Intro by Skip Cohen
I remember being at a workshop with the legendary Don Blair many years ago. He was into his seventies and sitting in the back of the room furiously taking notes on a presentation by Nick Vedros, one of the industry’s best commercial photographers. Don never stopped learning, always wanting to raise the bar on his skill set.
Everyone needs to have a core specialty for their business, but you also need skills outside that core. You don’t want to be perceived as a “one-trick pony.” For example, I wish it was mandatory for every wedding photographer to take a macro course! Think about how much better ring shots, dress details and critical elements of storytelling would improve.
In this post from Chamira Young’s archives, she shares a few ideas on how to expand your skill set, but I want to hit harder on why it’s essential.
Whether you have a diverse skill set or not, you NEVER want to say “No!” to a client. You don’t always have to say yes to requests either, but at the very least if they’re interested in hiring you for something outside your comfort zone, understand the skills needed and give them a referral. And, you just might want to fine-tune your skills so that next time you’re ready to expand your services.
By Chamira Young
Being well-rounded is a part of being a good student, leader, and business owner. This applies to all photographers too, no matter what you think your niche might be. Being able to empathize and at the very least, understand what niches and styles other photographers are working with is a huge part of growing as an artist.
This is also a great way to keep your own skills sharp when you are in the process of growing your portfolio or just gaining more knowledge. There are a few ways that can really help you improve your skills as a photographer that will challenge you without the fear of ruining your own business.
Find local needs
There are tons of options locally, outside of your niche in photography that still needs your services. If you are a wedding photographer, try your hand at editorial photography by pairing with the newspaper for a short while.
Take a chance in some sort of commercial photography for a new local business’s products that they need to advertise. You can learn so much from learning new styles and these opportunities are easy to find.
Commercial photography is often taken for granted. While it gets a lot of attention, it’s usually not the photography style the regular consumer needs. It’s the photography that makes these images stand out so they can showcase a certain product or service. This style of photography is totally underrated because it takes so much skill and thousands of people are going to have access to this image.
Events are something always happening in every community. If it’s not a school dance, a local band playing live music, or a sporting event, there is never a shortage of local events that need photographers. It’s a great time to practice working in less than ideal conditions like poor weather, poor lighting, and more. These are the events that will also help you learn all of the parts of your camera and force you to work harder in your editing platforms.
Try Different People
As an example, if you’re a wedding photographer, give professional headshots a try at a small business for their website. If you are a senior portrait photographer, try an engagement session for a couple in your city.
There are so many stylistic choices and rules to follow when you are photographing people and each of these settings calls for something a bit different. From posed to natural to adding in more than one person into the mix, learning how to photograph people will teach you a lot about your own style and preferences and also give you an insight into how to instruct from behind the camera.
There are so many niches in the photography industry that it’s crazy to only be good at one thing. While you may only focus on one niche, it’s so important to grow in the areas that are a weakness and find ways to keep those skills sharp. This will help you as a photographer and as an artist. There’s so much inspiration to be drawn from each situation whether it’s people, food, animals, landscapes, or other items.
Being a great business owner includes a lot of risks and it also includes a lot of learning. Being an expert is great but having the desire to challenge yourself outside of your own niche is a solid way to not only build both your knowledge and skills, but also your reputation.