Grow a new photography business or expand an existing one inspired by what these practitioners are doing
Sure, our phones make us all photographers in an instant these days, but they’re also one factor in making the general public more discerning consumers of images. And that means that people and organizations are also more willing to pay for the work of skilled and professional photographers, as well as for special photography of special things in special situations and special circumstances.
To elaborate on special, photography is rich with niche possibilities. If you’d like to start making money from your photography, or if you’d like to improve or expand your current business, read on. (You, too, shutterbugs. Part art, part science, part marketing, part desire, I know several photographers who built a photography sideline or business while they were still learning and honing their craft. Some of these folks were even lawyers, engineers, and software types who were mere dabblers when others encouraged them forward because they recognized their budding talent.)
Take a look at these 26 areas of specialty photography and example photographers’ websites, some questions they prompt, and consider what niche options would be a good fit for you to start with or expand into.
Architecture — Exteriors Steven Dahlman, architecture photography, Chicago Who wants beautiful shots of your town’s landmarks and buildings — tourists, building managers, businesses, residents, municipal departments?
Architecture — Interiors Richer Images, commercial/architectural/interior photography, Salt Lake City Who needs your photography for fabulous interior shots? Businesses, realtors, rental agents, those with Airbnb or vrbo listings…?
Astrophotography Scott Johnson, deep space fine art photography, Bloomington, Indiana Do you have special equipment, exquisite talent, or an extreme hobby that lends itself to spectacular fine art photography?
Automotive GF Williams, high-end automotive photography, London Car makers, car showrooms, car conventions, car dealers, used car dealers, car lovers, car collectors, those who restore old cars, those who do custom paint jobs and other custom work…If someone is buying, selling, trading, admiring, or souping up cars, what kind of photography are they willing to pay for?
Baby & Maternity
Cathy Sherwood, In the Little, baby photography, Sarasota
Nicole Faby, maternity photographer, Raleigh, North Carolina
What’s special about your people pictures and way of working? Can you offer photo services to the same customers from maternity through newborn through high school graduation and beyond? How can you help your clients preserve the milestones of their lives?
Boudoir Misty Boles, Intimate Photography, Bozeman, MT Sexy bedroom photography is becoming so popular, you’ll even find it in small college towns like Bozeman. What are the special needs of boudoir clients (privacy, confidence, etc.)? What sort of service partners (hair, makeup, etc.) can you work with? What sort of mementoes fit well with this photography (lockets, watch fobs, etc.)?
Collage on Canvas Art Mandy Adamick, Mad Canvases, digital photography collages of Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods on canvas, Chicago What photo gifts and artworks can you create?
Corporate Steve Puppe, corporate photography, Kansas City, Kansas What do the corporations around you need in the way of images? Headshots, events, website images, marketing materials…what else?
Drone Photography MKE Drones, drone photography, Milwaukee Who needs the aerial images and video only a drone can provide? Construction, golf courses, real estate, wilderness, municipalities…?
Event Photography U.S. Event Photos, national event photography, Washington D.C. and beyond Their specialty is national-level events and “experiential photo marketing” and you can learn a lot from their site. What range of events can you shoot? What’s your angle?
Elizabeth Sattelberger, Lizilu Photography, Portland, Oregon
Michael Pate, MPate Photo, Citrus Springs, FL
Compare the different aesthetics of just these two these wonderful family photographers. Do you have a style that resonates with your customers and/or your region?
Food Matthew Pace, Miami Food Photography, Miami Who wants food photos and for what? Restaurants, pop-up eateries, food trucks, bars, chefs, culinary schools…for brochures, websites, social media, wall art…?
Head Shots Kenneth Dolin, head shots, Los Angeles Who beyond actors, singers, and execs needs a decent head shot? Most people on LinkedIn? Can you also support your clients through partnerships with hairdressers, makeup artists, image consultants, job coaches, others who work in theater and film…?
Hobbyists Al Pocheck, American Revolution Photos, historical reenactment photography, Philadelphia Do you have or can you identify a hobby with avid (rabid?) fans who want photos of themselves thick in the middle of enjoying it?
Nature John Fielder, nature photographer, Silverthorne, Colorado. Can you specialize in one type of nature photos, an approach, a region, your products offered, or some blend?
Nick Freeman, neon sign photography, Chicago area/Wisconsin
Matt Hucke, neon sign photography, Seattle
What aspects of history, nostalgia, or the landscape interests you and others? What out in the world so captivates others they want to hang it on their wall? Consider that the U.S. boasts at least three neon museums and one sign museum…
Nostalgia Art Katie and Chris Robleski, The Flash Nites, Milwaukee The Flash Nites “illuminate history” by making haunting, gorgeous images of abandoned places at night using flashlights and strobes for special coloring and lighting effects. How can you combine your artistic touch to create hypnotizing images?
Performance & Concert Phillip Solomonson, Philamonjaro, Chicago Do you have a knack for capturing performers in the middle of their craft? Who wants these photos? Artists, promoters, venues, fans…?
Pinup Vavoom Pinups, retro boudoir-like photography, Chicago Vavoom offers a top to bottom, front to back, customer experience of “empowering vintage photography.” What worlds of fantasy and dress up can you take your clients into?
Quinceañera Visto Events, quinceañera bilingual photography, Houston Do you have ties to specific communities or subcultures that have special photo or special event needs? Can you serve a wider group of clients because you speak more than one language?
Small Business Jennifer Hefner, small business photography, Washington D.C. What are the distinct photography and marketing needs of small businesses? What subsectors of the economy are you well suited to serve?
School Mejdrich Photography, School Pics, Phoenix Do you work well with kids and teens while understanding the photo memory needs of parents and schools? How can you serve the range of educational markets or which ones fit your style and personality best?
Social Media Photography dpgw, social media/digital marketing photography, Los Angeles dpgw is a high-end L.A. agency serving major clients, but the idea’s the same no matter where you are or who you serve. What are the social media image needs of your customers? Can you partner with a marketing person to deliver images and marketing together?
Sports Callam Sports Photography, sports photography, Lincoln, Nebraska Who needs sports photography — portraits, team photos, action shots — in your corner of the world? Schools (pre-K through college), sport clubs and leagues, minor leagues, major leagues, tournaments, extreme athletes…?
Made You Look, wedding photography, Atlanta
Stanlo Photography, destination wedding photography, Bahamas
Can you distinguish yourself by catering to the needs of a particular social or economic stratum? To those who travel to your town for their big day? Are you willing to travel to exotic locales to capture a couple’s nuptial celebration?
When choosing your own niche/s, review some of the lessons of the photographers listed above:
Become a specialist for a niche for your region.
Find all the ways to distinguish yourself in your niche or niches, including price, aesthetic, type of service, variety of offerings.
Multiple offerings can include such things as portrait sessions, staging, social media images, postcards, books, framing, images on products, etc.
Partner with other solopreneurs, creatives, and professionals, both for referrals and to provide complementary services.
Have multiple distinct specialties.
Combine niches in ways that make sense for you, e.g., travel + weddings = destination wedding specialist; nature + books = nature photography books; cars + marketing = automotive advertising.
Finally, if you’d like to turn your photography hobby into a business, read this. For those who dislike or shy away from marketing, read this to find eight ways to customize your marketing to better suit you.