Finding your niche in photography isn’t always easy.
Everyone has a story about how they came to love photography. It seems some were practically born with a camera in their hands, some discovered their passion in their teen years as a way to express themselves, while others did not discover photography until later in life. I am one of those that fall into the latter category.
How it started
When I was 26, I made the decision to go back to college and get a degree in Sociology. While signing up for electives, I thought it would be brilliant to take a beginners photography class, and what excited me most was that we would be using film and a darkroom.
What I didn’t expect was to fall in love the moment my image started to appear in the developing solution. I vividly remember the image of my husband cuddling with our puppy, Kasey, on our bedroom floor. The photograph was nowhere near technically sound, as it was underexposed and had a terrible composition, but there was so much emotion connected to it. I was hooked and immediately changed my major.
Finding your niche — the trial and error
Since then, I have tried quite a few genres of photography. I have delved into weddings, births, maternity, newborns, families, seniors, engagements, macro photography, lens-less photography, and landscapes.
I quickly discovered I had no eye for landscapes during a trip to a waterfall with a friend and fellow photographer. After waking up far too early for my tastes, driving a considerable distance to find a scenic location, and being cold for most of the morning, I finally set up my tripod and camera only to realize I felt completely out of my element.
When taking a portrait, the focus is usually the person’s eye. As I was squatting beside the water, facing a moss-covered log, I realized I wasn’t able to make the same connection I do with people. While I appreciate a beautiful landscape, I will leave that to those who really excel in that area.
On to weddings
Weddings are an entirely different beast. As is often the case when friends find out you are exploring your interest in photography, it’s likely the request to photograph a wedding will happen. This happened to me and I said yes thinking it would be a good experience. It was an experience, all right! The pace of a wedding is like a pendulum, swinging from low-key while waiting for things to get moving, to everything happening at once.
There is much more to consider, such as lighting and scouting beforehand, making sure you have checklists and backup gear prepared and being able to shoot for 6-8 hours solid. The pace and duration alone were not something I was comfortable doing on a constant basis.
Does that mean I refuse to use my camera at a wedding? Absolutely not! In fact, I photographed a wedding on the 4th of July weekend for my Ex-Husband and his new wife as a gift to them (sounds weird to most people but they are wonderful!)
While living on a military base in Japan, I realized how big of a market there was to document life events for families to send home to loved ones. It was during this time I discovered I loved everything about photographing pregnancy and babies. I would have never discovered this if it wasn’t for my willingness to try a little bit of everything.
Don’t stop searching for your niche
My advice is to go out and try it all! Take your camera everywhere, as you may find pleasure in shooting something you never imagined. Tote a camera with you into a grocery store, to a farmers market, out in the middle of a field, or to the hot spot of a big city.
Participating in a photowalk is another way to get the creative juices flowing and kick-start an interest in street photography. Being able to watch people and get a feel for who they are and capturing that with your camera can be very rewarding.
If your interest lies in documenting memories, friends and family are a great resource to master portrait, lifestyle, or event photography. It isn’t until you experience the ups and downs of each style that you will find out what is a good fit for you.
Good luck finding your niche!