Friday, January 20, 2017

Photographing different things - Why do we have to specialize?

If you are a photographer, it is likely that you specialize in one type of photography or another. And according to most of what I read in magazines and online, the industry experts tend to think that specializing in one form of photography or another is the way to go.

I see it all the time, where influential photographers tell people to stick with one genre and not try to get too general with their photographic portfolios. Although I agree that photographers should fine tune their skills in once specific area (where they plan to make their living), I am an advocate for them, once they get good at one type of photography, to then go out and use their photographic passions in other types of photography.

People often give me that weird look when I tell them what I photograph.  The conversation goes something like this:


Them: "So...what type of photography do you do?"

Me: "I photograph everything from the Olympics, bar mitzvahs, weddings, corporate events, portraits, landscapes, to wildlife."

Them: (insert strange look here): "Huh? How can you do that?"

Me: "I just love photography. I feel that if someone knows how to control a camera and understands light and composition, why can't they enjoy photographing just about anything?"


I have friends, like Moose Peterson, who can take an amazing photo of a bison and then turn around and the next photo will be an awesome shot of a vintage warplane. Moose was an expert at wildlife photography first, and then studied, practiced and became an expert at photographing aircraft. He took the time to not only learn how to photograph his subjects, but he also takes an active interest in what and who he is photographing.

Let me stop here for a second and make something really clear. I am not advocating that someone should start photographing everything under the sun without learning the basics. I am saying that, once you get good at shooting something like weddings, there is no reason why you can't be a great landscape photographer. Sure...the subjects are different, and the stress level is vastly different, but the fundamentals are the same. I can tell you that I get the same high when capturing a really nice landscape photo as I do when I capture an amazing Olympic moment.

And for this reason, I encourage all of you to go out there and photograph whatever you want.

Here are some of my favorite photos. You can see a pretty diverse collection of photos here.

With all this said, I understand why some marketing experts tell me that my web site should focus on the photography that makes my primary income. I have even had some people, who I highly respect, tell me that I should create separate web sites for mitzvahs, sports and other subject matter. And I struggle with this myself. Will a client who comes to my web site to hire me for their mitzvah be confused or put off by my sports or wildlife photography? It is a possibility, but I am willing to take that risk. It has worked so far...

I hope this blog post has inspired you to go out and photograph something different!

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Jeff said...


I have often admired how you are able to photograph so many subjects and do them very well. Rather than be put off by images that are so diverse, if I were a prospective client, I would find your photographs proof that you can cover almost anything that would arise. Furthermore, since you have been in so many varied situations, it would five me confidence that you would be able to take care of any eventuality.

Yes, learn the craft and then shoot what you love. I find beauty in many places even if they are out of my "usual" genres.

Unknown said...

You have a very good point. Let's see, you've left Lexar to pursue your passion, you take excellent photographs and people pay you well to take them around the world to learn from you. I've never met you yet I can't articulate all that I've learned from you. As a talented non-specialist photographer and a very good teacher, I think you can tell those Marketing experts, thanks, but no thanks.

Thanks for all I've learned.


Unknown said...

I'm with you on this Jeff. My bread and butter is event photography for my employer, but I love shooting landscapes as well. The challenge of shooting something different, and doing it well, keeps things fresh, fun and inspirational.

Mike Taylor said...

Jeff I have to admit that I still struggle with the whole "generalist" photographer thing. There are some subjects that really get my juices flowing and others that I avoid like the plague.
I'm at the point where I am convinced that I need to keep the variety of subjects that I shoot on separate websites, so as not to confuse potential buyers of my work.
I think it can work as long as I aim my marketing at the appropriate market.
I'm curious if you find yourself selling different photography work to the same clients? IE portraits and still-life, or sports and barmitzvahs?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
I have so enjoyed looking through your days in Tanzania and the last two posts. I love the diversity of your photos. You have branded yourself by being diversified and I love it. I am taking photos of landscapes right now and that is the area I am focusing on first. I haven't decided what's next but you are an inspiring person to listen to on Youtube and look at the art that your produce.
Thank you so much for sharing YOU with all of us!
Kathy Hoffman