Finding Your Niche
I recently met up with photographer Mike Moats, and remembered his story of photographing the Watchman in Zion National Park. He stood there with 150 other people photographing the same damn scene and realized he couldn’t compete with all of them, so he created his own style of photographing Tiny Landscapes and that’s when his business took off.
Photographer QT Luong found his niche when he decided to become the first person to photograph every national park in the United States. I’m sure he’s licensed numerous images from that endeavor, and it also led to his award-winning book Treasured Lands—which led to book reviews, photography exhibitions, a Treasured Lands calendar, and I’m sure many other opportunities. Other examples include Chip Phillips and his knowledge of the Palouse landscapes, Cecil Whitt who excels in photographing strange rock formations around the U.S., and Anne Belmont who makes a living from her flora photography.
Finding your niche might not be for everybody, especially for the amateur still finding their way and photographing everything under the sun, but for a serious amateur or professional it may help your business.
When I began photographing the Portland Japanese Garden 20 years ago, I didn’t expect anything to come of it—I was just having fun. The garden became my muse and I returned time and again to fine-tune my skills. Not long after, I licensed a few of my images to the Garden for marketing purposes, and then a few more. I heard about a publishing company that was looking for new book ideas, so I made a pitch to do a book on Japanese Gardens in North America. The idea was accepted and then expanded. I began photographing Japanese gardens across the U.S. and Canada and the book was published. The book was backed by publicity, promotion, and distribution and positive reviews arrived from newspapers, magazines, and blogs. This led to interviews on radio, cable, and offers to speak at events, and my Japanese gardens exhibition toured the country as the book won awards. I licensed even more images for digital and printed materials and conducted garden photography workshops, it led to another book, and more speaking engagements. Sometimes I get called that “Japanese garden guy,” and when someone wants an image of a Japanese garden they know I might have what they’re looking for. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t found my niche. I like to photograph landscapes and wildlife, and a host of other things, but I have a special affinity for shooting Japanese gardens.
I don’t know where your interests lie or your strengths. Maybe you were a teacher at one time and your strengths lie in creating processing videos, like Photo Cascadia team member Sean Bagshaw. Maybe you feel strongly about preserving a piece of land nearby and photograph its pond every day of the week. Or maybe you’d like to bring awareness to an endangered species or landscape. Possibly you’re a night owl and astral-photography is your thing. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can expand your business by narrowing your scope. By following your interests and curiosity you narrow your field of photography which can lead you to more fulfilling and rewarding images—and sometimes to finding your niche.
Location: Mosier, Oregon
As a long-distance hiker, I have sharpened my photographic perspective over the years on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide, the Canadian Divide and most recently walking across Iceland. My goal is to capture the wonders I see in nature for the enjoyment of all those with an eye for the extraordinary.