Many of the students taking our classes enter our realm with ambitious souls hoping to use the knowledge they gain to ultimately start their own photography businesses. If this applies to you, I'm sure this isn't the first time you've read about how hard it is to break into the industry. The number of professional/semi-professional photographers is increasing everyday, but the good news is that as the supply of photographers is grows, the demand is also growing. So, yes, it's competitive, but it's definitely not impossible.
With all the media overwhelmingly surrounding us everyday, individuals and businesses alike are fighting to be seen. There are so many different types of needs out there. Let's start with an obvious one for example: engagements and weddings. This is a huge market and it's evolved quickly due to several reasons.
First off, social media puts a lot of pressure on people to have good quality engagement and wedding photos because of course when people see their friends and followers looking amazing, they want the same for themselves. Not to mention the human instinct of wanting to "keep up" and do what everyone else is doing. Engagement photos are a more recent phenomenon, so it's worth noting that trends and popularity play a huge role in the demand for photographers.
Also, the rise of Pinterest, Wedding Blogs, Wedding Magazines, etc. means the availability of ideas is infinite and expectations of engagement and wedding photos are growing and constantly changing. What does all of this mean for you? Good enough isn't good enough anymore--you need to awe your clients.
The need for photographers in the business world is growing, as well. Every organization these days has a social media presence and therefore has a constant need for new content. Photographers are no longer hired based purely on skill, they're hired for their specializations and individual styles. The fact is, having a broad range of work in your portfolio doesn't work anymore--to awe your clients, you need to define a focus.
It's common and understandable to feel like you should throw everything you've done up on your website and hope for the best--of course you want to show off all your proudest accomplishments. But if you want to be lucrative with your photography, this isn't the best route. The more broad your portfolio gets, the more it fades away from the consumer because it feels like a lot of randomness and makes it look like you haven't found your niche as an artist yet.
Instead, you need to narrow it down to what you're good at. If you excel at more than one genre, make sure the portfolio is organized and focused to show only the best work in each area. So, let's take weddings for example again. If you're a wedding photographer, but you have an amazing photo from your trip to Tahiti, sadly that photo shouldn't make the cut. If down the road you have a strong set of images from traveling, then you could incorporate them into your portfolio and show off both bodies of work, but until then only show people your best side!
In marketing, you learn that defining your target market is the first step in a successful marketing plan. You're doing the same thing with your portfolio. You are marketing yourself so you can make money doing what you love. So find your focus and make your portfolio stand out!