There’s no greater joy in life than getting to combine your passion with what you do for a living. Niche photographers are some of the lucky few that get to say they get to do what they love for work every day.
Having a speciality in photography is the result of cultivating your passion into a skill that you can market as being one of a kind, so that potential clients see you as an expert in that style. Underwater photography, birth photography and school/childcare photography are just a few examples of photography niches that require specific skills and experience.
Some people even turn niche photography into sources of content, like how Humans of New York has transformed street photography into a cultural phenomenon, spurred on by social media.
But the road to creating a niche isn’t easy - there’s often a lot of trial and error involved. Here are some tips to help you find a way to turn your photography passion into paid jobs.
1.Try a little bit of everything
Never close your doors to a certain type of photography too early. People change, and our passions change with us. Aside from allowing yourself to be exposed to different kinds of photography and figuring out the different things you love and don’t love about each kind, dipping a toe in different fields also allows you to develop different skillsets.
When I was younger, I thought that I was going to be doing sports photography for the rest of my life but I eventually transitioned into event photography. However the skills I developed while practising the former are some of the most valuable tools I still use to this day.
The important thing while starting out is to remain adaptable, to gather as much insight as you can, and to put give every type of photography a fair chance.
2. Find a good mentor
I have countless colleagues who ended up in the same field that their mentor specialised in. Aside from being an indispensable guide to the industry, a good mentor also gives you a brief glimpse into what your life and career might be like in your chosen niche.
Aside from being able to give you lots of insights and advice, a mentor is also a very important connection to the industry. They may be sources for work and projects down the line, which is why it’s important to maintain good relationships with them even after you’ve left their employment.
3. Immerse Yourself Completely
Charles Bukowski once said, "If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start."
Once you've decided what your niche is, commit to it deeply. Learn as much about your niche from people who came before you, study what your competitors are doing and shoot as often as you can. Once you've decided on a niche, make sure that all your professional social media accounts, promotional materials and portfolios reflect this commitment. The more specific and targeted your "brand" as a photographer is, the easier it will be for clients to find you.
Sometimes a niche comes from already working in a niche industry. For example, a wedding photographer colleague I know was very unhappy doing wedding coverage a few years ago. Instead of shifting fields completely, he tried to rediscover what attracted him to wedding photography in the first place and he figured out that he loved shooting adventure and location weddings. He decided to refocus his niche to an even more specific market and found his passion again. But he wouldn't have been able to come to this conclusion if he wasn't completely immersed in the wedding industry and aware of emerging trends.
4. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
Sometimes we get stuck in a photography rut and keep taking the same types of photography jobs because they are the easiest, most convenient jobs to take. Because photography is such a competitive industry, photographers forego the possibility of something great for the certainty of something safe.
But ask yourself - do you really love what you're doing? If the answer is not a definite yes then it might be time to rethink your focus.
If you're going to be spending 75 percent of your day out in the field or editing photographs, you might as well be spending all that time working on something you enjoy.
5. Don't be afraid to stand out
Just because no one else is doing the type of photography you’re doing doesn't necessarily mean there’s not a market for it.
The beauty of living in a time when new photographic technology is constantly being developed is that there are always new niches out there being created and mastered.
No one could have expected a few years ago that niches such as pet and boudoir portrait photography would have become as trendy as they are now, while other niches such as aerial drone photography are just starting to increase in popularity. It all comes down to marketing yourself a certain way.