Why to Market Yourself as a Specialist — Even If You’re a Generalist

With so many photographers fighting to keep a toehold in the marketplace, it’s easy to understand why you would want to work as a generalist in today’s economy. After all, no photographer I know wants to turn down a well-paying job — and if you market yourself as a specialist, you’re limiting your base of potential clients, right?

Well, yes — and no.

It certainly helps to be versatile in this economic climate — to be able to shoot portraits, weddings, corporate events, and editorial, for example.

But if you portray yourself as a generalist — by defining your talents broadly and mixing many types of photography on your Web site — you may well be viewed as a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

Recovering Photojournalist Syndrome

I recently came across the following bios on photographer Web sites:

  • “Award-winning photojournalist accepting assignments worldwide. ”
  • “Two-time Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist…”
  • “..world-renowned photojournalist with more than 15 years of professional experience.”

These descriptions are from the Web sites of generalists, whose work — ranging from weddings to events to editorial — is combined in their online portfolios.

I see this approach often with recovering photojournalists, who were taught to categorize their portfolios into singles, news, features, sports and stories.

That was fine for presenting to a newspaper photography editor, but it falls flat with a prospective client seeking a specific type of photographer.

Best of Both Worlds

So how can you achieve the best of both worlds — marketing yourself as having the skills of a specialist without unnecessarily limiting your base of prospects?

The best answer I’ve found is to build and maintain separate Web sites, and to conduct separate marketing programs, for each specialty you practice.

One team of photographers that does this very well is Andrew and Rachel Niesen and Mark Adams.

As wedding photographers, they brand themselves as LaCour, and were recently ranked among the world’s Top Ten Wedding Photographers by American Photo. LaCour’s site focuses on wedding couples and offers resources for other wedding photographers.

But the Niesens and Adams don’t just shoot weddings. They also specialize in education marketing photography, and have a separate brand — The Orange Block — aimed at this completely different clientele.

Adams also has traveled the globe as a photojournalist, and his travel and journalism portfolio can found on his personal Web site.

The Niesens and Adams are so good at marketing their work, and separating their specialties, that they offer a two-day workshop showing other photographers how to do it, too. It’s called The Business of Storytelling: Branding and Marketing; check it out.

4 Responses to “Why to Market Yourself as a Specialist — Even If You’re a Generalist”

  1. This is something I struggle with a lot myself. I know everyone says be a specialist, but can't help but be a generalist trying to take any work I can.

    On my website I have everything separated with separate galleries for each type of photography.

    The idea of a separate website for each sounds good, but also increases the amount of work to do each week to grow each site and build page rank and search results.

  2. I'm trying to do something similar to this with my main specialization being unit stills (onsetphotography.com) and my personal portfolio and travel photos (futoryan.com).

    What I haven't been able to figure out, is whether to leave a link from one site to the other, and vice-versa.

    I've thought about keeping them completely separate, but I somehow feel like a potential client could be missing out on seeing more of my work if I don't provide an easy link to it.



  3. Technology and science today make the renaissance man of the last century obsolete. Consumers today would prefer the specialist in any field, medicine, law, education, etc. The specialist can serve not only as a photographer but as a consultant to publishers.
    The romance of the do-it-all photographer is fading.
    Specialization might sound like a boring proposition, but it needn’t be if you love the area you choose to specialize in –horses, railroads, childhood education, antique airplanes, motorcycles. The photo world is getting bigger, and so are the speculation markets. -RE

  4. Very good advice for photographers seeking to properly brand themselves.

    Nice work.


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