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Are You A Photography Generalist Or Specialist?

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Folks often ask me what it is that I particularly like to photograph. This isn't always as easy a question to answer as you might think. And what about you? What stirs your creative juices? Let's look at some possibilities. 

Subject Driven

Are you particularly drawn to photograph landscape, nature, portrait, sports, architecture or wildlife?


Lush terraced rice fields and palm trees on the island of Bali, Indonesia .

Lush terraced rice fields and palm trees on the island of Bali, Indonesia.

Issue Or Theme Focused

Does your photography explore environmental, social, political, religious or spiritual issues or themes? Do you have a fascination with the Human Condition and a passion for documenting it?


Technique Or Style

Is your work identifiable by a particular camera or lighting technique? Is it based upon a certain post processing procedure?


An arrangement of colorful barrels , stacked by the side of the road in Ubud, Bali make for a vivid and symmetrical composition .

An arrangement of colorful barrels, stacked by the side of the road in Ubud, Bali make for a vivid and symmetrical composition.


Is composition so dominant that it becomes the defining aspect of your work? Is the viewer's eye drawn to the compositional elements within your photos prior to recognizing what the subject matter actually is?



A stone statue seen emerging from the darkness in a Hindu temple in Bali, Indonesia .

stone statue seen emerging from the darkness in a Hindu temple in Bali, Indonesia.



Light has the power to reveal, define and transform the subject or scene in question. With the above photo as a case in point, I'm in beautiful St. Petersburg, Russia photographing an exterior detail of the magnificent St. Isaacs Cathedral. But, have no doubt, it is light that drew my attention and determined the subject and composition of this photograph.

The word photography comes to us from Ancient Greek and translates as light writing, drawing or painting.

So when folks ask me what I most like to photograph, my answer is light. And it's the exploration of this most fundamental aspect of photography that has determined why it is that I do what I do.

It's also the reason why I'm happy to refer to myself as a generalist. I brand myself as a travel photographer not just because I travel, but also because, when I do, I photograph a wide range of subject matter. And it's this broad range of experience that heavily underpins my teaching abilities.


Having made so many mistakes, over a near 40 year career, I can both empathize with the frustrations and disappointments you've experienced in your own photography and help shortcut your road to success. And that's very much the purpose of this site: to help you have more fun and achieve better results, more often on your own photography journey.

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