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Archive 2012 · On specializing
  
 
zalmyb
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p.1 #1 · On specializing


Hey y'all. I'm still working on where I want my photography to be heading ad have some questions.

How many of you specialize in a specific type of style, subject, etc. like really specialize. In ways that most clients wouldn't appreciate. And not specifically in wedding photography (I'm just posting here because there seems to be the most business sense on this board). Something like what Chuck Anerino does. Shoot a very specific way that most people wouldn't really be interested in.

How do you find clients that appreciate what you have to offer?
How did you get the guts to just shoot the way you want to, knowing that most people wouldn't get it?
How do you know you actually have something that enough people would pay enough to make it worth it?

The way I see it, it's a much bigger risk, but the rewards (both financially and otherwise) can also be quite great. Of course that's assuming it's done well, and even more so, marketed well. The growth would probably be slower, but it could theoretically keep on growing (assuming there are few that do what I would do, and that there are enough clients to really want it).

Evan had a post on the People Forum a while back about his search for a pure portraitist. If Evan, who knows his field quite well, is having a hard time finding a specialist, how much harder would it be for a less informed client to find you?

Anything you have to say on the issue is much appreciated
Thanks!



Aug 22, 2012 at 04:50 PM
TheGE
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p.1 #2 · On specializing


zalmyb wrote:
Something like what Chuck Anerino does. Shoot a very specific way that most people wouldn't really be interested in.


There's a compliment in there somewhere.



Aug 22, 2012 at 05:44 PM
hardlyboring
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p.1 #3 · On specializing


Zalmy
I think it depends entirely on the person shooting. Some people have a very easy time specializing ... while others are a little more general in their work.
I had an interesting conversation with Sam a week ago while shooting with him. I was telling him about our desire to hit a very niche market within the wedding industry. His thoughts were basically "great, but their often is not enough work to put food on the table". His sentiment was that we can specialize but that we should always be open to shooting whatever pays because it would be dumb not to.

I say go ahead and specialize. You really have nothing to lose. You only have to show the stuff you want to specialize in on your blog etc. but that does not mean you have to turn down other paying work even if it is not necessarily the niche market you're trying to hit.



Aug 22, 2012 at 05:47 PM
zalmyb
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p.1 #4 · On specializing


TheGE wrote:
There's a compliment in there somewhere.


Is there? I think it's more factual than a compliment (or an insult). I love Chucks stuff. That's a compliment.

Doug,
That makes sense. As of now I wouldn't dare turn away anything, but I'm asking about aggressively going after a market that I'm not even sure exists. It would probably take a lot out of me, both time wise and financially...

There is a market that is fairly accessible to me, but I would never be able to shoot it as I want, and wouldn't be able to grow a "me-brand" out of it. If someone wants to book me for it I'll do it, but I'm thinking of spending pretty much all my time building my "niche". Does that make sense?




Aug 22, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Jon-Mark
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p.1 #5 · On specializing


Your shooting style is unique enough to allow you to go for it, much more than most would be able to. Do it.


Aug 22, 2012 at 06:35 PM
TRReichman
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p.1 #6 · On specializing


"How do you find clients that appreciate what you have to offer?"

They find you. First, it has to be clear enough that someone other than you (who is not a photographer) gets it. Second, it has to appeal on an emotional level. Third, you need to communicate it so the people who are searching for a photographer can pick you out of the stack.

"How did you get the guts to just shoot the way you want to, knowing that most people wouldn't get it?"

The problem is assuming people don't get it. If they don't get it then it isn't them, it is you not communicating clearly or expressing the value to the client. Guts come from understanding that people purchase the underlying value and doing something specific makes it EASIER for someone to book you, not harder.

"How do you know you actually have something that enough people would pay enough to make it worth it?"

There are a few billion people on this planet, you need what 15-30 weddings a year. You think there aren't enough?

