29 Jul

Specializing

Posted by Jenna, Under Photography

When you’re photography business is new, the temptation is high to photograph anything you can point your camera at if people will pay you money to do it. I know this temptation, because I gave into it myself many times. Case in point? Once I let someone pay me to photograph their cat. I admit I was so embarrassed by the results that I’ve never shown them to anyone. Until now of course, I’ll show them to you because I like you. Enough time has passed that now I feel less embarrassed by the results and ready to count it as a lesson learned.

If you’re going to do something, do it well. My mom drove this message into my brain as a child, and now that I’m old enough to realize how smart she is I’m taking that message to heart when it comes to my photography business.

I don’t do portrait sessions of animals anymore. If you’re going to have someone take photos of your beloved pet, hire someone like Cowbelly Pet Photography. If you’re going to invest your money, no matter the amount, invest it well.

Yesterday, I tried another type of session for the first time.

Newborn.

I won’t be photographing any more newborns, at least not for pay. I’ll take pictures of my own babies, and offer to do free photos for friends when the fancy strikes me (these photos here were done as a gift for a friend), but if you contact me about doing a newborn session for your own sweet baby I’ll refer you on to someone who I feel will really showcase what a precious gift you have in your possession.

Newborn photography is hard work. This baby was 14 days, a bit old for a newborn session. He didn’t want to sleep, he kept flashing his goodies at the camera, I couldn’t seem to get him into the magical dreamy poses that the newborns on Kelli Nicole’s blog are always resting in. Kelli Nicole is a blonde-haired blue-eyed baby whisperer. I’m not kidding, it’s pretty unbelievable to watch (and even more so now that I’ve attempted to fill the role myself). I, on the other hand, do not have the patience to stroke and cuddle and shush until hands curl up just so and eyes stay closed.

I warned my friend several times that I wasn’t sure how many image I would be giving back to her, and I was right, there are very few of him alone that I like. In my opinion there are far too many photographers out there attempting to photograph anything and everything, and there are far too many examples of completely butchered newborn portraits with shots angled up the nose and skin looking harsh and flaky.

As soon as I turned my camera in her direction though, my faith in my photography skill returned.

Over the past year I’ve learned what I am good at, and where I think my potential lies. I’m bubbly and energetic, and I relate well to people when I first meet them. This doesn’t matter so much with infants, but it makes a big difference when you work with adults. I want to work with subjects who will respond to me, who look when I say look, where I say look, who smile when I make lame attempts at being funny. Somewhere around age 16 and above, in small groups, those are the sessions I want to focus on. Right now my list includes senior, maternity, engagement, bridal, wedding, and duet sessions. Oh, and don’t forget about shoots with adults subjects done “just because”. You don’t have to wait for a major life event to have your picture taken you know. :)

There is certainly nothing wrong with exploring different sessions types and working to figure out what type you get excited about.

But eventually, I think it’s time to take a step back and look at the areas where you really excel. Focus on those. Work to attract the clients and shoots that are the best fit for your personality and skill set. There are few things more satisfying than sitting down and reviewing a session where you completely rocked it, and if you focus on shooting sessions that focus on the areas you excel in you’re much more likely to experience that feeling again and again each time you plug in your memory card and upload a new batch of photos.

If I’m going to do something, I want to do it well. And enjoy it.

26 Comments


  1. Is it crazy that I loved your cat photos. Thought, it may be my insane love for cats that is making me overly happy at seeing those photos. :)
    I think that photo of the mom and baby is just precious. I really think you’ve found a great niche for yourself. Your photos are just so beautiful. I have a friend getting married up in Chicago (probably next year) and I practically begged her to use you for her wedding. I just know she wont be disappointed if she does.

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  2. I think you take great photos. Even of cats. But you’re right…there’s something that just pops when you take pictures of adults. Looking through these it was like “omg a cat!” “good” “good” until the end when you see that beautiful new mom and you think “wow.” Like I said, you’re great at it! Similarly, I’m skeptical of restaurants that have menu items that are all over the place. Pick something and do it well! (Your mom’s a smart cookie.)

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  3. Kimberly says:

    looove the photo of her with baby. like you said that one really shows where you excel!

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  4. That makes perfect sense. As an always-a-client-never-a-photographer person, I’d hope that I could choose a photographer with your same work ethic, someone who knows what they’re good at and what they’re not.

    Oh, and your cat pictures are still at least a thousand times better than my cat pictures ;)

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  5. You’re right about the adult pictures. That last picture of her is magical.

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  6. Is it bad that I love your cat pictures? Since I am totally in love with my little feline precious, I suppose it’s fair enough for me to say that – but they’re pretty amazing, J!

