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Generalist versus specialized photography – what is the best that you describe?

The post generalist versus specialized photography – what is the best that you describe? first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Mat Coker.

Are you a photographer who digs deeply and specializes in an area, or a generalist who casts a broad net and photographs everything?

From these two worlds come specialists such as Ansel Adams (black and white landscapes) and Yousuf Karsh (portraits), but also generalists such as Joe McNally and Steve McCurry.

Types of photography

Sometimes specialists and generalists have difficulty understanding each other's approach. You are too narrow for the generalist, and you have to settle down and find your niche for the specialist.

There are arguments (many of them come at skill level or money) about why you should be one or the other. But I think being a generalist or a specialist is related to your nature as a person. If you are a generalist in your heart, try as you may do, you will probably never specialize. If you are a specialist, you will never have the feeling that you are photographing such a wide variety of subjects. And that's okay. You can love what you do, and you can live with it in both ways.

Let's look at the nature of specialized and generalist photography and discover the value of each. If you understand what you are built for, you get the confidence to stop doubting your approach and move on with the goal. You will also better appreciate what other photographers are up to, even if you feel the opposite of them.

specialists

A specialist digs deep into an 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 industry and style of photography.

It can always be the same subject, but the variety is in the details. This may sound rather monotonous to the generalists, but there is much joy in digging the specialist.

As a result, specialists have a clear niche. It is never under discussion, it is never difficult to explain what they are do.

Landscape photography

Watercapes are not what I am best at, but I pay attention to everything I have learned and those who specialize in watercapes, so that I am able to take a nice photo whenever there is a chance.

Specialized photographers are organized and excellent at managing their shoots, because they have done it the same way so many times. They notice the smallest details that the generalist easily overlooks (and may not see how important it is). There is often more concern about the details of this one branch of photography than the large picture of photography in general.

As a specialist, you can photograph the same for your entire life or career. It is not that you never try anything new, it is that you have drilled deep into one thing and know it well. You are also known for it. As a specialist you can say, this one is what i am good at, this one is what i do.

Among DPS authors, Darina Kopcok (food photography) and John McIntire (portraits) are good examples of specialists. We can also think of:

  • Richard Avedon – fashion and portrait photography
  • Diane Arbus – B&W portraits of people on the fringes of society
  • Ansel Adams – B & W landscape photography

Generalistic landscape photo

generalists

Generalists work with many different types of photography. If you are a generalist, you are happy to learn from all specialists, but you cannot limit it to one thing. You cannot help but photograph what ends in front of your lens. Photography is unpredictable and spontaneous for generalists. You never know what the day will look like. Newborns, landscapes or sports cars can be your next project!

Generalists love road trips and exploring new places. They take what they have learned from the specialists and explore the world with it.

There is a good chance that your specialized photographer friends will find your approach a bit too chaotic or erratic. On the other hand, they can envy you a little because you seem so free to discover. Perhaps in the same way that you envy their deep technical skills in areas where you tend to stumble over.

Generalists are more at ease with the chaos and unpredictability of pursuing different types of photography. There is a great joy in the variety of discoveries for the generalist.

Travel Photography

Inspired by those who specialize in travel photography, I came up with all the interesting situations and colors that you see on travel photos. The colors jump against the neutral background and there is an uncomfortable sense of balance (or is it an imbalance?) In the photo.

As a generalist you definitely have to stick to one thing until you're good at it. But it will certainly be more about learning the principles of photography and then applying them broadly, rather than digging in deeply. You are more "big picture" than detailed.

You are often exploring, experimenting, and consolidating what you have learned and repeating the process until another work begins to appear over time.

You cannot stick to one thing because so many things excite you. But look for the common link in your work. For me it is an uncomfortable, frank, gritty, real human nature. Even a landscape must have character.

Color and shadow in photography

I could not resist the red and shadow.

As a generalist, you shoot your own style in many types of photography. You accept the pleasure and the challenge of applying techniques to new unexpected situations. Even if you feel overwhelmed, jump in and think of it.

Among DPS writers, take a look at Andrew Gibson. Then look up:

  • Steve McCurry
  • Joe McNally
  • Jay Maisel
Specialist street photography

While we were walking down a street in a street, I saw this man paint over a house. I thought that was something that a street photographer could photograph. So I did the same.

Is a way the right way?

Sometimes generalists feel inferior because they have no obvious specialty. They are often referred to as "a jack of all trades, but master of no one".

The specialist can confidently say: "I photograph stylized, stroboscopic weddings." While the generalist says, "I also do weddings … and newborns and sports cars & landscapes and, and, and."

But here's what they have in common. They have studied light, moment, color and gestures, among other things. But one applies that knowledge deeply in a specific scenario, while the other applies it widely in many scenarios.

So the generalist is not so much a "jack of all trades", but someone who knows how to master ' (just like the specialist) and apply the knowledge more broadly.

Reflection in water photo

Whether you are a generalist or a specialist, there will always be more to see and more to learn. When I get into a dip in my photography, I stop and ask what I am missing. What interesting things are right in front of me that I don't notice?

It is not the case that both approaches are right or wrong. They are different paths. They are different ways to explore, learn and apply.

Being a generalist does not mean that people cannot point to something specific about your work. Being a specialist does not mean that you will never try anything else. But you can find a home in both approaches and occasionally visit the other.

So which are you; a generalist or a specialist?

specialized photography

The post generalist versus specialized photography – what is the best that you describe? first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Mat Coker.

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