BUSINESS Equipment Lighting & Composition TECHNIQUES

Getting Started in Photography: Finding Your Niche

Getting started in professional photography is easy—simply get a good camera, build a portfolio, get business cards and a free blog, create a simple online presence with Facebook, Linked In, Twitter—then get busy!  The hard part about all of this is your longevity in a highly competitive business that’s seen huge shifts in the past 10 years. 

I found longevity in two areas: the first being my core business, headshots; the second is my alternate core business, using and teaching off camera flash. 

Headshots come easy to me.  I love the genre and if you are going to pursue a career in photography, love and become the best you can at a certain style and push forward.  I love and am passionate about creating an image that says who someone is in one shot. 

Off camera flash didn’t come as easily.  About a year-and-a-half into my business, I began to struggle.  So I did what everyone does; I looked toward education.  I took an online class dedicated to off camera flash.  I needed to find some way to separate myself from the competition, and I found it. 

Here is one of my first shots ever taken with off camera flash.  I was working with a Nikon D200 and SB600 flash using the Nikon Creative Lighting System.  I placed my son in front of a block wall and created a simple yet fun, or so I thought, mug shot.  Look at the date!

I quickly graduated to magazine work.  I shot an article on the Red Hat Ladies for a local special interest glossy.  I took one of their hats, set it on a white backdrop in my small garage studio and lit it with an off camera Nikon SB600, which I bounced around the room.

As soon as I found that I was getting better in a short time, I thought putting on a workshop about small flashes was in order.  So I put together a workshop, rented a local studio, and was on my way.  Or so I thought!  It was a great day, great model, full attendance—the downside was that I was an awful presenter!  But remember, this is all within six months.  I persevered and now run workshops on a regular basis. 

The thing about the workshop format, especially for me, is the creativity involved.  I can step outside the format of my headshot work and really push myself toward photos that I wouldn’t normally get hired to do. 

Here’s a shot from an off camera flash presentation I ran at EP Levine in Waltham, Massachusetts on November 1, 2011.  It is a single SB900 into an Orbis Ring Light. 

During one workshop, I ran a Candyland Theme.  I shot this with a single SB900, direct flash, about 12 feet (4 meters) from the subject. 

But alas there is the return to the bread and butter work of headshots.  One of the ways I separate myself in the market is that I’ll travel to an office for the day and shoot on location.  This allows me access to offices that need headshots but scheduling studio time would be too difficult, so I go to them with a simple lightweight kit. 

In this shot I used a Nikon SB900 into a Creative Light 24×36 softbox as main light, California Sunbounce Micro Mini reflector as fill, Nikon SB800 with a large Rogue Flashbender and diffusion panel as hair light, and a Nikon SB800 with a small Rogue Flashbender without diffusion as a back light. 

I have found my niche in photography and now teach off camera flash all over the Northeast region of the U.S.  I am sponsored by Expoimaging for their Rogue Flashbenders and have a partial sponsorship from Mac Group.  I’ve presented at the B+H Photo Event Space, the NECCC, EP Levine, Milford Photo, Chicago PPA, and many other venues. 

This year I’ll be at Calumet Photo, Hunt’s Photo, and possibly Unique Photo.

I’m now producing training videos and will have my first one out by the end of January, entitled; A Baker’s Dozen: One Speedlight 13 Looks.  Look for it on the Videos link on my blog here: Videos.

Finding your niche in photography can be difficult, but once you do pursue the dream!

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MasteringPhoto, powered by bestselling Focal Press authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for hobbyist photographers through pro image makers. No matter what your passion is—from people and landscapes to postproduction and business practices—MasteringPhoto offers advice and images that will inform and inspire you. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of photography, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.