The post Generalist vs Specialist Photography – What Best Describes You? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.
Are you a photographer who drills deep and specializes in one area, or a generalist who casts a wide net and photographs everything?
From these two worlds come specialists such as Ansel Adams (black and white landscapes) and Yousuf Karsh (portraits), as well as generalists such as Joe McNally and Steve McCurry.
Sometimes specialists and generalists have a hard time understanding each other’s approach. To the generalist, you’re too narrow, and to the specialist, you need to settle down and find your niche.
There are arguments (many of them coming down to skill level or money) as to why you should be one or the other. But I think that being a generalist or a specialist is connected with your nature as a person. If you’re a generalist at heart, try as you may, you’ll likely never specialize. If you’re a specialist, you’ll never see the sense of photographing such a wide variety of subject matter. And that’s okay. You can love what you do either way, and you can make a living with it either way.
Let’s look at the nature of specialist and generalist photography and discover the value of each. Understanding what you were built for will give you the confidence to stop doubting your approach and move forward with purpose. You’ll also better appreciate what other photographers are up to, even if you feel like the opposite of them.
A specialist digs deep into one area of photography and masters a constantly growing number of details. Things are often more predictable for the specialist, they know all the ins and outs of their branch and style of photography.
It may be the same subject matter over and over but the variety is in the details. This may sound rather monotonous to the generalists, but there is great joy in digging deep for the specialist.
As a result, specialists have a clear niche. It’s never in question, it’s never difficult to explain what they do.
Waterscapes are not what I’m best at, but I pay attention to everything I’ve learned and those who specialize in waterscapes so that I’m able to take a nice photo when there is a chance.
Specialist photographers are organized and excellent at managing their shoots because they’ve done it the same way so many times. They notice the tiniest details that the generalist easily overlooks (and perhaps doesn’t see the importance of). There is often more concern about the details of this one branch of photography than the big picture of photography in general.
As a specialist, you may photograph the same thing for your whole life or career. It’s not that you never try anything new, it’s that you have drilled deeply into one thing and know it well. You are also well-known for it. As a specialist you can say, this is what I’m good at, this is what I do.
Among DPS writers, Darina Kopcok (food photography), and John McIntire (portraiture) are good examples of specialists. We might also think of:
Richard Avedon – fashion and portrait photography
Diane Arbus – B