As a photographer, are you a jack of all trades, but a master of none? Are you tirelessly spreading your energies across the industry, never stopping long enough to focus on just one genre? Are you photographing weddings on the weekend, and during the week, you’re photographing babies and headshots and sports? Does this all-over-the-map workload leave you feeling harried or stagnant? Does your lack of focus feel like confusion and self-doubt?
Think of the times when you are asked by a potential client, “You are a photographer? That means you can photograph anything, right?” You hesitate, but nervously blurt, “Well, of course!,” not wanting to lose your credibility or next week’s paycheck. But from the second you commit to the job until the second it is complete, you endure feelings of dread and remorse for taking on work that you don’t exactly love....or even like. You fall into a place where you voice this particular complaint, but feel foolish when friends and family respond with, “It’s a job! You can’t love everything about it!” You agree and continue working the path of least resistance, which also happens to be the path of the most frustration.
But perhaps there is a specific genre of photography in which you find passion. This niche has you feeling more inspired and fired with enthusiasm over the rest; it’s the type of work that fills you with happiness and has you singing, “If I just photographed ‘X,’ I would be so happy and so much more successful.” It’s the type of job that every minute you spend working at doesn’t feel like you are working at all.
If you can relate, then you may have found your niche! So what exactly is niche marketing? Niche marketing, also referred to as “specialization,” is simply the act of narrowing one’s business focus to a certain demographic or subject matter. Often this will allow a business to capture a large share of their niche, rather than many small parts of a larger market.
Looking at malls, for example, can give us a very good sense of the differences between broad and niche business models. Usually, the anchor stores--think Macy’s--are larger, carry many more products, and cater to virtually all customers. Between the anchor stores, we will typically find the mall’s niche stores: stores that cater to only one segment of the population, such as teenage boys, children, pregnant women, etc. These stores have chosen to leverage their expertise in a certain area to capture a target audience. Stores with a niche market make sense because they are typically able to offer a greater variety of products aimed at their target customer, as well as provide superior knowledge and service. While some shoppers will still opt to buy an item from a department store, many still will want the service and expertise of a niche store, even if it means paying more in the end.
When I was in college, I had a friend who was a professional photographer. The first time I went to her home, I walked in to find stunning photographs of her children on the walls.
There was a huge canvas in their living room and a creative photo display in the main hallway. I remember being so moved by the beauty of those images, thinking to myself, “I want to create images like this!” I bought myself a DSLR as a graduation present, learned photography from online courses and started my photography business about a year later.