The Mind of a Professional Photographer; Simplifying Content for Engagement

September 13, 2022

I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars”

Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

Have you had a moment of clarity in your photography?

Jay Z sang about how he dumbed down for his audience to double his dollars. Then they all hollered.

And in 2022, we as a society have come to a point where we want a more dumbed-down photography experience.

On creating for money vs. creating for Self

Photo by Cristofer Maximilian on Unsplash

For many of us, photography is something we learn because we have someone in our lives who gave us the gift.

Often, a Grandparent, a Parent, or a teacher gets us started.

And we photograph because we love it.

We photograph because it is fun.

We create images because we want to remember them.

One day someone tells us we are great photographers. Or that we should come to shoot their wedding. Or, you should be a professional photographer.

The seed starts to grow.

Most of us start out working in photography for mere peanuts.

Someone offers one hundred dollars to photograph, wow!

You think no one has ever considered paying ME for my art?

Enter Weekend Warriors

Photo by Ystallonne Alves on Unsplash

The fuse becomes lit, and most start as what we call ‘weekend warriors’ in the industry.

A weekend warrior holds a full-time job in another non-creative field.

They often experience a soul-sucking corporate life.

They use creativity to balance the cold grey cubicle life with something that feeds the soul.

Weekend warriors often start by shooting for others on the weekends.

Their goal — is to pay for their camera gear.

And weekend warriors are often very hungry for new experiences in photography.

They have other jobs that pay the bills, so they accept the $50 and $100 gigs which allow them to buy new toys.

The weekend warrior becomes popular

Photo by Tijs van Leur on Unsplash

One thing leads to the next. The weekend warrior starts to get more gigs, and they panic.

They don’t understand anything about the business or technical abilities of the camera.

This is when a lot of photographers contact me.

I am your coach.

I am your biggest fan of success.

And I will be in your ear to give you all the tips to come off as a rock star for your client.

This leads to an influx of clients that contact the weekend warrior as content improves.

Good content is engagement.

The weekend warrior starts to learn serious creation. And we talk about different strategies for photography.

It is no longer the fact that their Grandma gave them a camera. It is a living and breathing entity that they want to be great at. And they want to make money.

The Transition from photographer to business owner

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

When you start photography, most people start because they love it.

They start because they enjoy making images.

It is not about making money.

Something else happens when you transition to being a photography business.

You can no longer create what you ‘like.’

You now have to create what others like.

As you read this, you might think you can photograph what you like to make money.

You are incorrect.

Finding a niche that sells

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

As a business owner, you are in business to give clients a superior product they like.

Let me repeat that. You give your clients a product that THEY like.

If you want to create photographs for yourself that you like, you do not want to be in business.

I will tell you a secret after 33 years of experience.

No one wants to pay you for your art. They pay you because you give them something that they want.

And to give them something they want, you have to find a niche of desired photography that is desired.

Find something others don’t like that is necessary and get good at it.

Everyone wants to photograph ‘models.’

Everyone wants to photograph ‘street photography’.

Everyone wants to photograph ‘portraits.’

Do you see where I am going here?

Don’t be ‘everyone.’

How you find your niche

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Here are five steps to find YOUR niche:

  1. Don’t copy others. Try as many styles of photography as you can to understand what YOU like and dislike.
  2. Photograph what you love. If there is something that you like photographing more than anything else, find a niche that will pay you. Someone may not want to pay you for a ‘portrait,’ but you find that you like making portraits of dogs with ice cream cones. Plenty of pet owners would love to see a dog with an ice cream cone. This is a particular niche, whereas ‘portrait’ is not specific enough.
  3. Believe in yourself. Many of my students that come to me for the first time lack the self-confidence to be different. I am your number one fan and coach. I will show you the steps to succeed because I have made the mistakes to learn. If you believe in yourself, others will too.
  4. Don’t be afraid to try different niches. As professional photographers, some of us wear many hats. Photograph the dogs with the ice cream cones one day, but then photograph your love of TVs in the desert. Photograph ALL your ideas. Find the people that like those ideas. And imagine the styles of dogs that you could photograph with ice cream. Or imagine all the different televisions you could photograph in a desert setting. Your niche is your niche. Get creative!
  5. Share your niche ideas with EVERYONE. When starting out, test your thoughts, and don’t specialize in anything specific. Try everything. Do that when you find something you like more than anything else. And share your work with EVERYONE.

A note about ‘content’ vs. ‘photography’

Photo by Malte Helmhold on Unsplash

Is photography ‘content’? Yes.

Is content ‘photography’? Yes.

Yet, understanding why you create will help you be a better creator.

For example, don’t mix your life photos with your business content.

Instead, keep personal photography and business photography separate.

And this is what I mean by dumbing down photography for dollars.

Your clients hire you to make photographs of their dogs with ice cream.

They do not care what you have for breakfast.

They do not care about your gym progress.

They do not care about your selfies in pretty spaces.

They care about their dog with an ice cream cone.

And my Dad always taught me one of my most valuable business lessons.

He or She who pays gets.

Treat your clients right, and you will be very successful.

Treat them wrong, and you will not.


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

As a professional photographer, there will be many times that you want to veer off of the beaten path.

Professionals are professionals to make money.

Put your ego aside, and run your business.

If you want to photograph for yourself, that is fine too when you have time.

Many of us are professionals that make photographs for ourselves also.

But, keep this separate from your professional life.

And K.I.S.S. (no, not the band).

Keep It Stupid Simple for your content.

And if you need help on what direction to go with your content or find your niche. I am happy to set up a session with you either on Zoom or in-person.


Hi, I am Charlie Naebeck
I can help you: 
-Improve your photography and video skills
-Create better content
-Learn how to make passive income
-Create business engagement with better content and strategy
-Coach you how to plan for success
Contact me here to book a coaching session or photography lesson.
Download my classes and Ebooks here where I provide many valuable insights and tips. 
If you like what you read, please consider giving me a follow here on Medium.Thank you!

The Mind of a Professional Photographer; Simplifying Content for Engagement was originally published in Photography101 on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.