What is a niche? I’d describe it as an area of specialty, or skill, within a larger market – such as photography. It’s an area of photography where skills are honed and a special level of comfort develops. Think of Ansel Adams and his niche – amazing landscape photos. Dorothea Lange and photojournalism. Along those lines, a niche is what grabs your attention, where you work to develop your skill, and what subgroup of photography becomes your “style”.
How do you find and develop a niche?
The first step and you’re probably already doing it, is to try a few things and see what you enjoy. If you love photographing kids, you might be a great family portrait maker. If you don’t love photographing people and would rather travel, then you might find yourself in the travel or landscape category. Try different things, until you find what interests you.
After you find your happy photography place, start developing the skills needed to really excel. You may need to invest in additional gear, or additional education, to really get a focus on your work. Once you get there, and it becomes your specialty, keep educating yourself and working to master your craft.
What are some examples of niches?
There is a long list of options and niches that have masters that you can learn from:
Landscape, Wildlife, Macro, Wedding, Portrait, Sports, Fashion, etc.
Specialties exist in each of the categories above and can get to be quite unique. Sports may mean surfing, landscape may mean going places most people don’t ever go, family portraits may be something quite different than just posed families. I know of a photographer who does family portraits, but with a twist – the families dress in white and play with paint and just make a massive mess with little kids and the smiling faces are amazing! She has a niche, for sure.
How does having a specific niche benefit you?
When you specialize your work, you become more “searchable”, and more known to specific groups of people. You can develop a reputation for your work and that simple aspect of “being known” can be very beneficial. The narrower the niche gets, the more likely you are to stand out from the crowd! Being unique can be a great thing for a photographer!
Does it have to be just one thing?!
Definitely not. Many photographers have more than one specialty, but narrowing the wide range of options down to one or two may be good for you! Obviously, all of those other things are still open to you as well!
What is so great about focusing on a specific area of photography?
There are obvious benefits, including those mentioned above, but to me, the biggest benefit is that you can truly master a style of photography. Maybe large format film is your interest, but once you really develop that work, you will likely be a master of your camera and handling the film, and hopefully, of the outcomes. Developing from a hobbyist, into someone who is known for what they create, is perhaps the biggest prize of the process.
How to stand out within a crowded niche?
This can be difficult in big markets such a portrait or landscape photographers. Developing photos into unique and attention-getting work is possibly the biggest key. Beyond that, marketing and having an online presence clearly indicating your niche are also very important.
Finding your personal niche will possibly take some time… remember to try new things and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Taking creative leaps can be uncomfortable (especially if they don’t work out) – but learning from those experiences is worth it. When the leap works out, you may find yourself landing in the perfect spot for your style, and that is a great payoff for all the time and work you put in along the way.
The more you try, the more you learn – so try different cameras, different mediums, different scenarios, different films… just keep trying things. You’ll quickly recognize what is right for you and what isn’t.
It can be tempting to want to learn everything about photography, but narrowing the focus down to the enjoyable areas where you have natural talent is often a rewarding approach. Look for that area that seems to fuel more creativity for yourself and work to develop that into your own style, then enjoy continuing to develop along the way!
So tell us – what types of photography do you love? Do you have a unique niche?