Generalise or Specialise? Niching as a photographer

Jun 24, 2023 | Marketing

“Show Notes”

Marcus and Sam are taking a look at the advantages and disadvantages of niching.

How it looks to the client and how it helps in your own marketing.

We discuss the fear factor of possibly losing out on clients outside your niche, and

how social media has opened up the market to a global one. However, being a

generalist does have its advantages, especially when starting out – it is a great way

of broadening your skills. Learn product photography, location photography and

studio photography.

Sam and Marcus go on to discuss the equipment required and how specialists can

buy specialised equipment. Niching doesn’t mean you have to turn down work –

you may just not publicise it.

“Show transcription”

Sam: Marcus.How are you doing?

Marcus: I’m really good, Sam. Thank you very much. And how are you?

Sam: Yeah, really good. Thanks. Marcus and looking forward to this week’s show. Interesting Topic. So we’re looking at photography as a photography business, should you specialize or should you generalize? Marcus, do you want to give us an introduction to what we’re talking about?

Marcus: For sure. Sam So I’ve heard. It mentioned a lot, the idea of Niching Down really targeting your market. So we’re going to be talking about, is that the right thing to do or should you be more of a generalist where you photograph lots of different things? So hopefully we’re going to

be covering that.Let’s go back to you, Sam, because I think you’ve got the start of the day for us.

Sam: I do. Marcus.So interesting start for you today, especially for photographers, because users spend, on average, 5.94 seconds looking at a website’s main image.So that’s quite interesting.Not just for photographers on their own websites, but also in terms of a really good start to have to hand when you’re selling photography to other businesses.If other businesses on their websites are having that image looked at that much, if that’s a fairly naft stock image that lots of other businesses are using, it’s not the same as if they’ve got a photographer to do it for them.

Marcus: Sam, are you saying that they’re spending 6 seconds at that?Above the fold, as it were, onthat first image, or

Sam: That’s it? Yeah,

Marcus: I’m actually surprised.I thought it would be shorter than that.

Sam: Yeah, that’s it.I think there’s quite a bit of decision time there.I think it can seem short because I think then after that, they can leave if what they see isn’t right.But they are there.And taking that in, taking a few moments to think about it.

Marcus: Yeah, that’s a good start. That’s very interesting. Thank you, Sam.

Sam: Cool. Right, Mark, let’s talk to us a bit more about specialize or generalize.

Marcus: Okay. Let’s drill it down, as they say. What do I mean by niching down? Let’s take myself as an example. I’m basically, even though I class myself as a commercial photographer, I specialize in branding, photography. So I work with businesses, promoting businesses. We call it

branding. It used to be lifestyle photography. Lots of different words, but we’ll go with branding. Now, that’s a genre of photography. But I narrow that down even further to working with coaches and motivational speakers. So I’ve narrowed that right down. Now, I’ve been doing that and doing that for about a couple of years. And the reason I do that’s because it really helps with my marketing. It gives me a focus. Basically, if I want to look for my clients, I go on LinkedIn and I type in coaches, motivational speakers in my area. Let’s say Bristol Bath or the Southwest UK. Where it’s going to be. And then I get a list, a manageable list of people that I can target. So that helps, first of all with the targeting of the customer. Niching down also helps with the way

that my customer sees me. I put on my website, on my promotional material, that I specialize in working with coaches and motivational speakers. So imagine if you’re a coach and you look at

my website and say, oh, Marcus, he specializes in that,you’re going to feel in safe hands, I think.

Sam: I think that’s a really important one, Marcus, because lots of people stay generalist and so they might be able to do the same photography you do. But there’s a picture of a bride as their first picture. And as we just said, people are spending 6 seconds looking at that and it just kind of says, I’m good at photography and I can take pictures. And so the viewer looking at goes, yeah, it’s all right. Well, if they go to your website market and it’s speaking just for them and you know their problems and you’re talking about their problems and you know how you can help, they’re going to go for you. And this is something I think, I don’t know if you found this an issue that people don’t want to make the jump though. They feel it’s scary because they feel if they go for that niche, look at how many people they’re missing out on because they think, I can do everybody, I can speak to everybody, everybody’s, my potential customer. If I go for a small

niche, that’s only a tiny fraction of that, why should I only go for that niche?

