Generalist or Specialist?

bilzmale

Super Moderator Emeritus
Jul 17, 2010
124
Perth, Western Australia
Nothing earthshaking here but I'm very much a generalist interested in landscapes, panoramas, close-ups, family, wide-angle and fisheye, flowers and nature and infrared. Share your interests.

 

kyteflyer

~@¿@~
Jan 31, 2011
164
Newcastle, Australia
I think I might be a generalist with a tendency to specialise at times. Sea/water/landscapes get a big tick from me, with occasional closeups on flowers and other random things. I've lost interest in street, because the decisive moment doesn't seem to come frequently enough and shooting buildings can be tedious. People get in the way!
 
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
I'm definitely a generalist, but I have a strong tendency to concentrate on certain things I really like: woodlands, greenery, water, lightbeams and spotlights, abstract and minimalist images ... But mainly, I'm ecclectic and opportunistic, I just shoot what I see and find, and I try to make it work regardless of what it is.

People are definitely not my forte - but since photography is a way to escape and balance my work life that is centered around (young) people, I'm not yet prepared to invest any real effort into changing that, even though I have a real interest in portraiture, street photography and street portraiture. The same goes for the more gear-intensive parts of photography (lighting, filters, tripods) - very interesting, definitely something I want to explore in more depth, but I'm not (yet) in a hurry to do so.

M.
 

jyc860923

Veteran
Aug 29, 2018
104
Shenyang, China
Doesn't it take quite some professional skills to claim being a specialist? I've seen pros in landscape, macro, portrait, or even street photography and usually they'll tell you they are interested in other genres too, just they don't make money with something they're not specialised in.

That pretty much explained why I'm a generalist.
 
Dec 29, 2013
124
Switzerland
Doesn't it take quite some professional skills to claim being a specialist? I've seen pros in landscape, macro, portrait, or even street photography and usually they'll tell you they are interested in other genres too, just they don't make money with something they're not specialised in.

That pretty much explained why I'm a generalist.
While I think you have a point there, I don't think it's only that. Basically, if you are single-minded enough to just shoot one type of subject, you are a specialist, whatever your skill level. But I agree completely about my own state - I'm most definitely a generalist because I'm not good enough at any specific genre to call myself a specialist.

M.
 

jyc860923

Veteran
Aug 29, 2018
104
Shenyang, China
While I think you have a point there, I don't think it's only that. Basically, if you are single-minded enough to just shoot one type of subject, you are a specialist, whatever your skill level. But I agree completely about my own state - I'm most definitely a generalist because I'm not good enough at any specific genre to call myself a specialist.

M.
I see what you mean there. Actually that reminds me of a friend who runs a flower shop, and she posts flower shots on instagram mostly.
 

addieleman

Veteran
Oct 20, 2012
104
The Netherlands
Generalists have more fun, no?
No. I can skip all the photographic areas that don't interest me, like portrait, studio, product, landscape, architecture, abstract etcetera ad infinitum, and I just do what I like on the street, oblivious to any perspective of getting income from it. I'd quit photography the minute I would have to make money from it.
 

agentlossing

Regular
Mar 23, 2015
69
No. I can skip all the photographic areas that don't interest me, like portrait, studio, product, landscape, architecture, abstract etcetera ad infinitum, and I just do what I like on the street, oblivious to any perspective of getting income from it. I'd quit photography the minute I would have to make money from it.
Well, I was going to say I'm a generalist, but your comment made me realize that, if we're defining generalist as "a little bit of everything" then I'm not one. There are some genres that I just don't find interesting at all. But if generalist means "not a specialist" then I'm a generalist. I love shooting street and would do it all the time if I could, but I shoot landscapes, general snapshots, and I enjoy product photography when I need to shoot it for selling gear, etc.

In life, I believe in being a generalist, and think it's a valuable thing to know something about everything, even though today's culture often prioritizes specialists and conveys favor on those who spend their lives in a narrowly focused range of work. Go back a ways, however, and the generalist was much more highly thought of.
 
I started out as a generalist. I then realized that one of the major reasons I stagnated and stopped growing was because I tried to be a jack of all trades but was never able to master a single one.

Now, sports, portraits and events are my focus and I'm all the better for it. I still will shoot the occasional landscape or macro, but I don't really do them justice.
 

Briar

All-Pro
Oct 27, 2010
124
Scotland
I like to think I specialise in photos of my husband walking away from me in the distance. I take them quite a lot. But quite possibly he is the one who is focussed ... for him on NOT being the subject of my photos all the bl##dy time ... and I just happen to capture his failed attempts! When he isn’t available then anyone/thing is game.
 

agentlossing

Regular
Mar 23, 2015
69
I’m a big fan of whatever walks in front of my camera. One thing I’m bad at is street photography. I just feel funny taking pictures of people unannounced.
I am comfortable now with a certain level of this. I will back down from taking the shot if the subject would totally see the whole process - on the other hand if I can ready the camera before the moment and before I am spotted, I will keep holding the camera up after the shot or adjust it slightly to deflect attention. Or, if I can keep the camera held close to me and shoot from the hip (or more like the chest) and keep going then I will. I still want to avoid confrontation, I don't stick a camera and flash in anyone's face, but I still strive to capture candid interesting moments, and, if possible, people's faces and expressions. The way I look at it, if you're in a public place you shouldn't expect not to end up in anyone's pictures.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
124
Lexington, Virginia
I am comfortable now with a certain level of this. I will back down from taking the shot if the subject would totally see the whole process - on the other hand if I can ready the camera before the moment and before I am spotted, I will keep holding the camera up after the shot or adjust it slightly to deflect attention. Or, if I can keep the camera held close to me and shoot from the hip (or more like the chest) and keep going then I will. I still want to avoid confrontation, I don't stick a camera and flash in anyone's face, but I still strive to capture candid interesting moments, and, if possible, people's faces and expressions. The way I look at it, if you're in a public place you shouldn't expect not to end up in anyone's pictures.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. It’s legal in public. I just don’t feel comfortable with it and I do photography for fun. I look at and admire street photography so I’m not against it. I just like meat but not hunting.
 

agentlossing

Regular
Mar 23, 2015
69
Oh I didn't take it that way. I was just relating how I've overcome some resistance I had initially - it should also be noted that, while I work with the public, I am not an outgoing person or keen on making personal contact with strangers most of the time.
 

emerson

Top Veteran
Oct 2, 2015
104
Maritime Canada
Generalist, then deliberately considered an ‘artist’s statement’ as an exercise. The result pulled me in a particular direction, which was helpful in concentrating my time and effort. Unexpected, but useful.
 

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