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Thread: Specialist or Generalist

  1. #21

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    I think psychologically more people are willing to pay for a specialist when the need arises.
    Conversely, if you tell people you do everything automatically there's this feeling that you're a jack of all trades master of none.

    It's positioning, that's all.Whether the work is good or not is up to the client to decide but I'm sure you're aware being seen as a generalist has its cons...

    flip side of the coin, people have this assumption that specialists cost more automatically.


    Quote Originally Posted by lancey View Post
    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?

  2. #22

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    So let's list out the pro and cons to be a specialist and generalist...

    Here is a few I could think off quickly so please feel free to enter more..

    Pro - specialist
    - ability to concentrate and create niche in one area
    - easier to market your work to specific market

    Cons - specialist
    - may be effected if the industry is in downturn. Such as Bangkok riot and fashion photographer who base there
    - depend on market conditions

    Pro- generalist
    - diversify hence more flexibility to negotiate market condition
    - generate more volume through all different market segment

    con- generalist
    - appear as jack-of all trade and master of none doesn't allow one to price themselves at the very top end of the game
    - large amount of time and effort needed to create a niche in most market segment
    - more budget needed for marketing due to diverse market segment.


    The lists are perfect nor complete... So do help to chuck in your 2 cents.

    Hart

  3. #23

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    specialist or not is not the main concern, but the general market perception of photography is something to discuss about.
    Eat breath LIVERPOOL!!!

  4. #24

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by fotoudavid View Post
    specialist or not is not the main concern, but the general market perception of photography is something to discuss about.
    Do we really know the market perception?

    I remember was told never to specialise in Children Photography as it won't be sustainable? and been convince by many, forget about making a living by specialise in what I do. I think that is the market perception as well isn't it?

    We could talk about market perception but it is a fact that we can't change easily... unless there is another Steve jobs in us and change the industry to his direction... I don't believe with disintegrated mind set can achieve anything.

    By discussing about specialist and generalist, it gives people options when they jump into photography.

    This is thread to help new comers on what is out there and the pro and cons and ultimately, they will have to decide for themselves.

    Hart

  5. #25

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Are wedding photographer considered specialist? For wedding, everyone will look for wedding photog. So, being specialist should be alright.

    Just don't try to specialise in ulu genre.. like maybe taking picture of bacteria.
    Please Don't Report This Post To A Moderator

  6. #26

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Yes... Wedding photographer who only offer Wedding photography will be considered as Specialist by definition.

    Hahhaa... Well, if the Bacteria photographer is the only person in the world that can do it well, I am sure it will be quite a profitable market....

    Hart

  7. #27

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by Agetan View Post
    So let's list out the pro and cons to be a specialist and generalist...

    Here is a few I could think off quickly so please feel free to enter more..

    Pro - specialist
    - ability to concentrate and create niche in one area
    - easier to market your work to specific market

    Cons - specialist
    - may be effected if the industry is in downturn. Such as Bangkok riot and fashion photographer who base there
    - depend on market conditions

    Pro- generalist
    - diversify hence more flexibility to negotiate market condition
    - generate more volume through all different market segment

    con- generalist
    - appear as jack-of all trade and master of none doesn't allow one to price themselves at the very top end of the game
    - large amount of time and effort needed to create a niche in most market segment
    - more budget needed for marketing due to diverse market segment.


    The lists are perfect nor complete... So do help to chuck in your 2 cents.

    Hart
    Hi Hart

    I think this is an interesting discussion and definitely one should consider and re-evaluate their position not only when they start, but maybe every few years. The same topic is of interest to many communities:

    From other environments where the same topic was discussed:
    http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/...list-who-wins/
    http://www.cio.com/article/102352/Sp...s._Generalists

    and for the bigger picture:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General...ialist_species

    -- marios

  8. #28

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Also to note, the important factor for some who decided to be more focus on certain field, meaning taking less or simply reject other offers on different field, is the amount of quality time to spend for him or herself, either to family, studies or other reasons.

    For me, i am shifting more towards portraits, so will be doing less other jobs on other areas. Why, because of family commitments. I need to spend more time with my kids, so hence the decisions. Besides that, portraits is one area that i can still do even in old age.
    Eat breath LIVERPOOL!!!

  9. #29
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Specialising adds perceived value to our services/products in that niche and clients who look for such specialists are usually less price-conscious than clients who go for generalists. (of course, there are those clients that are price-conscious regardless of what they want..) Specialists with a good portfolio (better still if coupled with sound business strategies) can command higher rates for their work than a generalist can if they have a unique selling advantage that cannot be duplicated. Of course, niche areas are usually areas that do not generate enough interest for the majority of photographers to try and have high barriers of entry/exit which means the money may be good but the demand is not regular. Disadvantage will be that the specialist has most of his/her eggs in a single basket and if that skill suddenly become obsolete, that may be a career-ending situation. Also, a specialist puts himself/herself in a market where his/her reputation determines the survival rate. The market that a specialist operates in has a lower tolerance for failure to deliver and clients usually shop for a specialist with good reputation.

    Alternatively, choosing to be a general photographer allows one to have his/her hand in every conceivable pie of the photo business market. However, having a hand in every possible area means that the general photographer is not able to concentrate his/her effort and the investment of time/effort/money will not have as good a return as a specialist will experience in terms of capability and equipment. Also, a general photographer's market is usually price-conscious and subject to threats of price pressure since the perceived value of their skills is low and this market enters into a commodity stage. Advantage of this is that the photographer have a well-diversified source of income. Another advantage that a general photographer has is that his/her reputation is less of a factor as compared to the price that he/she will be charging.

