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Apr 2021

Eff the Rules. It’s Time to Set Your Soul on Fire.

9 min read

It’s time to sift through and throw out the work that doesn’t bring you joy. Here’s how to find your true photography niche in four straightforward steps.

“Well, all you need to do is find your passion!” —said every single self-help influencer, ever.

So let me just say this right off the bat, I realllllly don’t love the word passion.

It’s right up there with other words like scrumptious, moist, and gurgle. My friends think I’m being dramatic, but apparently moist is the most hated word in the English language.

However, there is actually a logical reason I strongly dislike the word passion.

So often, it left me feeling lost, inadequate, and like I was the ONE person on the planet who hadn’t figured out their purpose in this life.

two kayaks

Adventure Instead

It’s just SO darn loaded.

I’m sorry, is my passion supposed to fall out of the sky and land in my sandwich while I’m scrolling the ‘gram? Where have all these other happy overachievers found theirs?

I was determined to unearth this elusive sprinkle of magic that would clearly change my life and make me a zillion dollars.

I haven’t hit that mark yet, but I think I may have discovered a path to strip away the BS and help find a unique niche that calls to you.

Think about, instead, excavating a niche that feels like your RESPONSIBILITY.

two women in helicopter

Adventure Instead

#1: Try a bunch of s#^$

This is where it gets messy (and potentially exhausting).

I look at my husband who decided he wanted to be a pilot AT AGE FOUR. Here we are, 35 years later, and I’m often at home with two adorable/feral children while he’s flying around the world living his best life. And I’m so happy for him (insert jealous eye roll).

But what about the rest of us who weren’t bequeathed with undying inspiration before being fully potty trained?

We have to try stuff.

A bunch of stuff.

wedding couples

Adventure Instead

And how do you know what you like?

You follow that little inner whisper that nudges you towards the thing.

I suppose that’s why you picked up a camera…that little voice that once quietly said, “Huh, I wonder if you’d be good at taking pictures? Why don’t you spend $2k on a camera? YOU DESERVE IT.”

(Quick tip: We don’t have to listen to ALL the little details.) 

four people in boat

Adventure Instead

So you pick up your camera and start photographing anything and everything. And then people start paying you. Score!

You get busier and busier, and then BAM, you’re exhausted from running from that cake smash to the golden hour family session, and then to that corporate Christmas party you’ll spend 30 hours editing.

And maybe in the meantime, you lose yourself and your motivation. 

#ShootProofPRO Tip:

Think back to the sessions that brought you to life. Write down three specific sessions that gave you energy, left you feeling like you could jump out of your skin, or that you couldn’t WAIT to get home and edit.

How can you tell you’re on the right track to finding your niche?

  • It makes you feel electric.
  • You come to life when you get an inquiry for that particular type of session.
  • You immediately want to look at the 42,563 photos you took when you get home from a shoot.
  • You don’t mind editing until 3 am.
  • When leaving a session you feel like you could do that every day for the rest of your life…and for FREE.
wedding couple in mountains

Adventure Instead

#2: Learn to let go

We want to do all the things. Mainly because we hate turning down cold hard cash, or saying no.

Any people-pleasers in the room?

But when we focus on one thing we love and let the rest go, we can really dig into what makes us happy. In fact, we can become obsessed with it (in a healthy way, preferably). Time to get out of the comfort zone, and get curious.

helicopter in snow

Adventure Instead

You can learn so much about that one niche you love, that you will become the go-to photographer in your area.

#ShootProofPRO Tip:

Commit to dropping the types of photography you don’t enjoy. Say NO to that friend in real estate who is always asking for cheap photos of rental bathrooms! I promise they won’t die.

As a professional photographer, my goal has never been to make money (primarily anyway). When you ditch the stuff that doesn’t make you come alive, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to do something that does.

adventure wedding couples

Adventure Instead

#3: Shift your mindset

Think about your niche work as your responsibility to the world.

Sure, there may be tens of thousands of family photographers out there, but not ONE of them is you. You bring your own client experience, take beautifully unique images, and gift your clients love.

Maybe after hundreds of family sessions, you discover that your heart lies with photographing kids with Autism. What an incredible gift you’ll be able to give those families!


wedding couple

Adventure Instead

That shifts the feeling a little, doesn’t it?

All of a sudden, those thousands of photographers you’re comparing yourself to on social media don’t matter all that much. That insecurity isn’t as powerful anymore. And the fear of failure doesn’t compare to the love you gift your clients through images that tell a story.

When we love something (truly love it), all we have to do is give that love away.

In fact, it may actually bring about healing. To you, because it’s an expression of love, and to your clients who were privileged to meet that expression. I can wholeheartedly say that when I started thinking this way, LIFE CHANGED, and so did my business.

adventure weddings

Adventure Instead

#4: Pick your heart-stirring niche (and stick to it for a while)

There is no rule that says you can’t change your mind.

Pick something that fires you up, and give it 100% of your effort and energy because people will FEEL that excitement when they talk to you.

Let’s be honest, as a client, would you want a wedding photographer who ONLY specializes in weddings, or would you settle for a wedding photographer who does everything and just throws in the occasional wedding just to make the extra buck? I know who I would pick…

So let’s not focus on the word passion anymore. Focus on what lights you up, gives you goosebumps, and makes you ignore that you’ve had to go to the bathroom for the past three hours.

Side note: You can have multiple “passions,” interests, directions, and loves in this lifetime. Don’t judge yourself just because some people have settled on one in particular.

If we’ve all learned anything recently (here’s looking at you, Covid), is that sometimes we need to cut out the crap that isn’t serving us, and #focusonwhatmattersmost.

Written by KELLY ACS | Photographs by ADVENTURE INSTEAD via Two Bright Lights

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