"I’m well built for being a commercial photographer."
—Steve Giralt, from his blog
Being a generalist can be tough. Photographers are constantly being told to refine our specialties into tighter and tighter niches, becoming not just food photographers, but the specialists who shoot only potato chips, for instance. How can someone who’s good at a lot of different types of photography compete? Steve Giralt has found a way.
A self-professed generalist, Giralt is a commercial photographer who shoots food, portraits, interiors and still life for magazines, catalogs and advertising. He’s the kid who loved photography, went to a great photo school, moved to New York as an assistant and finally found himself exactly where he always wanted to be—specializing only in professional photography. Still, being a generalist presents challenges in marketing and branding—which is why Giralt doesn’t rely on the same old methods to find work.
"I have traditionally marketed each specialty separately," he says. "I find it’s easier for people to see a clear vision of one aspect of my photography at a time. I’ll use different lists for different genre email blasts or mailings. The key thing I have always done is keep the genres separate on my website and in portfolios.
To some clients, I’m Steve Giralt, the portrait photographer; to others, I’m Steve Giralt, the food photographer, and so on. A lot of what I photograph blends together quite well. My food, interiors and portraits live nicely together, and I have clients who hire me to do multiple things. It’s usually the clients I’ve known the longest.
"I find so little of my work comes from traditional marketing methods," Giralt continues. "I think some potential clients do get confused by the fact that I shoot a variety of subject matter, but it’s hard to know exactly because generally we just hear from the ones who do want to hire me, generalist or not. I find all you can do is put your best work out there in the best way you know how and wait and see what happens. The fact that you’re a generalist or a specialist doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they feel they can trust you’re going to shoot the images they want and make the experience a pleasure for everyone involved."
Adds Giralt, "As a generalist, it’s harder to get work via traditional marketing promos and emails. Actually, forget that; in general, it’s hard to get work from those traditional methods, especially in the market where I work. Yes, you can narrow your marketing lists and try to target the right people, but that in itself is a hard thing to do when the same art buyer may work on food, portrait and still-life accounts. What do you do then? I find you need to try to show that art buyer that you’re about so much more than a guy who takes pictures. There are tons of people out there who take great pictures and send beautiful promos. I try to show that I have much more to offer than just the beautiful photo."