what type of clients do you want, and what work do you enjoy the most?
- Choose photos for your portfolio that highlight those areas, tailor them to the needs of the clients you want.
- Create a website – although this might seem daunting at first, there are many options for creating gorgeous websites with little to no cost. Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace are great options for creating your photography websites.
- Edit your photos, but edit them well. A great edit can turn your photo into your vision. Editing software can take a while to become familiar with, but you can create your own methods and style once you are. Adobe Lightroom is a popular option as you can apply preset styles quickly.
- Ask for feedback from friends, family, and even within any online photography groups. You need to know how others are perceiving your images.
- Once you have your selection, get them printed. You can show this to clients, but it also allows you to enjoy your own work.
Don’t Get Disheartened.
Easy to say but challenging to do. Getting your first clients can take time and a lot of effort, but it should be something that you are working on at a very early stage.
After setting up your portfolio, you might secretly hope that you get a lot of bookings quickly. However, there is always more work to be done.
In between client work, you can keep taking photos to add to your personal projects and portfolio.
How do you market your photography?
You might be tempted to put a lot of cash straight into Facebook ads. But one of the most important things you can do is going through the free list of ways to market your business and then build on those.
- Set up your Google Business Page
- Use Buffer or Hootsuite to automate your social media posts, there are free options to help you get started, and they have tutorials to make it even easier.
- Create a blog on your website and share your photographs and adventures; try to blog at least once a week, more if possible.
- Reach out to photography blogs and magazines, research how you can be featured, take part in competitions too
- Unsplash is a great way to share some of your photos for free, then use their ‘work with me’ option as an extra space for finding work.
- Create a Facebook page, and keep it updated
- Find a charity or cause that aligns with your beliefs and use a % of your client income to support them, or offer your services at a discounted price.
Who are you? What is your photography about? Your photography company should come with a healthy dose of your personality and style. This way, you can keep it authentic.
Your brand is more than just a logo, but the logo sure can help you on your way to building your entire vision.
To start getting an idea of your brand:
- Make a list of everything you need for your ideal client.
- Make a list of everything about your personality that makes this partnership make sense.
- Look for the cross overs and infuse that into your branding.
Understand who your ideal client is. Because saying men aged 20-50 in the NYC area isn’t saying much.
Saying male-identifying, in the 30-35 bracket, with X amount of disposable income, in the finance sector, who love to travel and work long hours – is much better.
Narrow down who you are talking to; as the saying goes, if you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one. Whatever you do, make it niche.
Once you know all of the parts that make up your brand, it’s time to put some color on it.
TIP: Use Adobe Color CC to play with colors and create a brand palette.
Always think about the value you add. What is it that you bring to the client that no one else can? It might be hard to think about, but look for what makes your style and personality match what they need.
Remember that creating content is part of cementing your brand voice, and that is another area that you can bring value to your clients. After creating the in-depth client profile, you will know how best to deliver the value and content so that it really makes an impact.
Finding your niche can be one of the first steps to create a photography business that allows you to use your passion to make money. And, with every photo you take, your skills improve too.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
— Elliott Erwitt