Are you just starting out (or starting over) in editorial stock photography? What should you focus on? Where do you start? That answer is easy. Start with your heart.
Start by photographing subjects that you’re highly interested in. Call it passion, love, desire; call it compulsion. If you love doing something, you’ll put 100 percent of yourself into it.
Don’t make the mistake of many – don’t start with subject matter because you’ve heard “it pays well.” Instead, start with your passion.
Make this passion a primary focus of your photography. You can tell if you truly love doing something by this test: Take a day and once every hour ask yourself, “What are my thoughts centering on at this moment?” Exclude basic needs, like food.
Your mind will show you what photographic direction to take. Whatever it is that you enjoy engaging in when you get the chance, wherever your mind consistently wanders, whether to thoughts of gardening, aviation, or fishing—that’s where you should be investing your photography activity.
Take Photographic Advantage of Your Passion
Take advantage of your central interest area. Become a mini-expert in that field. The time you can put to that interest may not equal what you put to your current day job, but down the line your abiding interest may indeed become your livelihood. Yes, in retirement you may go on to become a full-time stock photographer specializing in that interest area.
In one of my seminars, during the image critique section, a photographer displayed several photographs of insects. My response to him was to say they were very excellent shots, but specializing in insects was going to be a tough row to hoe. “Calls for insects are few and the competition is fierce because there are two dozen photographers in the nation known to be specialists in insects, and they have a lock on the marketing opportunities,” I said.
His response: “There’s going to be two dozen and one (25!) pretty soon.”
That conversation was about ten years ago. He was obviously passionate about insects. I’ve often wondered if he persisted with focusing his photography on that area. If he did, a ten-year build-up of photos in one specialized area makes for a strong collection. Once he is “discovered,” he’ll become known for having the kind of photo bank that photo researchers are grateful to have as a resource.
It’s always enjoyable to be in the presence of someone who loves what they’re doing. Their enthusiasm and passion are uplifting and inspiring.
Don’t be timid about turning your lens on your passion. If you love it, dive in. Sure, there’ll be rejection slips, and the nitty gritty work that accompanies anything that is worth accomplishing. And you might have to drive a taxi for awhile to make ends meet. Keep in mind that actor Alan Ladd was a bartender, Rock Hudson drove a truck, and Harrison Ford was a carpenter until they “made it” in their chosen field.
If wild horses can’t pull you away from your interest area, persist. Deliver to the world your photographic take and unique perspective on that subject. We’ll cheer you on, and the world will be watching for your credit line in national circulation.