Several weeks ago I read the article “‘Everyone is A Photographer’: Specialize or Perish” by Alex Igacio. Well, this specialization business is turning out to be a really difficult step to take.
In the journalism program at the university I attended the last four years, over and over we were told and trained to become multi-skilled journalists for a number of reasons. One, that’s the only way to get hired by companies and organizations these days in the field of journalism. Two, you can figure out what you might want to pursue most. Jack-of-all-trades is the best way to approach the field.
There is a lot of truth in this sort of reasoning. News/media is centered around getting the most (and best) information out to the public as efficiently–both cost-wise and time-wise (time is money anyway)–as possible. Story-telling is most complete with print, visuals, and audio. So when you can have one person complete the job of multiple persons, companies/organizations don’t have to hire so many people. And it opens up various career paths for you–you can become a photographer or a videographer or a weatherman or a ________.
So my department was right. But! I didn’t figure out until it was too late what it took to get to that place, that it is not satisfactory to spread yourself out, never to refine one skill towards its greatest potential. Pause and ask yourself: would I respect someone as a musician who calls himself a musician if he is only as good as a beginner on five different instruments and isn’t fully adequate on any one instrument? In my opinion, this person would not be considered reliable as a musician. Instead, I respect musicians as musicians when they work themselves hard to understand music theory and history, when they spend countless hours honing just one part of their musical piece, when they take the time to practice the same instrument each day with hopes of maturing even on days when they feel like they never want to touch the instrument again.
And I think this respect/admiration/trust happens the same way for professionals in all kinds of fields including, of course, photography. Sure, I would respect a professional if he or she has refined multiple skill-sets. But this isn’t realistic for me or (I’m guessing) for many others, too.
Throughout college, I dabbled in public relations, photography, graphic design, and video. But now it’s time to specialize. Throughout college, I diversified my photo portfolio so that I had sample shots for sports action, concerts, conferences, portraits, scenery. But now it’s time to specialize. Spreading myself out was good in some ways and I’ll never know what it would have been like for me to really refine just one skill throughout college. But I can’t relive my college years anymore, so as I move forward, I know it’s time to specialize.
To be honest, this is a relief! I am often overwhelmed by how much there is to learn about… everything! I enjoy learning, but without attainable goals, learning becomes unnecessarily intimidating and stimulates little motivation.
So, people. In this instance, less is more. For me, it’s time to specialize.