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There Isn’t A Market For What I Want To Do! Now What?

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

“There isn’t a market for what I want to shoot.”
“Who would pay money for ____?”
“I have to  _____ because you can’t make a living at _____.”

You’re not alone if you’ve ever thought that.  Many photographers find their passion in weddings or newborns.  But some would really rather be shooting, say, wildfires.  Or graffiti artists.  Or just women, without their kids and families.  Whatever.

I am not going to lie and say there is a profitable market for absolutely every kind of art, all the time, always.

Maybe it is true that you’ll have to photograph a variety of things to fund your passion.  But maybe not.

Maybe there is a market for what you love most, and you’re just not seeing it yet.  Which is a good thing – because being first in a new category can be a lucrative place to be.

Finding a market for your work could be summarized as follows:

#1:  Figure out what problems and needs your dream business would resolve.
#2:  Find out who has those problems and needs.
#3:  Use your website, blog, and other marketing to show those people how you’re going to fix those problems and fulfill those needs.

Okay, fine, but what does that actually look like?

Let’s look at an example:

Photographer ErinLeigh commented on an earlier post, in part, as follows:

“I am just starting out my business, and honestly nature, broken down buildings, and inanimate objects are my thing. Not so much people.  I started photographing people because that’s where the money is….

I like to focus on things that otherwise go unnoticed and show their beauty.  I would love to just stick with just nature/old buildings/inanimate objects, but thinking about missing out on so many other different kinds [of photography] makes me a bit sad.  Not to mention, how in the world do you market yourself when it isn’t people you’re capturing??”

Let’s walk through this step by step.  (This process can help you, even if your situation isn’t exactly like ErinLeigh’s.)

The first thing to do is to figure out:

What need does your ideal business fulfill?  

Well, the need for photos of inanimate objects and nature.  Perhaps the need to remember or showcase special objects or places.

Who has those needs?

The most obvious answers would include anyone buying stock photos (agencies, newspapers, magazines, blogs), or fine photographic art (individual collectors, makers of posters and postcards, etc).  But much has been written about the difficulty of making money in those categories these days.  That’s not to say it can’t be done, but let’s suppose neither of those things interests ErinLeigh.

Let’s dig deeper.  Who else might have a need for these kinds of images?

If ErinLeigh and I were chatting one on one, I’d ask her two key questions:

1) Who is selling the actual stuff you like to photograph? 

You don’t have to be a big-business, high-budget commercial photographer to consider this question.  There are around nearly 28 million small businesses in America alone, many in the town right where you live.

And having crappy photos costs them money.

If an antique seller shows photos with that washed-out DMV flavor, they’re missing out on sales.  If someone is trying to get rid of a piece of land and their point-and-shoot makes it look like a patch of desert, no location-conscious millionaire is going to see it as the ideal spot for their new summer home.

Those are huge problems that you can solve for them.

And there is your market.

You can make antique objects and curiosities look beautiful, whimsical, and find that beauty you love to search for.  You can turn a simple piece of land into a golden, sunset-soaked stretch that’s ready for someone’s dream home.

In short:  Find the people who sell what you love to photograph, then show them exactly how you’re going to increase their sales by making their wares look amazing to prospective buyers.

2)  Who has sentimental attachments to the kind of stuff you like to photograph? 

Think broadly – what common life experiences involve items or scenes you might have sentimental attachments to, things you’d want to remember?

Say someone’s mother just passed away and the daughter has to clean out her house.  A sad job to be sure – selling and throwing away hundreds of precious items, watching a home she loved be scattered to the wind.  Not to mention the potential for family strife over who gets the candlesticks or the handmade quilts.

Such things can make people feel like they lost the loved one all over again.

Can you photograph these items (and the home) and give the daughter a beautiful way to remember her mother’s belongings?  Can you use your camera to tell the story of the mother’s life, capture the little details that the daughter doesn’t yet realize she’ll miss, and bring out the beauty in what this beloved person left behind?

Could a whole family hire you so that they each get a full, gorgeous album featuring the mother’s home and heirlooms, thereby diffusing arguments about who gets what?

Sure.  And that’s just one example.


If you’re not sure who would buy your services, look for people who might have money or emotion at stake relative to what you want to sell. 

Those people have problems or needs you can fulfill.  That’s your market.

Then it becomes a simple matter of showing them how you’re going to solve their problems.

You don’t need to shoot off-the-beaten-path things to apply this to your business.

If you’re a wedding photographer who wants to start shooting portraits of women in the off season, what can you do?

Perhaps your current brides are struggling to figure out what to give their bridesmaids as gifts.  She wants something personalized, something that will make her favorite women feel beautiful and special.  (Both emotion and money are at stake here.)

Bingo!  Does she know that you offer 30-min portrait sessions that brides can purchase as gifts for their bridesmaids?  That you’ll make them feel gorgeous and loved, and you’ll handle all the details?

The possibilities are endless.  Just look for needs, especially where money or emotion are at stake.  There will always be a market there.

If you want to learn more about finding deep needs and showing ideal clients how you’re going to fulfill them…

…you’ll want to check out this puppy when it releases on September 5th!

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  1. maria on August 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Brilliant post as usual and a bunch of new ideas I have never thought of myself. Ideas I can see taking shape in the near future thanks to your article.
    Thank you so much Jenika, you are spot on. I owe you. Again.

    • Jenika on August 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      hugs, Maria! Can’t wait to see where the adventure takes you!

  2. Dwayne on August 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    This is such an epic post because it transcends photography business. It’s applicable in all areas of business. Thanks for putting it in an understandable format.

    It’s just sad that I have to wait 30 days before I can change my website template to fit the needs of this newly found market…just kidding. Thanks!

    • Jenika on August 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks Dwayne! Hahahaa, you get a gold star for making the first ever visual journal joke. High fives!!

  3. Fayth on August 26, 2012 at 3:14 am

    WOW. This was one of the best posts I have ever read, and that is saying a lot because I love everything you post. THANK you for this…I needed to read it about now!!

  4. Liza on August 31, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I am so happy I found your site ,thanks to (Elisabiet Hanford site)

    Very talented and inspiring person, thanks for all the advice in your website, just want to tell you we appreciate that.

    I am thinking to take my photography to the next level and try to start a small business , although I feel I am starting late ( I am 40) but I will give it a shot anyway
    Thank you again

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