Finding Your Field in Photography
There are many categories in photography. And each of them has subcategories, and below these, sub-subcategories. So finding your place in photography isn’t easy—there are so many places to find. It often takes years before a photographer finds a style. But how will you know when you’ve found the right field for you? You might find the answer in today’s article—which contains a bit of philosophizing.
There are so many photographic fields and genres that it can be hard to even tell which is which, let alone picking one to focus on, or one that suits you best.
Relax And Let It Happen
In our article on beginners’ mistakes, we mentioned that many professionals and passionate photographers had roughly the same beginnings. Learning photographic skill takes time. Either you have incredible talent, the kind rarely seen, or you have to walk the walk—enormous work and years of practice before the results are worth it.
When starting out, a digital camera owner photographs everything. They photograph a lot. And they don’t think too much about it, because they like everything and they want to capture everything. No matter whether it’s a flower, a bug, a landscape, reportage, a portrait, a nude, or fashion. It is a photography, so they do it.
If you’re taking pictures of almost everything, it’s too early to find your field.
As time goes by and (above all) your mountain of deleted photos grows, you’ll stop taking certain kinds of pictures. Maybe because they’re not where you excel, maybe because you don’t enjoy them as much. You don’t do every category anymore; you have one or two less. Over time this will narrow your photographic space down to one or two categories, or perhaps photographic styles. You’re now getting close to the field that fits you best.
Let’s say you have this first phase behind you. Now there’s a second phase. This one is for photographers with a real thirst to become better at all costs. If you’ve already picked a genre—let’s say it’s reportage photography—then ask yourself: what kind of reportage do I want to do? Documentary? Sports? Weddings? Wedding photographers have to do perfect reportage, capturing emotions, while also photographing and styling portraits with people who aren’t used to letting themselves be photographed.
Here you’ll once again run into what I mentioned a few lines earlier. The subcategories that you like most will come to you automatically. Or rather, will select themselves automatically.
All of these photographs have one common trait—they depict people. Over time you’ll choose a specific category you want to focus on. (photo: Majo Elias)
How can you tell which field fits you best?
You’ll find your place after thousands, or tens of thousands, of photos taken, edited, and published.
The first sign that you’ve found the field that’s right for you is that you have more fun with it than with others. And your photos from that field are an order of magnitude better than your photos from other fields.
Another sign is when people always ask you for a certain kind of photo. It might be mountain landscapes, or portraits of senior citizens, or nudes of svelte models. In short, 80 percent of the queries and requests you get are for one and the same topic—because the people around you see that you do the best work in that field. That’s probably the field that fits you best.
Don’t Stop the Presses
Just because you’ve found your place in photography doesn’t mean that you should automatically turn against other genres.
For example: professional photographers also focus on the areas they do best. They’ve got their subcategories within subcategories within a photographic genre. That’s their livelihood.
But they also need to just take pictures for fun sometimes. Without thinking about them too much. And so even professionals will oftentimes grab their cameras and do some hobby photography in a completely different field. Often with different equipment, like an analog camera. If that’s good enough for professionals, it’s good enough for you!
Snap and Never Stop
If you’re an enthusiast or a complete beginner who hasn’t yet found their field, that’s OK.
The main thing is always keep taking pictures. And another thing: maintain the joy in your photography. It will shine through in your photos, and both you and your fans will notice it. And then in time you may find you enjoy one type the most—and that means you’ve gently, naturally found your field.
Last updated 29. June 2015