Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Find Your Niche & Style in the Photography Market

More photography articles at A Blog About Digital Photography

Niche Plus Style equals a Photographic Career

As a freelance writer I must have heard a thousand times. "Write what you know." Why, I taught that myself in my classes. I would expand that to "Write what you know and love."

That is comparatively easy. I just wrote about what I loved (translate that knew). We all gravitate easily towards what we know and love. And there is no other brain that can write what formulates in our own hearts and minds.

Not so with picture-taking. When I entered the photography market I held a spanking new SLR camera, just like all other professionals use, and wondered how my picture of a landscape could be different than everyone else's.

Sure I could twist and lie on the ground and wildly change perspectives, but in the end how is my shot really different than everyone else's? How could I find a niche for my work that no one else could fit into, and no one else could even create?

For me it went something like this:

My Niche: I live in the beautiful foothills of the San Pedro Wilderness, with access to stunning landscapes and crumbling Southwest architecture. I moved here because physically and spiritually I was drawn. Viola - my niche.

My Style: This is harder. One day I was shooting a sunset over a small mountain lake and turned around to see the landscape behind me lit as if the sun were a black light from a 70s Hippie pad.

Upon downloading the days work, that was my favorite photo. But it looked bland and almost colorless compared to what my eyes beheld in person. I thought my camera was defective. I began to play with Photoshop until the scene emerged as a fairy tale path.

I had the light bulb experience as I admired my wonderland work. I thought back to my ex-husband telling me I live in a fairy tale and that life isn't a fairy tale. I remembered telling him that my life is a fairy tale and if he were to try and taint it I would banish him to Neverneverland.

I studied this dreamy photo of the dirt road leading to my cabin. I thought, "If I live in a fairy tale, and this is the path leading to me, then this must be a Fairy Trail."

My artistic world was birthed. This was it. This romantic application to my photos in post production was my style. Long story short, I named my gallery of photo art the Fairy Trails Gallery; Portals to Paradise. And that photo is the portal clicked on to enter my path.

Each photo, after I've manipulated it to look like I see it, and only I can see it, is magic for me. And if it creates magic for me, there are people out there who will also be drawn to it.

Your Niche is What You Know

Finding your niche may take some time. But spend that time. It is not wasted. With every photo we learn something about technical aspects. Go out regularly photographing. Don't think about. Just shoot what you enjoy. Soon you'll you realize your favorite subjects. Stick to them.

Think about where you live. Do you live there by birth or choice? Did you relocate there? Do you love your area, inspired by its beauty? If so, you may be a landscapist, not a portrait photographer, cooped up in a studio all day.

Conversely, if you are captivated by people's expressions and individual beauty, longing to capture it, you may very well be a portrait photographer. You may live in a dirty city where you don't even like to go outside. Or see the innate beauty of a fallen leaf afloat in the oil-slick of a city puddle and be counted among our troops of street photographers documenting city life. There are innumerable niches between these extremes.

Your Style is What You Love

Take time to peruse articles and tutorials on your discovered preferences. But don't bog yourself down with them. You'll find that reading just one will inspire several ideas and urges. Act on them. Write them down in one place. One day you will see the common thread among them.

Is there something that people have accused you of all your life, like me living in a fairy tale? Often times those criticisms are our strengths being misinterpreted by others. Think about that. Is there a connection between those accusations and the subjects you love to shoot and/or the way you choose to edit those subjects during post processing?

Are you adept at interpreting subtle nuances? Do you prefer things sliced and clean as a minimalist? The fact is, whatever you are, that is your style - simple as that. The rest is technicalities. Just keep shooting and don't stress over it, and your niche and style will expose itself as truly as that camera in your hands; pun intended.

About the Author

Photographic artist, Aggie Villanueva, dubbed the Grandma Moses of the American Southwest, uses photo manipulation to allow others to see life as she sees it, if they care to. Her photo art is represented at several galleries, and she is the founder/publisher/editor of the Aperture Aside Web Hub, which includes huge photography-related web archives, blog and bi-monthly photography journal.

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