Finding your Photography Niche
You’re at that stage where you have to select a photography niche that not only satisfies your creative needs but helps your business flourish. Even though the notion of balancing two ambitious dreams at once may seem far-fetched, it’s not entirely hopeless.
Right at this moment, photographers all over the world are finding great clients, taking photos they’re proud of and strengthening their businesses. Nothing but confusion is stopping you from succeeding in the same ways. What we want to do is help you eliminate that confusion once and for all.
Photography is a universe filled with all kinds of intriguing genres. However, like any universe, it’s easy to get lost in. Knowing and thriving in a specific niche will maximize your income and attract incredible clients.
If you carefully analyze the pros, cons, and secrets of every genre, you’ll know exactly what you need to pursue. At the end of your search, you’ll have all the information you need to start a sustainable photography business.
This article will focus on five major photography genres that have helped photographers succeed both creatively and financially. The sections below will highlight skills, equipment, average salaries, and other essential details that are vital to the creation of your business.
Whether you’re a curious beginner or a business-oriented expert, you’re bound to find something enlightening here.
I will cover the following photography niches:
One thing to keep in mind when selecting a photography niche are the legal requirements for your business. If you are charging clients for your photoshoots, having a written agreement or contract up front is a good idea.
For some tips on the necessary contracts and types of legal agreements, you should consider using, read our photography business legal overview.
Wedding photography involves hours of hard work, editing, scheduling, and traveling. Since it’s relatively easy to become a part of the industry, the competition is intense.
It’s not recommended for individuals who dislike crowded places, socializing, or standing on their feet for long periods of time. Successful wedding photographers are okay with spending time in crowded areas, working under pressure, and always being on the lookout for unique moments to document.
Though there are no strict rules when it comes to wedding photography equipment, it’s vital to have an extra lens and a camera body, a flash, and a lot of batteries. Taking photographs for hours may result in an unwanted accident, and the last thing you want is to lose the only camera you have.
Also, make sure you have a written contract covering the details of the photo shoot. Here’s a great resource for an affordable wedding contract.
Wedding photographers earn an average salary of $49,000 per year. Beginners often work as second shooters and make significantly less than primary photographers.
If you build strong connections, stick to a subcategory with less competition, and develop a unique style, you’ll go from the second shooter to primary photographer within a short period. Having a strong portrait photography portfolio may provide you with a few helpful shortcuts, too!
For more tips related to wedding photography, read these 9 tips for amazing wedding photography. If you’re just starting out, here’s 7 things to know before shooting your first wedding.
Photo by Foto Sushi on Unsplash
Portrait photographers don’t have to work as intensely as wedding photographers all the time. Creative freedom and flexibility are the strengths of this genre. However, lots of creative freedom attracts ambiguity; because of this, annual salaries heavily depend on circumstances and connections.
While wedding photography is popular almost everywhere, portrait photography’s popularity depends on several factors. If you live in a remote location with few people, chances are that your business won’t thrive.
On the other hand, if you live in a bustling city with people of all ages, you may attract an eclectic mix of clients who will recommend you to their friends and quickly maximize your income.
A strong portfolio is necessary when it comes to starting a portrait photography business. You have to know how you stand out as an artist and what makes your style unique.
Most importantly, you have to choose a successful sub-genre within portraiture. According to this information, you’ll find the right clients, decide whether you should work with modeling agencies or not, and choose the appropriate equipment (which will vary greatly depending on your style).
Becoming a portrait photographer has its disadvantages. Since you’re dealing with a variety of clients, you may come across pushy individuals with unrealistic expectations.
To avoid ruining your reputation, make sure you have reliable standards – for example, your models should know that their photos will be ready in no less than five days. Rules like this will make it easier for you to focus on what matters: taking brilliant pictures of people.
A unique way of establishing your portrait photography business is by hosting a strategic portrait party.
Commercial photography focuses on taking images that are used to promote or advertise a product (both online and in print). It also includes things like product photography and taking headshots for business.
Since commercial photography caters to business clients, some unique skills are required. It is premium quality work so you will have to have your technique and process dialed in.
To learn more, we recently published a guide to how to get started in commercial photography.
The list of possible commercial clients is long. Here are a few typical categories:
- Advertising, Branding, Marketing firms
- Businesses needing headshots of owners or executives
- Marketing/Branding departments of large companies
- Digital Media firms
- Small businesses needing collateral for online and offline marketing
The skills required to pursue commercial photography can be quite different from wedding or portrait gigs. Since most clients are businesses, the shoots are usually weekdays vs nights and weekends. They can also last a full day or even multiple days.