- trr



Aug 22, 2012 at 06:43 PM
TheGE
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p.1 #7 · On specializing


zalmyb wrote:
Is there? I think it's more factual than a compliment (or an insult). I love Chucks stuff. That's a compliment.


I guess you didn't see the humor in that. You essentially wrote a back handed compliment. And I thought it funny. But ok.

As to your question, despite the popular belief the question really isn't "How do you find clients that appreciate what you have to offer?" because that could be an uphill climb.

If what you do is ordinary, you're out of luck. If what you do appeals to a tiny sliver so small it wouldn't sustain you, you're out of luck.

I'll tell you right now a lot of people believe in "if you build it they will come" when it comes to the photographer's style. They believe if you simply create what you love to create you will attract those people who also love what you do. And that's true to an extent - if your work has an appeal, it will appeal to some - but the crunch happens when that market isn't big enough to sustain you; isn't willing enough to spend on you; or isn't able to spend on you; or is a market you're unable to make yourself known to.

But when those conditions are met, yeah sure, you can have a home run.

So it's better is to ask, "can you offer something clients want to pay you for?" Ideally something that distinguishes you apart from all others. AND "are there enough of those clients to support me?" AND "can I easily reach these people?"



Aug 22, 2012 at 06:57 PM
qwyjibo
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p.1 #8 · On specializing


Todd, I agree with everything except the last bit and I recognize it was said slightly for effect. Please correct me, but I'm not sure Zalmy is asking about weddings.
While I think that specializing/providing something the average generalist doesn't is a wonderful plan (that most people don't do enough of), a solid understanding of the actual market is needed.
Furthermore, to say you can't lose anything really is in logical contradiction with the idea of showing what you want to shoot.
Don't get me wrong, I think that Zalmy has a unique shooting style that begs for specialization, but there is also a reason that companies do millions of dollars in market research to understand their clientele and properly position themselves in that market.



Aug 22, 2012 at 06:57 PM
TRReichman
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p.1 #9 · On specializing


Market research tells you what the market thinks it wants. The market determines what it thinks it wants based on what it is already being offered. If you take data rooted in what is already being offered and use it to justify doing something new you are always going to be wrong. Market research is for copying things and trying to steal market share, not for new ideas.

- trr



Aug 22, 2012 at 07:06 PM
qwyjibo
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p.1 #10 · On specializing


I agree that it's often flawed, but you can glean valuable data from research. I'm not talking about looking through compiled market stats but properly performed, real market research asking insightful questions and involving the customer and what they value.


Aug 22, 2012 at 07:10 PM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



zalmyb
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p.1 #11 · On specializing


Thanks all. I'm not really sure what I'm asking... I guess if anyone here really specializes and how they got there, and found their clientele.

Todd, there are definitely people who "get" it, and I think it does appeal on an emotional level. The hard part (from a business perspective) is the communication part. How do people who get it, are willing to pay for it, and find it emotionally appealing, find me?

Also, I know you speak about "educating clients" as a pointless task, but in my case I do think I can educate as to why what I have to offer is worth it.

And Dave is right, I'm not talking about wedding photography. So in a way it's harder because a. People don't "need" it and B. Even if they really want it they could always push it off and C. People expect to pay a few grand for a wedding photographer, for family photography not as much.

theGE, your last paragraph is the perfect summary. I do think I can offer clients something unique and something they're willing to pay for, and I assume there are enough out there (as Todd put it, there are a couple of billion people out there). Can I easily reach those people? As of now, no.

The question about market research is how to I research something which seems to be quite rare? And I kind of agree with Todd (though I think you are speaking about different types of research) just because there is someone doing something successful, doesn't make me want to copy it, and doesn't mean I'll be able to.

I really do need to attend one of Todd's workshops...




Aug 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM
qwyjibo
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p.1 #12 · On specializing


Sorry for sidetracking the question and debating the value of market research. I think this can be a very interesting question if it's not solely a hypothetical exercise.


