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Thread: Specialist or Generalist

  1. #1

    Default Specialist or Generalist

    Hi guys...

    Just another interesting topic that I hope to get people to talk about the benefit and disadvantages of being a specialist or a generalist.

    A specialist basically will find a niche market that they want to specialised in and stay there but generalist will basically over a lot of different kind of different services that they might be able to do... Generalist AKA Jack-of-All-Trade.

    Hart

  2. #2
    Senior Member sinned79's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    here's my humble views.

    In Singapore, i think being a generalist is better then a specialist unless you are already in the field for quite sometime and people already know what you have been doing. Else its hard to earn anything from what you yourself deem you are specialised in.

    Maybe Singaporean's are taught that way, you had to know a lot and you will be outcasted if you only know one thing and none others (at least for fields like IT, as a programmer, you are not only expected to know programming, your skills such basic IT troubleshooting and other stuffs as and when required, that's the mindset of most companies in SG now).

    So unless you have finally made a name for yourself, its better to be a generalist for rice bowl sake (ego plays a part too, maybe you dislike protraits and only specialises in landscape, but if you are hired do to protraits for some reason, can you turn it down?)

    So in short, i think its better to be a jack of all trades + a master of one. That way, you wun lose out (typical kiasu Singaporean mindset here haha)
    Last edited by sinned79; 18th August 2010 at 11:15 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    I am unfortunately, a specialist. Just don't have the time to develop skills for other genres.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by sinned79 View Post
    here's my humble views.

    In Singapore, i think being a generalist is better then a specialist unless you are already in the field for quite sometime and people already know what you have been doing. Else its hard to earn anything from what you yourself deem you are specialised in.

    Maybe Singaporean's are taught that way, you had to know a lot and you will be outcasted if you only know one thing and none others (at least for fields like IT, as a programmer, you are not only expected to know programming, your skills such basic IT troubleshooting and other stuffs as and when required, that's the mindset of most companies in SG now).

    So unless you have finally made a name for yourself, its better to be a generalist for rice bowl sake (ego plays a part too, maybe you dislike protraits and only specialises in landscape, but if you are hired do to protraits for some reason, can you turn it down?)

    So in short, i think its better to be a jack of all trades + a master of one. That way, you wun lose out (typical kiasu Singaporean mindset here haha)
    Thanks...

    Yes, it make sense...

    I started out as generalist as I don't really know what I want to do so expose myself to different genre... doing a lot of architectural and interior photography

    So did a bit of everything but finally when I moved to Singapore 2.5 years ago, I specialised in Children photography and I don't do anything else, often turn down quote for corporate portrait, events, etc...

    I find it easier to specialised rather than generalised as I think I am an average man (no offence guys) which is not very good in multitasking.

    Being jack of all trade, yes, it brings lots of little income which is great to level off living expenses but you can never charge more as there is no reason for people to pay more... hence my reason of specialising in 1 thing only.

    That is my view anyway...

    Hart

  5. #5

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    This is a beautiful thread. I love the facts pointed out.

    Simple equation and precise answers.

    This would be the type of conversations i look forward to in clubsnap. Yea!
    Man greatest tool. The imaginative mind.

  6. #6
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    I have tried many genres over the years.
    some can do and some can not, some still good and some really bad.

    what I'm doing it now is what I don't think I will or can do twenty years ago.

    So I guess you have to follow your heart but also give a try to anything comes by, so you will know your strength and weakness.

    and you need to really good at something which will associate with your name, in order to get this, you have to really work hard and push yourself into it.
    Shoot to Live, Live to Shoot
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    I love photography, videography, and love staying up thru the night to build website.

    Weekend, specialised in wedding photgraphy or videoggraphy. Weekdays cover whatever events or editorial photography that come my way. Night time play with javascript or css.

    basically Jack of all trade but good at none.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    I have tried many genres over the years.
    some can do and some can not, some still good and some really bad.

    what I'm doing it now is what I don't think I will or can do twenty years ago.

    So I guess you have to follow your heart but also give a try to anything comes by, so you will know your strength and weakness.

    and you need to really good at something which will associate with your name, in order to get this, you have to really work hard and push yourself into it.
    You are right. It is important to do many things in the beginning to understand the what you really enjoy doing in the long term.

    It is hardwork to do something that you don't enjoy.

    Regards,

    Hart

  9. #9

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    If u r good, what difference does it make?
    If u r not good, what difference does it make?

  10. #10

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by Agetan View Post
    you can never charge more as there is no reason for people to pay more... hence my reason of specialising in 1 thing only.
    so u r saying the mere fact that u r specializing in one thing is the reason people pay more for your work?

    Or that by specializing in one thing virtually means u r good at it than anything else?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    (photography is only a hobby for me, see this interesting discussion and wish to contribute my 2cents here as an on-off customer for pro photographers)

    when we select a pro pg for an event or product shoot, and if all things being almost equal, i would prefer a specialist over a generalist, and would not mind paying more for the specialist if my budget allows.

    my reasoning would be a specialist would have done more shots on the type of shoots needed, and pressumedly would be more efficient and effective in executing the work.