It is also important to be available and responsive to clients. Most commercial clients will expect same day business response to their questions, or even near immediate response for urgent requests. This is especially true if you’re charging a premium price.
Project management is also key since larger shoots can involve many people (assistants, stylists, producers, etc.) Business sometimes
Your technical photography skills are also important, especially related to lighting. Producing great, well-lit shots often involves auxiliary lighting. Brush up on your lighting skills.
Commercial photography can be quite lucrative. Day rates can start around $1000 and go up from there once you are established, or for larger jobs. That being said, make sure you account for all your time including travel and setup time (which can be extensive). Here’s a reference to learn more about how much to charge.
Commercial Photographer’s Resources some great educational products to help you get started.
Newborn and Family Photography
Even though family photography is a sub-genre of portrait photography, it deserves a separate section thanks to its immense popularity and strict requirements. Family photographers get along well with children, know how to capture relationships, and can gracefully control a large group of people.
In general, both newborn and family photography are rewarding genres. If you have a passion for families and relationships, you’ll find this niche very gratifying.
If you’re interested in pursuing newborn photography, you’ll need proper training. Newborns need to be handled with extreme care; if you mishandle a baby, you may regret it for the rest of your life. Investing in a course will make your clients trust you and provide you with more confidence.
Since newborn photography isn’t easy to get into, photographers who pursue it can earn a stable income. On average, a 3-hour newborn session costs $250. (You can charge much more if your talent is evident.)
Family photography doesn’t require training, but it does demand patience and cooperation. Working with small children can get stressful for both you and your clients, so keeping the atmosphere light is as essential as taking great photographs.
Since every family is different, it’s impossible to predict what your next shoot will look like, but patience is guaranteed to help you thrive.
Equipment-wise, newborn photography is the most demanding. You’ll need a background stand, clamps, blankets, a bean bag, lighting equipment, and more to have a successful shoot.
Family photography is similar to portrait photography when it comes to this topic – your equipment depends on your budget and style. The more unique your style is, the more you’ll be able to charge.
If newborn photography is your niche, check out these tips for a successful newborn portraiture shoot.
Boudoir photography is both intimate and intimidating. Brides-to-be often have pre-wedding boudoir shoots as gifts (usually in the form of books) to their grooms. The images typically feature women in lingerie and are great for boosting their confidence.
Since boudoir photography is very private, it’s unlikely that you’ll get to build a robust online portfolio. If you end up showcasing family and boudoir sessions on the same website, some clients may not want to work with you.
Boudoir photography’s privacy also means that you’ll have to take photos in studios or hotel rooms only – the costs for this have to be considered when building a business. On average, a boudoir session costs $400 (which includes several costume changes).
Another challenging aspect of boudoir photography is communication. Most of your clients won’t be professional models, so they’ll need to be told what to do. Awkwardness, insecurities, and tension can all lead to unflattering photographs, so it’s important to have a strong knowledge of proper poses and expressions.
Also consider a boudoir photography contract, like this one from the LawTog, to help set expectations up front.
To market your boudoir business properly, you need to live in a place where it’s embraced. If you don’t want boudoir to be your main focus, you can include it as an additional offer in your wedding/portrait photography packs. Portrait photographers like Sue Bryce rely on this method to succeed.
Real Estate Photography
Real estate photography is used to sell buildings and properties. By highlighting the flattering sides of infrastructure, a real estate business can quickly sell its properties. Because of this, real estate heavily depends on talented photographers to capture the architecture in the best light.
Real estate photography won’t provide you with creative freedom, but it’ll give you the opportunity to use your camera and earn money simultaneously.
Professional real estate photographers usually charge $100-$300 per shoot (around 50 photographs). This also includes post-processing: replacing skies, getting rid of distractions in the background, and color correcting.
Editing may take more time than photographing, so it’s essential to have a good knowledge of both Photoshop and Lightroom before you consider selecting this niche.
Specific camera equipment is needed to photograph buildings: a wide-angle lens, a tripod, a light meter, and several lens filters. If you’re an experienced editor and can invest in the equipment mentioned above, real estate photography may be ideal for you.
One particularly exciting niche within real estate photography is vacation rental photography. With the advent of online marketplaces for short and long term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO, demand is growing. Our guide to vacation rental photography tips will help get you started.