Sunday, November 15, 2015

to generalize or specialize :: the photographer's quandary

You've beaten the odds and earned your way into a life as an artist. You now introduce yourself as, "Hello, my name is, (fill in name), and I'm a photographer."

The first time you nervously utter the phrase you are then overwhelmed with a feeling of pure awesomeness.

Mere seconds after you stake your claim as a creative, you are rebutted and asked what type of photos do you create.

Somewhere along your training, someone likely said it was best to find a niche. To specialize in one discipline would be your only way to succeed with a camera.

You gotta shoot weddings or babies. Be an advertising photographer or documentary filmmaker. Shoot family portraits or landscapes. Fashion or fossils, but for crying out loud, you will certainly fail if you dip your brush in more than one of these jars.


I cut my teeth in the camera world primarily shooting headshots and editorial style portraiture.


Headshots. Editorial. Culinary. Wedding. Children. Fashion. E-commerce. Filmmaking.

And the list is expanding.

Sure, I may not be shooting macro shots of black widows any time soon but to tell you the truth, these days, I wouldn't put it past me.

Allow me to elucidate.

While headshot sessions were paying the bills, I often spent much of my free time working with food and drink. The challenges of this type of work really drew my attention. 

Was the phone ringing off the hook with calls for culinary photography? Sure, calls were coming in but what began to boggle my brain was the many calls and communications that I would receive in regards to other types of photographic work. 

"Michael, Love your work over at, what is your availability like next week as I would like to discuss your shooting the product line for my new startup."

"Michael, I'm recently engaged and would like to know what you charge for weddings. My fiancé and I just adore your work."

"Great work Michael! Can we schedule a session with our newborn baby, Ethan?" 

Now mind you, at that moment in time, neither my portfolio or blog had showcased any such work to warrant such a request.

These requests became more and more frequent. I turned them down, one by one, in the nicest way possible of course. Often, I would even offer to point them to a photographer who would be more suited to help them achieve their photographic goals.

Each email, each detail of service became more painful than the next. Not only did this feel like bad business but the sheer dollar amounts that were being spurned seemed purely idiotic.

But what about all those lessons from the great ones?

Specialize. Niche. Specialize. Niche. Specialize. Niche.

Fuck. Can't renounce the preachings of our heroes can we?


And I did.

And you know what? Business has never been better.

Sell out? My ass.

People. I'm a father now, if you didn't know. At the time of this publication, Harper Thomas Murphy a.k.a. H™is 6 1/2 months into her journey on our planet Earth. Gotta put food on the table my friends.

Look. I still have my reverences. Everything I shoot, I love shooting. I love the challenges and the creativity it takes to make beautiful photography, still or motion.


I won't shoot shit that I have no desire to shoot.

A for instance?

Okey dokey. How to I put this smoothly. I can't. Oh. well. Here goes.

I ain't gonna shoot porn. I have no desire to creative capture some dudes "money shot." And since I've crossed the line into an article of vulgarity, I don't want to strap on (no pun intended) the 24-70 2.8 to catch a medium wide shot of an orgy of showers, be them golden or brown.

Catch my drift?

I say no to porn.

Don't I?


People. If you feel compelled to shoot something, shoot it. Don't lay these self imposed sanctions upon your shoulders that limit your creativity.

Shit. I don't know about you but any opportunity to shoot is a good fucking awesome day for me.

Until next time . . .