Is it Best to be a Specialist or a Generalist?

The poll this week is an open ended question. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but I can never convince myself to form an opinion.

Is it best to be a specialist or a generalist?

A Specialist is somebody who focuses their photography on a very specific topic or style, while a generalist is somebody who has no single specialty. I could argue for one or the other depending on my mood at that moment, but I keep coming back to “no opinion”.

Specialists can have a very recognizable body of work based on subject matter or photographic style. This can be good if you want to have your name associated with that subject or style. But it could be bad if you don’t want to feel limited to that one thing.

Specialist Photos 500

Generalists are often less recognizable because they cover so many different subjects and their style can be varied to suit the need of the subject. This can be good if you like doing something different all the time. But it could be bad if you find that you’re never well known for any one thing in particular.

Generalist Photos 500

I see myself as a generalist — film, digital, b/w, color, street, macro, landscape, portrait, architecture, candid, sport, etc. I’ll basically shoot anything that comes my way with whatever camera I happen to have in my hands. And yet all along, I feel like I should be focusing on something more specific in order to take myself to the “next level”… whatever that means. I think I’m giving up on trying to define my photography — I’ll just let it do its own thing.

What about you guys? How do you see yourselves? Are you striving to become one or the other? Do you feel one is better than the other? Do we even have a choice in the matter?