    Ultimately, to be a specialist or generalist is a business decision that must support the overall strategy (especially the marketing plan) one has for his/her business. Will the market be able to support your decision? Can the market pay your rate? Do they need your skills badly enough? Hence that decision must be one that either fulfill the needs/wants of the market or create a new want (especially for those with Steve Jobs' minds).

    Hence, I will prefer to be a hybrid. One option will be to accept general photography jobs yet be known/reputed for specialising in a certain area. Specialising simply allows us to prioritise our investment of time, effort and money to advance in a niche that we work best in. General photography allows us to explore other areas and bring in some dough which can support our specialisation. This option lessens the benefits one gets from choosing to specialise/generalise 'cleanly' but offers me stability.
    G

  10. #30

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Interesting analogy and what you have said is quite true.

    One thing for sure is, for being a specialist, you can create smaller market segment in your specialization.

    For example, my specialization is children and their family. In the market, I segmented my work into newborn photography market, children photography market as well as teens photography market and family photography market.

    You could simply see 4 segments in smaller niche market that I am trying to serve. Each segment has it's unique marketing strategies and area of concentration.

    The question is what people need from your work, but how much they want it.

    Regards,

    Hart

  11. #31

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    How does a PG derive what one really need from his work when we are talking about photos, and the art value of it?

    The point is everyone see from a different perspective?

  12. #32
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Its always a challenge to meet the client's requirements with your vision. As a photographer, you have to display intimate knowledge and understanding of the client's requirements. Maintaining a portfolio of your work is the single most important document for photographers to get assignments. Its a signature from which potential clients can gauge if you are appropriate for the job. It goes both ways and certain amount of risk is involved.

  13. #33
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by Agetan View Post
    Interesting analogy and what you have said is quite true.

    One thing for sure is, for being a specialist, you can create smaller market segment in your specialization.

    For example, my specialization is children and their family. In the market, I segmented my work into newborn photography market, children photography market as well as teens photography market and family photography market.

    You could simply see 4 segments in smaller niche market that I am trying to serve. Each segment has it's unique marketing strategies and area of concentration.

    The question is what people need from your work, but how much they want it.

    Regards,

    Hart
    well-said
    G

  14. #34
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by GeonSG View Post
    How does a PG derive what one really need from his work when we are talking about photos, and the art value of it?

    The point is everyone see from a different perspective?
    that's where market research comes in....you really need to know what your customer wants, his/her expectations, their concerns and their hot buttons.

    This is generic to all businesses, not just photog business.
    G

  15. #35

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    Its always a challenge to meet the client's requirements with your vision. As a photographer, you have to display intimate knowledge and understanding of the client's requirements. Maintaining a portfolio of your work is the single most important document for photographers to get assignments. Its a signature from which potential clients can gauge if you are appropriate for the job. It goes both ways and certain amount of risk is involved.
    hmm, i am not sure if i comprehend you correctly that the reference is mainly on the photographer's style and the client's aesthetic vision. I am assuming that the client has probably assess the photographer portfolio before he or she proceed to communicate further. In such situation, this is the niche market which becomes the target segment for the photographer.

  16. #36
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    In essence, its the job of the photographer to get to know the requirements of the clients well. On the other hand, the clients has to decide if the photographer is appropriate for the work. He/she can make an educated guess with the photographer's portfolio (hopefully).

  17. #37

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    In essence, its the job of the photographer to get to know the requirements of the clients well. On the other hand, the clients has to decide if the photographer is appropriate for the work. He/she can make an educated guess with the photographer's portfolio (hopefully).
    It's true to think about it, quality should be the essence and it comes from understanding the clients requirements.

  18. #38

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by mattlock View Post
    I think psychologically more people are willing to pay for a specialist when the need arises.
    Conversely, if you tell people you do everything automatically there's this feeling that you're a jack of all trades master of none.

    It's positioning, that's all.Whether the work is good or not is up to the client to decide but I'm sure you're aware being seen as a generalist has its cons...

    flip side of the coin, people have this assumption that specialists cost more automatically.
    dun agree really. ENd of the day, your clients will look at your work and not your name card or what you specialize in. Psychologically, u can fool people once, unless he/she is a fool.
    Photographers don't need to take exams to be self labelled "a specialist", unlike other professional trades. If u shoot enough crap, you r a crap specialist.
    Last edited by lancey; 9th September 2010 at 08:57 PM.

  19. #39

    Default Re: Specialist or Generalist

    Quote Originally Posted by lancey View Post
    dun agree really. ENd of the day, your clients will look at your work and not your name card or what you specialize in. Psychologically, u can fool people once, unless he/she is a fool.
    Photographers don't need to take exams to be self labelled "a specialist", unlike other professional trades. If u shoot enough crap, you r a crap specialist.
    I don't think people will call u solely based on the number on your name card.

    With specialization, I do mean what you show on your portfolio, web or print, determine if you want to be a specialist or generalist.

    As you say, clients are very smart, they don't really read about some self-proclaim statement and believe who you are.

    Another fact to remember is, even if your work is great, there are people who prefer the other style.

    Any thought is showing who you are and let ur potential client choose what they want.

    Regards,

    Hart

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