Choose an area of photography in which to specialise – Portrait, Fashion, Product, Glamour, Family, Advertising, Wedding, etc.
Whether you’re an amateur photographer or looking to turn professional, there comes a time when it makes sense to choose an area of photography in which to specialise. By focussing on one particular branch, you’ll be able to perfect your technical skills and develop an eye for your subject. Conversely, if you try to excel in all areas at once, you’ll be spreading your creative energy too thinly to become really good at what you do.
Consider the following types of photography and try them out until you feel drawn to the one that’s right for you.
From corporate headshots to baby pictures, black & white photography and family groupings, a skilled portrait photographer will always be able to find work. The key to being successful in this field goes beyond the obvious of capturing an attractive image of your subject to being able to distil the essence of their character in your picture. You may be shooting in the studio or on location, but the important thing here is the person, not the setting.
Also known as documentary photography or reportage, this style of photography can take you all over the world, reporting on news stories such as wars and natural disasters or documenting a place, a culture or a lifestyle. Always fascinating and sometimes dangerous, this calls for an enquiring mind, excellent technical skills and the ability to tell a story through the visual image.
For some photographers this is the icing on the cake to earn some extra money at weekends; for others, it’s the main event. To outsiders it may appear frivolous, but in fact these are often the most important and meaningful photos in a person’s life, so it’s critical that you achieve the images they are looking for. Combining portraiture and reportage, you’ll need diplomacy, patience and stamina to create a wonderful wedding portfolio.
Sport and action photography
If you spend hours composing photographs in your studio, this won’t be the area for you. The best sports and action shots are captured on the cusp of a second, at the very moment when the ball goes into the net, the horse rises over the jump or the plane leaves the runway. A steely nerve, a steady hand and a decisive finger on the button are what you need – but you will be repaid with travel, adventure and thrills if you can achieve that split-second timing.
Macro and micro photography
Extreme close-ups of tiny objects and images captured through a microscope require technical ability and specialist equipment. If you’re interested in science, natural history or medicine and enjoy the challenge of a more technical field of photography, this could be the specialism for you.
Fashion and glamour
Most glamour and fashion photography is studio based and you will need to be skilled at both capturing the images and manipulating them afterwards to achieve perfection. The difference between the two fields is that one focuses on the clothes and the other on the model herself, but many photographers combine a career in both areas.
Aerial and underwater photography
If you’d rather be out of the studio and working at the extremes, underwater or aerial photography might appeal to you. Both have an added dimension of technicality and specialist equipment, and building a portfolio in these areas early in your career can be difficult because of the costs involved in chartering planes, balloons, microlights, cranes, diving equipment and boats. If you’re good at it, though, both can be lucrative.
This is a field that can embrace a multitude of subjects and techniques – the main qualification here is the aesthetic value of the image. It is probably also the least commercial area of photography at which it is hard to earn a living until you have achieved a certain level of recognition.
Advertising and product shots
Like wedding photography and corporate portraiture, this is an area that can produce a steady stream of income for a good technical photographer. Glossy images of products, from cars to food to cosmetics, abound in every magazine and newspaper you read. The product needs to look appetising and enticing and you’ll need the best post production skills to manipulate your images to perfection.
Whether for a holiday brochure, a guidebook or a magazine article, travel photography needs to capture the essence of the place you are portraying. You may be selling a hotel or capturing vibrant cultural images, you may be shooting the wildlife or the pool life – so depending on your brief, you’ll need a range of technical skills and, obviously, a willingness to travel anywhere in the world.
Finding your perfect fit will take time and energy. You might need to try a few different areas of specialisation before you find the one that’s right for you and, just as importantly, the one at which you can earn a good living.