Marcus: Exactly, Sam. And I do still do see it. I see many website photography websites where they’re not niching down, they’re being a generalist. And you’re right, I think it could be, I Would say, a fear factor about oh, is there enough people out there for our market? I think social media has really changed the ground, really? Because with social media you’ve opened up globally, whereas before, in the old days on print, it would be like yellow pages or kind of directories and it’d be a much more local market. So I think that’s one of the reasons why Niching Down works so well these days.

Sam: Yeah, to some extent. I mean, presumably for photography, though, you need to be there. There is the online photography controlling people’s phone a bit. But putting that aside, because it’s a very small market, you still need to be there, don’t you, for the photography? But yeah, I think the niches are big. People don’t realize how big they are and they don’t realize how much it works using a niche. So that if you’re a generalist and, yeah, you want to do some brand photography for somebody, somebody wants brand photography comes to your website and there’s a picture for bride and there’s a picture of a dog and it doesn’t engage them, it doesn’t speak to them, and it doesn’t speak to anybody. Because the bride then sees a picture of a dog next and thinks, well, this isn’t for me either. So a general site, a general marketing generally doesn’t speak to anyone. So nobody engages very much. So although you feel like you’re speaking to everyone, you’re really speaking to no one. Well, if your site and your marketing is really specific and really focused on niche, people within that niche go. Yeah, this guy is for me. This is the person who knows all about me, who knows my problems, who is speaking my language, who has worked with people like me. This is clearly the person to go to. So you suddenly go from being very general and really speaking to nobody, unengaging no one, to having a really tight group of followers who engage with what you do because you’re speaking to them in their language about working with people like them.

Marcus: Perfectly put, Sam. And I love some of the things you’re saying there about how it feels for the customer. I mean yeah. Let’s just say you’re going to buy a car and you want to buy a Purzo. Are you going to go to a Purzo garage, first of all? Or are you going to go to a general garage? I would argue that you’re going to go to a Purzo garage and feel more in a safe environment for your decision. Also, though, Sam, I would have to say as a counter argument to niching down for marketing, I think it’s a really good idea, especially when you’re starting off to be multi skilled in photography, to be able to when I Started, I learned how to I was photographing products. I was, you know, in a studio. I was doing location shooting. I was doing all different types of work and learning all different skills. And I think that’s given me a good arsenal of tools that I can draw on when I’m working with my clients. So I think when you’re learning, it’s very good to try lots of different things and seeing what works for you.

Sam: The other thing I was thinking, Marcus, I’d really like your point of view on these things in terms of things like equipment. So does Nothing make sense in terms of not just your photographic skills, but your photographic equipment? Can it work really well and that you can’t afford to get the equipment you need to get the right photos for your niche. Now, I realize that some niches are fairly general in terms of what you need. But some maybe in terms of product photography food photography might be much more specialist. Totally.

Marcus: Totally. That’s a really good point. Yeah. If you’re going to be doing food photography, you’re going to need different equipment to if you’re going to be photographing weddings There are similarities. But you’re quite right. By niching down, you can really make sure that you’ve got the right tools for the job. I don’t just photograph branding. If someone comes to me and say, and one of my clients, I’ll be getting married, as happened last year. Could you photograph our wedding? I’ll do it. If a company comes to me and say, oh, can you do some headshots first? I’ll do it. I just don’t publicize it. I keep my marketing, my publicity niche down to working in branding. Photography.