Aug 23, 2012 at 04:33 PM
tobicus
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p.1 #13 · On specializing


Honestly, I think the way lots of folks who seem hyperspecialized and happy with it get there is by consciously deciding to only pursue clients who want the kind of work they deliver. Fer didn't get where he is today (starting at 4k and shooting 30 weddings a year of his choosing) by asking if people wanted artistic coverage of their wedding day...he shot a lot of normal weddings and then decided to go after his own style and let the chips fall where they did, client-wise. He's talked about how he might only book 2 out of every 100 inquiries, but how many do you really need in a year?


Aug 23, 2012 at 04:48 PM
tobicus
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p.1 #14 · On specializing


We've begun specializing in more creative, offbeat weddings (intimate gatherings in unusual places with strong DIY elements), but it's been slow so far. Then again, we're only aiming for 10 weddings a year, so we can afford to be choosy. A wedding of ours was recently accepted in the biggest indie wedding blog we know of, so we're interested in seeing if it leads to more of the kinds of couples we're looking for once it's published.


Aug 23, 2012 at 04:54 PM
TRReichman
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p.1 #15 · On specializing


When I'm talking about the futility of educating clients I'm largely talking about educating them on photography. I think it is crazy to assume that you need to find people who value photography to command a higher price.

Think if you were a high-end home builder. Are you looking for clients that know a lot about construction and nuance of building procedures? Or are you going to sell the lifestyle, achievement, esteem, etc that a client is buying the house to serve? Educating on photography is sort of silly (IMO) we should be conveying a sense of the ideals and values that we photograph from and the people who are looking for the same values should be able to find us and hire us. Educating them on photography is an obstacle to achieving the end goal (IMO).

- trr



Aug 23, 2012 at 07:10 PM
TRReichman
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p.1 #16 · On specializing


PS - I feel like we specialize fairly specifically and it makes it enormously easier to book. Granted, we end up dealing with far fewer inquiries, but we tend to book a good percentage and with very little consultation or talking. We also end up being far easier to refer from other vendors because they know exactly what to say about us and exactly who to refer us to.

As a side note the studio we go up against the most often is on the Top 10 list and has a style almost polar opposite to ours. So style specialty isn't much of a qualifier in my experience.

- trr



Aug 23, 2012 at 07:12 PM
M Lucca
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p.1 #17 · On specializing


hardlyboring wrote:
I had an interesting conversation with Sam a week ago while shooting with him. I was telling him about our desire to hit a very niche market within the wedding industry. His thoughts were basically "great, but their often is not enough work to put food on the table".


Truth.

Couple of folks here talk about specializing or build a niche. That's because these same people have a day job that brings in the $$$. Take away that economic engine and I can bet you, that same photographers will shoot whatever to pay bills and food.

Specializing is for those that have established themselves.



Aug 23, 2012 at 10:10 PM
ricardovaste
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p.1 #18 · On specializing


Zalmyb, you have to be honest with yourself, otherwise you'll eventually become unhappy, dissatisfied, frustrated. You'll never please everyone, so why not focus on what you do best? IMO, this is the best route. Sure, you learn to please clients in different ways, grow, but fundamentally they're enthused about what is personal to yourself.

You in particular take very beautiful photographs. Enough said. Eh... Apart from, did you ever sort out that blog subscription by email thing on your website?



Aug 23, 2012 at 10:55 PM
D. Diggler
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p.1 #19 · On specializing


M Lucca wrote:
Couple of folks here talk about specializing or build a niche. That's because these same people have a day job that brings in the $$$. Take away that economic engine and I can bet you, that same photographers will shoot whatever to pay bills and food.


What does the weekend warrior really have to tell the full-timer.



Aug 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM
sboerup
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p.1 #20 · On specializing


No one knew they needed an iPhone in May of 2007. Now everyone needs one. Make something amazing, put a price on it, and there will be plenty of people that will want and pay for it. If it's something truly unique, innovative or valuable to them, they'll pay whatever it takes to get it.


Aug 24, 2012 at 05:07 AM
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