Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Finding a Niche

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking these days: Thinking about where I might take my photography career in these harsh times of shrinking rates and growing competition. It's giving me a headache!

I'm not much of a gambler. I've been to Vegas many, many times. Most often, for work related reasons. Sure, I've gambled a bit but not in a big way. Not even close. Gambling, in my mind, has too many inherent risks, not the least of which are the odds: They're way too much in favor of the house. It seems like sucker play. For the vast majority of those who visit Sin City, that's exactly what it is.

Sucker play.

But my thoughts revolve around something far more important than gambling in Vegas. Certainly, far more important to me.

My career.

My livelihood.

My goals and aspirations and where my quest to achieve them might take me. Make that, "How to get there." In fact, you could also make that, "Where to go?"

All this thinking is making me more timid in terms of the risk-taking aspects of how to get there or where to go. I'm not a young man. I ain't saying I'm a decrepit geezer. I'm not. Far from it. (Leastwise, I certainly hope so.) I believe I still have more than a few good and productive years left in me. But, unlike a Sin City high-roller with plenty of eff you money to risk, I don't have all that many years to blow. The choices I might make at this point in my life seem infinitely more important than they were ten or twenty or thirty years ago.

Maybe I'm having a 3/4-life crisis? (Note: My mid-life crisis was a blast! What with being a shooter of beautiful naked chicks and all. Just sayin.)

Anyway, that's what's making me think even harder and feeling a greater sense of timidity, and simultaneous urgency, about the directions I might choose.

BTW, I have no plans to give up shooting what I've mostly been shooting for many years. But these days, it simply doesn't pay the rent. Ergo, new directions, new choices, new ideas are in order.

"The times they are a changin'!" A great American poet sang. Fact is, they've already changed-- Dramatically!

An article in the New York Times the other day, "For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path," illustrates the current plight of those trying to make a living with cameras in their hands. It's apropos for both new photographers and long-time photographers as well.

So what to do? What directions to take? What new photographic genres should I explore or, more to the point, what photography niche would my skill-set be most suited to and, of those niches, which make most sense to pursue? (i.e., from the perspectives of demand, competition, and it being reality-based.)

Wedding, family and event work? Great demand, unbelievably crowded competition, certainly reality-based.

Commercial work? Fair demand, lots of competition, reality-based.

Editorial? Less demand than ever, leastwise for assignment work, plenty of competition (micro-stock, Flickr, etc.) and semi-reality-based.

Fashion and beauty? Marginal demand, plenty of competition, fantasy-based for most who pursue it.

I could name more genres but, truthfully, doing so also gives me a freakin' headache. Besides, what I'm looking for will be a niche under the heading of one of those genres. Such is the nature and place of niches.

Yep. I still keep coming back to this "niche" thing: Finding the right niche and taking a risk (a gamble) pursuing it is the key. Problem is, of course, sticking that key into enough locks to see if it opens the right doors. At my current chronological point in life, I feel I only have so much time to invest, that is, less time to try many locks on many doors... if that makes sense.

As usual, I'm mostly thinking out loud here. Thinking out loud gives me less of a headache than thinking silently. Go figure.

The fenced-in pretty girl at the top is Alexa from a few years ago.


Steve said...

I feel your pain here. Currently going through the same thing in IT. Out of work for a year with nought in sight. Mid 40s with experience just doesn't cut it.

I had thought about switching into photography but as you say, every genre is very crowded with little room for newcomers.

Its a headache alright...


Steve said...


jimmyd said...


Workshops are often on my mind and continue to be at some off/on/off/on place in my plans. It's true that workshops, like my still-to-be-finally-completed DVD, will provide some amount of remuneration, but I still want to remain, in a large way, a working/shooting/income-enjoying photographer. Hey! Is that so selfish? :-)

Stephen said...

I don't think workshops are working well right now because of the economy.

I think the future of photography is going to hinge on whether the iPad (and simular) devices succeed or not.

Jessica said...

Jim Jam, always thinking :)

Pawel Niewiadomski said...

Have you ever thought about spending some time doing fine art? Publishing books, selling prints and so on.

I think that's another approach that may lead into being a successful and paid artist.

I understand that's totally different than chasing after clients/orders. It doesn't give you constant cash flow in the beginning but I think it can sustain an artist in the long run.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just naive about current time. We all know many people did it in the old times, some do it now.

What's your thoughts on it?

jimmyd said...


I'm acquainted with some photographers who shoot and market the kind of work you're referring to. From what I hear from them, things aren't much better in those genres if at all. It seems that all photo markets are more crowded than ever. Way more crowded! I'm still confident there are some niches out there that haven't seen a mass migration of photographers showing up. Just have to find it... or them. I do have a few ideas and am researching them. Thanks for the suggestion!!!

jimmyd said...


Can't help it. They write me this way.

RandJ-Photo said...

I know the feeling. I'm mid 50's, and had just moved from a nice marketing job to make photography my main income when the bubble burst. It's a bitch trying to build momentum when the world is slowing down.

But I think if we can just hang in there till the world starts recovering we can come out ahead. Well at least eat and live indoors.

I've taken up assisting with both still and video jobs as well as teaching at a local art center.

Plus a lot of the beginners that everyone wants to hire because they're cheap instead of us has no clue about managing a large shoot. When the budgets come back they'll need someone that understands permits, model contracts, location scouting, etc... The MM crowd will still be doing drive-by "fashion" shoots in back alleys.

Just remember our real marketable skills are not photography skills, it's pre-visualization and organizational skills.

Steve said...

Hey Jim, just found your site here. Very cool. But you had me rolling on the floor with that comment about you not being much of a gambler. Have you forgotten about that long ago honeymoon that ended quickly in disaster over a certain someone's gambling?

jimmyd said...

@Steve N,

I remember that honeymoon fiasco all too well. And that event, i.e., my impulsive stupidity at the tables, is precisely why, ever since, I've not been much of a gambler.

Now that I think about it, I could add getting married to my long list of life decisions I'd put under the heading of Acts of Impulsive Stupidity... But I won't. Why? Because it would mean I wouldn't have my fantastic daughter and my two wonderful grand-kids. Oh yeah, my son-in-law is really, truly, special to me as well. In fact, I might not have my son either if I hadn't married my daughter's mother which, ultimately, led to having my son with his mother.