Sam: No, I think that’s a really important point. And it comes back to that fear factor. When people think about Niching, they think think of all these people. I’m cutting out. And I don’t think you are. We’ve said, you’re talking to a specific group of people, and they’re really engaging. Much more than when your site is general. But not only that, you will. You write, get completely random inquiries, nothing to do with your marketing, and there’s no reason to turn them down. You can still take those on. You can still do them. And you’re right. You will with referrals and with, as you say, business personal. You might have done a branding shoot with somebody and then they want a family photo shoot. You can still move outside your niche, but your branding and all of your marketing is still really focused on that niche, even if actually sometimes you end up doing completely random stuff.

Marcus: I’ve got a question for you Sam,and it’s regarding websites and SEO.I’ve noticed when I

put in branding photography in my area that people come above me who I know aren’t working in branding, but they have it mentioned in their website, but they are a wedding photographer or something like that and they got a lot of traffic coming to their website because of that. Is that going to help you, having lots of people come to your website for your SEO even though they’re looking for something else?

Sam: Yes, definitely. So one of the factors Google uses when deciding whether to send people on your website is how popular is your website? It’s kind of you get stuck in a bit of a loop. If you’ve got not got many visitors, Google doesn’t send many there. If you have got lots of visitors, Google sends more. So Google looks at how popular your website is and goes, OOH, lots of people are going to this website, it must be good I’ll keep sending lots of people there. Or conversely, it’ll go, no one’s going to this website, there’s no point me sending anybody there

because clearly nobody’s really finding it interesting as nobody’s going there. And yes, so you do have to put in some work to get out of that rut and get visitors to the website yourself. And if you stop me on that, we’ll be here for another 3 hours.

Marcus: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Yeah, I guess that’s a bit of a catch 22. But I got to say, Niching Down for my marketing has really helped me. Lo and be hold, the majority of my customers, from Niching Down to coaches and motivational speakers, my customers are motivational speakers and coaches. So yeah, it’s proven to work.

Sam: No, and also the other thing I think if you’re thinking about content, and for some people that can be quite hard, you think is what amI going to write a blog about?What am I going to do

a social media post about? If you’ve got that niche, you suddenly know who you’re talking to, you know what their problems are, you know what they’re doing in their day to day lives. You sometimes know even generally what their hobbies might be. You’ve suddenly got things to talk about. Well, if you’re again talking to the general mass populace, you could say anything because they could be interested in all sorts of different things. But when you’ve got that niche, you know who you’re talking to, suddenly it’s way easier to write a blog that’s useful for them because you know what they want and you know what they do. It’s way easier to put social media out posts out there that are relevant to them because you’ve got such a tight group of people and you know a lot of them, you connected a lot of them, some of your customers, so you know what questions they’re asking, you know what they’re interested in.

Marcus: Yes, I totally agree with that. I think I’m going to summarize on that by saying, really Niching down for marketing and generalizing for learning.

Sam: That sounds good to me.And yes, and I think the final thing is also be brave.The niche will not lose your customers, despite what you think.And Marcus, do you now have some news for the day for us?

Marcus: Yes, I do.Prepare yourself for a little bit of bad news, I’m afraid.I mean, I do try and keep this positive, but gosh, it’s quite difficult.So, a little bit of bad news for today and it’s regarding a website called DP Review, which is one of the oldest when I say oldest,it started in

1998, but one of the oldest websites that specializes in photography and it’s owned by Amazon and they’ve decided they’re cutting back on staff.I think they’re making, what did I read,about

10,000 redundancies around the world globally.And so they decided to cut back on this really esteemed fond of knowledge that you wear.If you type in any query on photography, I bet DP Review will have an answer to it.So the demise of that, which is a real shame.

Sam: Lots of people are going from Amazon, unfortunately. Well, thank you, Marcus. It’s been really interesting speaking to you, getting your input onto Niching. I think if there’s a photographers there who haven’t niched, I think they really, really need to look at it, they really need to be brave, but as you say, maybe initially do a bit of work here and there and explore and work out which niches are for you.

Marcus: Brilliant.Thanks Sam, it’s been a great show.Been really lovely talking to you. Thank you very much.

Sam: Cheers Marcus, see you next time.