Photography is a crowded profession. And it’s getting squeezed to death by a glut of amateurs. When everyone can afford a “pro” camera, how can a professional photographer make a living? Mike Klemme’s answers hold some lessons for people in all types of professions being squeezed.
But Klemme found an answer.
He built his business on the Red Adair model: be the one to call. Starting with his skills as a landscape photographer, he became the first pro photographer to specialize in golf courses. There is a ton of competition in general landscape photography. But once Klmme became the go-to-pro for golf courses, he was called on to travel the world to shoot courses from Miami Beach to Kenya.
Good photo niches are the subjects people are passionate, even crazy about. To prove his point, Klemme listed off a bunch of potential photo niches, ones where he did not know of an existing photo specialist.
- cigars and tobacco
- swimming pools
- emerging destinations in travel (pick one emerging destination, and be all over it)
- western and cowboy
- green tech
- rowing and boating in Oklahoma City
- oil business (big business in Oklahoma)
- Native American
Once you have your niche, find your tribe of people who are passionate about the topic. Communicate directly with them.
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Nico Prinsloo says
Nice positive story. I love it!
Sandra Sims says
Finding a niche is great advice! My friend DeEdra specializes in kids photos and has a colorful, artistic flair. She regularly posts on Facebook and I look forward to seeing the pics in my timeline even though I rarely know the kids!
Becky McCray says
Sandra, great example!
I’ve thought of another niche: coffee. People go nuts over gourmet coffees, fair trade, etc. Is there an existing specialist in that photo niche? Probably not.
Judy Dunn says
I am a big fan of “nichifying.” (Bob gives me a bad time about inventing new words, but, hey…)
Photography is a prime example. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek headline for an article on the reasons businesses should find a niche. It was something like “Swedish Cowboys and Scuba Diving Brides: 8 Reasons You Should Find a Niche.” I talked about how far one might go with a niche and wondered out loud if a photographer specializing in underwater weddings would be taking it too far. In the comments, someone said that when a friend niched down to underwater weddings, her photography business exploded. So much for taking a niche too far!
I was talking to a colleague and friend on Twitter, a graphic designer who was having no luck finding a stock image of an Asian dentists. Out of curiosity, I looked in all my medical stock images and could find not one Asian dentist! So I think that minority representation in images of professionals is a gap that someone might fill.
Becky McCray says
Judy, that is an amazing example of a photography niche. Thanks for sharing it.
Rock Langston says
I was on the other side of the discussion with Judy Dunn about the gaps in stock photography. I repeatedly find myself looking for images of professional and blue collar women who are actually doing something serious. There are scads of women in cheesy costumes and poses, but few images of value. Add to that the need for a photo of a professional Asian woman, or a latina working under the hood of a car, and I’m out of luck.
As with any type of work, there is always an underserved market. Great post! Now, time to put on my thinking cap!
Kathy Clark says
Very well said. It’s all about finding ones niche that makes them successful. Sometimes focusing on the seemingly small things is what fruits the biggest reward.
This article is very inspiring. I love the niche mentioned by Rock Langston of ethnicity and gender combined with occupations (the latina mechanic example); my preferred portrait niche so far is occupational portraits, and the more nichy and unusual, the better! My newest niche idea is gay couples. I seek clients one city over, which has a known gay district. Unfortunately I live in a small, very traditional city where amateur photography is huge and niches like those mentioned are difficult to explain to the locals – yet one must niche, at least to get started.
Meranda Caswell says
This is a great story. I live in a super small country town and the closest major city is an hour away. I have been trying to build my business for almost 2 years. It is a struggle everyday. I did find a niche, but it is such a small town with very little out of the norm thinking. I specialize in Boudoir Photography. It is not really heard of around here, but I know the demand is there. I network online through Facebook almost everyday, well or until my fingers fall off! I would advertise everywhere if I could, but with it being such a conservative place and private type of Photography I feel I am at a loss. It is this kind of story that drives me to continue to try.
Becky McCray says
Meranda, I’m glad you found it encouraging. If your locals don’t know the term “boudoir photography” start figuring out how women talk about it to each other. Use their own words, if you can! Good luck.
On the boudoir niche, I have tapped into our Oklahoma conservative traditional market by marketing to married woman and spicing up the marriage. It is done in private and never shared unless the woman shares. Totally word of mouth. There are woman who want to do this for their husband, but don’t want images posted all over social media. You would be shocked how well this goes over. Women trust me. Husbands love me. Ha! My last name is Baker, so I call my boudoir, Cupcakes. I have Cupcake parties and even have a session called Cupcake of the month where the wife can give her husband a Cupcake (picture) each month. Crazy successful!!! I advertise that MY Cupcakes are calorie-free, but made with enough sugar to cause a cavity. :)
Becky McCray says
Traci, what a great way to market in your specific niche without upsetting people’s values!