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  7. Well done! I do other shoots, “celebration sessions”, on a case-by-case basis, when I know they’ll be fun for me. On the whole, we focus on our wedding clients.
    If you specialize in everything, you really specialize in nothing!!

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  8. Yeah…I kinda loved the cat photos too. And I’m not even a cat person really. I’m just now paying more attention to photographers and how they work, since I just got engaged and I’m going to need to be hiring one soon. I want someone who can make me look good :-)

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  9. Completely agree with this post. If I ever became good enough to be a full fledged photographer. I know I wouldn’t want to be a wedding photographer. Not to long ago, I had the opportunity to 2nd shoot. It was a great experience, but I know now that I never would want to be wedding photographer.

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  10. Haha, thanks Jen! You crack me up. That last picture really is gorgeous! It’s funny because that part of the session is the hardest for me! I’m always really worried about the family pictures and don’t feel they’re as strong as the ones I get of the baby alone. Something to work on I guess :).

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  11. Aw, I think your cat photos are adorable! You do have an extreme talent with adults though- that last photo from the newborn session is STUNNING. I think I stared at it for a full thirty seconds, entranced. She’s gorgeous and you captured her beauty, sensitivity, newly-mothered-bliss so perfectly. I’m going to start saving now to fly you out and book you for preggers photos in five years…

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  12. Marissa C says:

    I just started doing newborn/baby sessions. Really hard, but I like it. Luckily, I have lots of new-mother friends that let me practice with their kiddos!

    The hardest part is figuring what the partents are okay with doing to their precious babies! Like, are you sure you are okay with putting her in the basket, etc…

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  13. I think you have a great point. I would never feel comfortable taking pictures of people or events if it’s a once and a life time opportunity (a birth, a wedding,ect) because I would be too afraid of messing it up

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  14. I think you make such a great point in this post! I am having trouble finding a photographer for a portrait session I need to get done (I need some professional head shots for a business thing, because using my own camera and holding it at arm’s length just looks, well, unprofessional. But my problem is that all the photogs I’ve found in SLC focus on babies/families or weddings. I wish I was closer to you, because I would love to hire you, but do you have any advice for a good portrait photog in SLC?

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  15. I think it’s something applicable to all areas of life. I mean if you have a job and you are not satisfied with it, and feel that you should try something else and be better at it then why not. But if you’re aready good at something, no point in trying too many new things, it’s better to keep focused.

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  16. I hear you. I’m getting my feet wet in plenty of different areas but babies kill me – I just can’t do them justice and I really, really want to! Oh well, live and learn.

    That last pic is lovely ;D

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  17. Christina says:

    I love the kitty pics! Maybe because I have two cats – still I think they’re cute :)

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  18. I. Hate. Cats.

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  19. What a small world it is! The girl in the first cat picture just happens to be one of my best friends (and she was a bridesmaid in my wedding). I’m certain she loved the photos even though you may not have.

    Here’s the question I have…I’m really interested in shooting children (or at least exploring that option). When you are an aspiring photography, how do you gain experience? None of my friends have kids for me to “practice on”. How do you find subjects to practice with when you are not at a point where you can really charge?

    And as always, great post!

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    Jenna Reply:

    How did her wedding go? It was in England wasn’t it?

    I did 20 free sessions when I first started out. It was exhausting, but I learned a lot and I’m glad I did them. I advertised on a wedding site that I was doing free sessions and got a lot of responses. What about advertising at your church or another area where kids frequent?

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    Kari Reply:

    You’re right! Her wedding was in London. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it–it’s so hard when it’s overseas, but she said it was wonderful and her pictures show it.

    Love the tip on doing free sessions and where to advertise. I have some ideas up my sleeve :-).

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  20. Funny thing is, all I ever used to shoot was pets and animal photos (for other people). In fact, a friend of mine once contracted me to shoot every animal on her farm (she runs a business for children, based from there). I shot curious pigs, goats, horses (mini and regular size), cats, dogs, rabbits, chinchillas and even alpacas. LOL. It wasn’t until this same friend got engaged that I actually shot some PEOPLE. I guess she figured I was able to take a clear & composed photo of a friendly Goose, so I ought to be able to focus on her and her man. haha. The way I see it, animals are great practice for shooting people (because they never sit still, they don’t look you in the face, they don’t understand what you want and they are impatient). For me, my weakness is things for which you get no “do-over”: weddings, sports, those kind of things. Stresssssssful!

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  21. Wow! That last photo is amazing! I think it’s one of my all-time favorites!

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  22. I love your cat photos! But that last shot is definitely the winner.

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  23. Cristin says:

    I heart you. I think the sign of a true professional is knowing when to say yes and when to say no to business offers.

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  24. Those cat pictures are awesome. I was cracking up – in a good way, of course!! :)

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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