Finding your niche as a photographer: first steps

In some ways, becoming a professional photographer has never been easier thanks to social media and image sharing across the internet. However, the very thing that makes it so accessible is also the reason why professional photography is so competitive – especially as we all carry around a pretty decent camera in our pockets and bags at all times.

If you have been hoping to break into the photography industry, or maybe you are struggling to make an impact, then finding a niche is a great way to enjoy greater success as a professional. But where to begin with finding a niche? This guide will help you figure out what direction to take your photography career in, how to choose a niche, and what to factor into your decision-making process.

What is a niche in photography?

Just like any industry, photography enjoys different areas and tastes that each come with higher or lower levels of interest. Some areas are more broad, like portraiture or wildlife photography, while others are more niche, for example, specifically wedding portraits or marine wildlife photography. There are many niches to explore and some are yet to be discovered or created, so there is always scope for finding something a little different to specialize in.

How to choose your specialist area

The first thing you may have discovered when trying to embark on a photography career is just how much competition there is. Broader areas of photography are more competitive and naturally more popular, while the more niche a particular area becomes the more it appeals to discerning or bespoke tastes.

That could be something as intriguing as frosty morning photography or something in a more professional capacity, such as product photography for manufacturing equipment parts. However, the more specialist you become, the smaller the pool of clients you will be working with so it’s important to strike the right balance.

Making yourself visible

To find the right audience and clients for your photography you can apply lessons learned through search engine optimization techniques. Your website and portfolio would benefit from targeting relevant keywords that people might be searching for if they wish to use your services.

For example, wedding photography is too broad a term to be the leading brand in a nation but you can greatly improve your chances of being found by diversifying the keywords you include on your website. Justin Aldridge, Technical Director at Artemis, a leading SEO company, offers his insights into how effective optimizing your web content for search can be, “SEO should be looked at in three levels, you start with the fundamentals and then the growth, and then the domination of a specific sector or niche”.

Wedding photography in Kansas City, for example, would narrow down people’s searches and help Google point them in the direction of your photography business. You could further diversify these keywords to include specific geographic locations such as Brookside, Downtown, Overland Park, or Westwood Hills for example with the modifier wedding photography attached to them.

Mastering hashtags

Popular hashtags on Instagram are a great representation of this long-tail keywords philosophy. For example, #japanesetattoo has over 2.9 million posts but #japanesetraditionaltattoo has a little under 80,000 posts.

Although it might seem like a bad thing that #japanesetraditionaltattoo has fewer posts, it can also mean that those seeking to view images of this specific type of Japanese tattooing will be searching for that keyword. Mastering hashtags and finding opportunities in more specific niches will help the people looking for your images discover you.

Commercial opportunities

One common crossroads many creative people come to is whether they wish to follow a purely artistic path or if they are okay with making commercial art. It’s not for anyone else to say which is right, wrong, better, or worse but certain economic benefits come with an openness for commercial work.

Commercial work can also open many avenues that you may never have even considered before. From shooting health and safety instructions to agricultural equipment in action or headshots for resumes, there are many opportunities to apply your photography skills in a commercial environment.

Sure, these might not be in your specific area of interest but they can pay the bills and there are many types of opportunities out there. Consider browsing freelance websites like Fiverr to get an idea of the services people search for and how much they charge.

Personal interest

If you have a particular personal interest then it may well be worth pursuing this line of photography for two reasons. Firstly, you will have a deep understanding of how the industry or niche works and therefore will be able to spot opportunities others may miss.

Secondly, this is a great opportunity to maximize your job satisfaction by working with something that you love. Be that beauty pageants for cows, horror movie makeup, or underwater dog photography.

How much investment is needed?

Getting into a photography niche may require additional equipment and is something to consider before jumping in with both feet. The initial outlay can be significant and while more experienced photographers will have built up a cache of equipment over the years, someone new will not be in the same position.

Do your homework regarding your niche to determine whether it’s something you want to pursue and if it’s worth the investment. Be it drone photography, fashion shoots, or remote shutter release and magnifying lens, there are barriers to entry that photographers need to be aware of before taking a deep dive into their new niche.

Should you stick to just one niche?

There are great benefits to finding a niche to work in as a photographer but some are not the most lucrative on their own and you may find that diversifying and specializing in several niches is a more fruitful approach. This can require double the effort of becoming established in both fields, and efforts increase further the more niches you add to your arsenal.

But the effort can be worth it and you can build up a career that provides a diverse range of subjects and image types. It will be important to diversify your portfolio and marketing efforts depending on the niches, from creating separate social media profiles to different sections on your website.

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