Why having a Niche can have its limitations

When we start out in any creative field, we are often taught the importance of finding your niche. We are told that people need to be able to instantly connect with you, trust you and recognise your work without hesitation. Once we have found our niche, it is firmly said that we must run with it and never let go.

I get it, finding a niche gives you your own creative identity, it prevents you from following those around you and challenges you to think deeper. However, once found, having a niche can have its own limitations.

In a photographic sense, let’s say for example you become an expert in shooting landscapes. Your artistic eye works differently to others, and your detail for editing, sets you aside from the rest - giving you your own signature look. But then what? What are you doing to explore other parts of the craft? Sure you will gain success and at the very least be well received on social media - but is that what you set out to do when you first picked up a camera?

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Personally speaking, I want to be able to do it all. That may seem unrealistic but when I look back at my final body of work, I want to see variety and diversity, not just a bunch portraits with pink backgrounds for example. And maybe you could argue I won’t get anywhere with that approach, maybe you’re right - but photography is my passion and I want to do it my way.

I look at so many Instagram feeds, filled with images that look no different to the last. They bore me, and I question how stimulated the photographer must be, just taking the same shot day in day out. It is likely the stimulus comes from the acceptance of the viewer, the countless number of likes and comments “Wow” “Cool” “So good”.

I don’t want to bash anyone who is using the model of having a niche. I recognise they have likely worked extremely hard to find that identity and maintain it with high quality consistency. I just want to discuss the potential disadvantages, which I certainly think are present.

If you are going down one particular path, take yourself down another. Try something new with your work and see where it lands you. Sticking to what you know only puts barriers up to new and exciting opportunities, in any medium.

So if you only shoot black and white, shoot colour for a period of time. If you only swear by film cameras, get a digital one. If landscapes is your thing, go and shoot a couple of portraits for your friends and family.

Telling yourself “I only do this and I only do that” could be preventing your from becoming the best creative version of yourself - and what an absolute shame that would be.

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Take time to give back to those around you

I must admit, I am often guilty of getting lost in my own world. So focused on who I want to be, I forget to stop and take in the others that are around. Selfish? Yes. Narcissistic? Possibly.

I am a creative after all. I believe I can show the world something nobody else can, and my god don’t I want you to know it. I am not a bad person, I will quite gladly offer you a cuppa and make you a sarnie, but when it comes to being artistic, it can become me me me.

That is not to say I believe that nobody else is as good as me; most are better. I fool myself that I do not have the time to take in anybody else into my artistic mind, and if I did I will only become distracted. But that is not fair now is it? Only prepared to take the admiration of others but not willing to give it back. If I remove my goals and look at my ethics, that is not who I want to be at all.

World Class Photographers

There are a host of wonderful photographers that I admire, yet I never take the time out to tell them. I needed to change this. Hardworking, talented, groundbreaking photographers should know that what I think they are doing is great. Yes we should shoot for ourselves and all that bollox, but let's be honest many of us shoot for the recognition and acceptance for those that practise the same craft as we do. It is human to want to hear a fellow person say “You're doing an awesome job”, it is also awesome to say it to someone else.

In an attempt to ensure I started to share the love, so to speak, I have set time aside in my schedule twice a week to consciously contact photographers and tell them I like their work. That does not mean to say I am saying it to anyone and everyone, I am not about to patronise people - there has to be a genuine interest and admiration on my part in what they do.

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The response to this has been great, not only has it given those I have contacted a little ego boost, it has also opened up a dialogue with those I am connected to on social media. Social media can be a mind numbing cycle of “Make post, look at like count”, when it should be a platform for diverse dialogue and cross cultural interaction.

I am speaking to people more about photography, having in depth debate and challenging opinions. I am enjoying it more, I feel more part of a community rather than just another photographer asking the world to love him.

How I use Instagram

I am also doing a guest post each week on my Instagram page (@danginnphoto) as another means to share some of the quality work out there. If you want to be a part of that project, simply use hashtag #the8pm when sharing your content.

I am of the opinion that this individual, dog eat dog approach only limits our own development. The more we connect with those around us, the more we listen, eventually the more we learn. Never think you know better and never think you're inadequate either.

I know many of you will already be adopting this approach, and if you are - You’re an inspiration. And if you are not, take some time to do so, you will only see the benefits.

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Why stepping back has taken me forward.

For the past 6 weeks I have been nowhere near as active photography wise as I had been in previous months. When I really focus on my craft, I get lost in it. Other important parts of life tend to be forgotten and I start to lose balance in my life. Social time does not seem important, exercising takes a back seat, I even forget to eat sometimes! Whilst this may result in getting lots of content, some good some absolutely awful, it can be destructive in relation to the overall process.

Why Step Back?

There came a point where all I could think of was photography. How I wanted my online image to be, what kind of photos I wanted to take, how I would edit, what goals I would have to meet. It was overwhelming and borderline addictive. In result of this I was burnt out. I could no longer function creatively and I had to make the decision to take a step back. I put my camera in the cupboard, deleted social media apps off of my phone and put everything photography related to the back of my mind. For the first time in a long time, I could breath.

Filling the void

Of course, this meant I had a lot of free space and time - which I wanted to fill. I was able to take more time for my relationships. I took trips and actually embraced my surroundings, rather than just seeing them through a lens. I got into the gym each day - even if it was just to get my body moving. Most importantly for me, I started to cook real food again. Taking the time to prepare a fresh meal and feed myself and those closest to me, is something I find extremely rewarding. I slowed the pace of life down, and slowed my mind down. I felt more centred, balanced and in time I became more focused.

