Most photographers will tell you to specialize in one type of photography; Viktoria Haack has had great success doing the exact opposite…
When I was asked to write this article for 500px, it encouraged me to reflect on what photography means to me and how I have managed to nurture and grow my business in today’s competitive market. There are many photographers who have found success through specializing in one particular genre of photography; however, my own success has resulted from a conscious decision to embrace photography as a whole rather than become a specialist in one or two fields.
As a teenager at school in the UK I couldn’t wait to specialize and narrow down my field of study; I hated doing exams in ten different subjects and was more than keen to narrow it down to three for my final two years of school. At University I felt the same way: The subject matter was always too wide, I constantly wanted to get into the specifics.
For some reason the opposite occurred with my photography.
My first tentative steps with my camera were focused mainly on the beauty of the landscape around me. I was living on a small island in the UK with limited access to the mainland; consequently, I had to be content with working within the restrictions of an island measuring only 1 mile by ¾ of a mile in size.
This made me look hard at my surroundings to find things to photograph. I started to notice the details of fungi and lichen as well as the broader landscapes I had become accustomed to viewing through my lens. I quickly learned that it was light that changed the beauty of things — the mundane could become special just by the way that light touched it. Soon, I was noticing not just the natural world but also the way light hit a person’s face or the steam from a coffee cup.
I found beauty in everything I saw and found it difficult to limit myself to any specific genre of image.
Due to the restrictive nature of island life I relied on photography sharing sites on the Internet to provide me with both feedback and inspiration. This encouraged my continued photographic development and it wasn’t long before I gained my first experience of working with a large corporate entity: I was commissioned by the National Trust to provide promotional images.
In 2007 I moved from the UK to the small city of Salmon Arm in BC, Canada. I was impressed by the vastness of the landscape and the space with so few people in it! It was here that I was first able to utilize my passion for photography as a business.
Initially, I volunteered my time as a photographer to non-profit groups and charities gaining valuable experience, whilst continuing to indulge my passion for landscapes and the natural world. I used social media to share my images, and was quickly working with a broad spectrum of local businesses, families, and couples. Weddings, event coverage, adventure workshops, and province wide photographic assignments soon followed.
Diversity in terms of photographic ability has proven to be a major asset. It has encouraged me to keep learning about the many different aspects of photography and how they can compliment and enhance each other. I have come to understand how some of the techniques I’ve learnt for landscape editing can help with images of people; and likewise, how to use a human form in the landscape.
The techniques for different genres can overlap and enhance each other. Often I call on my understanding of luminosity masks to help with a human or animal situation and have used techniques such as frequency separation in a landscape image.
Diversity has been key to a regular flow of assignments. My photography work is never the same, and I love that. One day I’m photographing a high-end wedding and the next I’m co-leading a workshop in the backcountry.
Occasionally, this diversity can have a negative impact on my social media networking — not every person who is passionate about landscapes wants to see an image from a wedding. It can be more challenging than for those photographers who specialize; however, in terms of my development, the doors are wide open.
For me the photographic journey is a mystery. It unfolds and develops in new and unexpected directions all the time and I am open to them all.
Viktoria Haack was born in the UK but is now based in Canada. She has a background in fine art and anthropology with a love of the natural world. She believes in ‘treading lightly’ whilst on assignments: observing light, weather conditions and when shooting people, finding the subtle visual story.
This article originally appeared on the 500px ISO blog.
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