    I guess this is a bit like seeing a GP and a specialist if i am not feeling well. sometime GP will do, but some other occasions, i feel more secure to see a specialist.

    from business point of view, generalist can get 'volume', specialists get 'premium'.

    just my two cents.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    I have know some who are good at taking foods shots, but does not means they aren't good at others.

    I believe one who spend more time on certain subjects (example: interior) should have better knowledge in that field. But that does not means one who does a few subjects in different areas to be less knowledgeable in the subject then the other aka specialist who spends more time on it.
    Last edited by fotoudavid; 19th August 2010 at 06:02 PM.
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by lancey View Post
    so u r saying the mere fact that u r specializing in one thing is the reason people pay more for your work?

    Or that by specializing in one thing virtually means u r good at it than anything else?
    If I as a customer, see two profolios, both good enough for me and both styles i like, but one charges a bit more becos he specialized in that paricular field, I can accept it and may choose the specialist if my budget allows.

    For example, when we looked for photographer to shoot installation of tanks, vessels, equipment at project site or workshop, we choosed a specialist. In one particular case, we used a crane to lift the pg up ~20m in a steel box in order to get some shots, we have to use a specialist who have doen it few times before. because it was impoosible for re-shoot.

    but on the other hand, if my project involves shooting people, products, events, fabrication shop, etc. then i would prefer a generalist.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by fotoudavid View Post
    I have know some who are good at taking foods shots, but does not means they aren't good at others.

    I believe one who spend more time on certain subjects (example: interior) should have better knowledge in that field. But that does not means one who does a few subjects in different areas to be less knowledgeable in the subject then the other aka specialist who spends more time on it.
    i agree with you. and if i know the pg personally, and have seen a lot of his work, i as a customer would be able to make a better decision.

    But most of the time, the customers make selection and decision through references, or by looking at profolios; and/or by talking to the photographers.

    A profolio that shows more impressive work, and is related to what the customer wants will usually win. And if the customer is already impressed with the profolio, the pg who sells himself as specialist can get the premium in fees.

    And of course I am talking about a sitaution where the competing profilos presented are equally impressive. If the work does not impress the customer, there is no difference of a generalist or a specialist.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    My usual experiences are that, don't expect the clients to be willing to pay you a premium just because you are good(they think so too) or you are a specialist. Most of these people rather sacrifice the standard they are getting to stay within their budgets.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    doing it everyday doesn't mean he's good.

    doing it right every time he does it is the key.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    My usual experiences are that, don't expect the clients to be willing to pay you a premium just because you are good(they think so too) or you are a specialist. Most of these people rather sacrifice the standard they are getting to stay within their budgets.
    Sometimes though...

    if it is a need, people won't pay as much.

    However, it is a "want" that will entice people to pay more...

    We don't have to look too far... look at when we buy gear for work and buy gear for to satisfy your "want".. when we buy something for work... we simply try to find the cheapest we can get our hand on but if we want something, we don't mind to pay a little more... at least that is me.

    Unless a client want and craze about what one is offering, the chances are, they will not pay.

    At least with my work, most of my clients want the session and they don't actually really "need" it, so they will pay a little more on premium to get what they want.

    For specialist or even the generalist, one would need to product unique images that the clients "want"... It is possible but nonetheless not easy to achieve.

    I do find it difficult become a generalist and create unique products on all genres. I guess, that someone will be specialist in many genre.

    Regards,

    Hart
    Last edited by Agetan; 20th August 2010 at 12:04 AM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    generalists can forget about producing unique images...right.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by fotoudavid View Post
    I have know some who are good at taking foods shots, but does not means they aren't good at others.

    I believe one who spend more time on certain subjects (example: interior) should have better knowledge in that field. But that does not means one who does a few subjects in different areas to be less knowledgeable in the subject then the other aka specialist who spends more time on it.
    You are absolutely right...

    A specialist merely someone who "prefer" to specialise in 1 or 2 areas. They can do other type of photography without any doubt if they want to.

    I think being a specialist or generalist is nothing more than a personal choice.

    Hart

  20. #20

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    A GP and a brain surgeon is hell of a difference as compared to one who shoots "food photography all his life" and a generalist.

    Point is, it doesn't take a lot of energy or sudden surge of talent to switch from a generalist to a "food photographer" or vice versa. Photography is about technique and visualization. One can train the eye to see different things and get the hang of it.

    So to be a specialist or a generalist is nota life changing decision. Like a flick of the switch, one can be either. One is mostly bounded by his/her interest in whichever genres that one choses. How one commands his fees is based on his portfolio and not because one is a specialist or not, unless of course you deal with clients with no tastes.

    In a sense, the significance of your question is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
    What's the first thing u look for when hiring a photog? his work or if he only shoots restrictively? And if so, what does it matter if his work sucks?

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