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How to pick the camera back up.

You may ask “If putting the camera down gives you a more balanced life, why would you ever want to pick it back up?”. Fair question. The fact is, photography is my life. Once it cemented itself in my psychological make up, I knew then it was never going to leave. Naturally taking that step back gave me the opportunity to miss what I love. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the old saying goes - and whilst that is meant to be applied to humans, it can also work with our passions.

At the time of writing this, I am on a plane heading to the South of France. I have my camera dusted off, a fully charged battery and two SD cards loaded inside. I cannot wait to get creative. My mind is healthy and my thirst to be productive is on the verge of being quenched.

Stepping away enabled me to see again. It stopped me from being stagnated and gave me the excitement again. Going forward, as a rule I am going to work on a 3 on 4 off approach. 3 months of getting lost in what I do and 4 weeks to regroup and recharge. Of course any paid work that comes in that 4 weeks will be taken, but for personal projects and the clutch of social media - I will take a step back.

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I encourage you to do the same. Overworking yourself will lead to burnout, and at that point you are of no use to anybody and a risk to yourself. Work hard, yes. Reduce your quality of life, no.

I will ensure I keep you all updated on my French shenanigans.

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FREE PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINT. ENTER BY 5PM TODAY

I will be announcing the winner of my free photographic print at 7pm this evening. I have extended the deadline for entry to 5pm tonight. To be in with a chance, enter your email below. Good luck!

Event and Street Photography: A Day of Two Genres

As you all will have guessed by now; I love photography. I love it all, from travel to portrait, documentary to wildlife - you name it I will like it. However, when it gets down to the nitty gritty, the core of my photographic interest if you will, event and street photography are my bread and butter. I love capturing a live moment, whether it be on a large stage or in the back streets of my home town. For me, event and street, although different in many ways, also have many similarities. They project emotion, excitement, candid elements, surprise, shock and pleasure. These are all traits I look for when practising photography, and this is why I love the two so much. That said, the way you approach each genre is completely different and in this article I will explore those differences and analyse the pros and cons of each approach.

Event Photography

This weekend I did an event at a school in North London. It was for an organisation called Paiwand, a charity that that helps support Afghan refugee children in getting a strong education when they come to the UK. I love these kind of gigs. Children are full of energy and wonder, and being able to capture a celebration of their development was an absolute pleasure. The catch is that children have no concept of what it means to be a photographer, and why would they. Setting up your shots, both candid and staged, can be a massive challenge - have you ever tried to get a child to stay still longer than 3 seconds?

Another obstacle when shooting events, is time constraints. When it comes to events, there is no such thing as “keep shooting until you get the shot”. People have homes to go to and as the photographer, you are expected to deliver the content to a level that is required, during the time frame that is given to you. We all have off days, and the anxiety you get at an event, worrying if today is going to be that day, does heap on the pressure. You have to be sharp, use your strengths and remember your basics. This can be difficult when you have many distractions, but you must remain focused and stick to the task at hand.  

Personally, I like taking candid shots the most. However, there is often a need to make staged images also. This can become repetitive and you must keep your concentration to ensure each shot is right. To keep it fresh, I ensure I have a dialogue with each subject, that way the style of photography may be the same but the conversation brings the difference.

The positive aspect of event photography is that you know something is going to happen. You don’t have to worry about whether or not your lens will see a worthy frame. It may be music, a presentation, laughter or an argument - something is bound to happen and the skill is ensuring you are there to capture it. The cool thing about working with kids is that they love smiling and laughing and this is something I try and portray when shooting them at an event.

I had 90 minutes at this gig, it was not easy (and that is without the barrage of parents “take my kids picture and make them look great). That said I enjoyed the challenge. I work harder, and in my case better, when the pressure is on. The client got the images the following day and everyone was happy - thank God!

Street Photography

After a very strict brief at the charity event earlier that day, I needed to swap my Nikon for my Fuji, so I could get out and shoot some street. Oh how I love the freedom. Walking where I want, shooting what I want, and doing it for however ever long I want. Bliss!

On this particular day I had a good run in. I came home with a least 3 shots I was excited about - which for me is great!

Of course the downside of street is that nothing is ever guaranteed. An off day can mean no photos what so ever. This may be because you don’t come across anything worth capturing or because your eye is too tired to see the things around you. Either way, it is very frustrating and this is certainly where event photography has the upper hand.

However, when I get “the shot”, there really is no other feeling like it. For me no genre gives me that same rush when I get an image of worth, as street photography. I want to get it out of camera, load it up in Lightroom, edit and share it with the world. There is just something about the pay off, especially after walking for miles, that just keeps me hooked to this genre of photography.

Street vs Event

As you can see both genres have their pluses and minuses. In event you have to deal with a client, in street you have to deal with the general public - which can be both a good and bad thing. If I had to choose which one I like the most - it would have to be street. Again, whilst both provide an enjoyable process, nothing compares to that feeling of getting a great street shot!

What is your favourite genre of photography? I would love to know! You can contact me here - Say hello to Dan.

New Print

After another great street session last week, I am pleased to say I have a new print available for you to purchase. It is called Faceless London and you can get your copy here - Buy Faceless London.

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