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1,000 True Followers: How to Build Your Own Niche in Photography

A simple entrepreneurial idea: to thrive in today’s modern society, create your own niche, create your own ideal lifestyle, and figure out how you can improve your life!

What’s a niche?

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The word “niche” comes from “nicher”, which literally means to “build a nest”. It’s based on “nidus”, which means ‘nest’ in Latin.

So this is fascinating to me, because of these reasons:

  1. A niche (nest) is small. You can only fit so many baby birds into a nest.
  2. There’s this concept of an “ecological niche”, in which organisms create new environments which are favorable to their thriving in life! (Karl Popper describes this in his book, “In search of a better world).
  3. A nest is a good visual: A mother bird (aka, you) builds her own nest, stick by stick! And if you’ve ever seen a nest, it is often “scrappy”— made up of random bits and scrap material. And it takes a lot of work, dedication, and effort for a momma bird to build a nest.

1,000 true followers

The technologist Kevin Kelley came up with a good idea called “1,000 true fans”— that in order for you to make a living in your niche, all you need is (roughly) around 1,000 “true fans”— individuals willing to invest their time and money into you!

In today’s crazy social media world, we are obsessed for follower numbers for the sake of numbers. I think it’s a natural human bias to like seeing numbers go up for the sake of it (anchoring effect in psychology). Also our modern world is becoming more “quantified”— we measured progress and worth in life with numbers. And as humans, we are constantly comparing ourselves with others. Therefore you will look at your follower count and compare yourself with other photographers or people in your field.

Now this is dangerous, because what usually happens is the following:

We become the play-thing of algorithms which end up “nudging” our behavior.

For example, Facebook (who also owns Instagram) has a “news feed algorithm”— there are certain types of posts which get more likes, views, and comments. So eventually what happens is that you only post content to social media which you know will get a lot of likes, and slowly, over time, compromising your initial authentic vision and voice.

You don’t need thousands of followers. You don’t need tens of thousands of followers. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers. You don’t need millions of followers.

All you need is a small and dedicated niche and followers who truly believe in you, your message, and your artistry.

How to build your own niche

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To build your own niche is quite simple:

Make your own blog, and keep writing and sharing content which has a strong and compelling message.

I advocate for a blog, because it will give you better long-term control and freedom of your own platform. Simply put, signup via bluehost.com and install WordPress.org.

Of course you can have a Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc — but only devote 10% of your focus on these social media platforms. Devote 90% of your focus on your own blog and website/platform. Only building a following on social media is digital sharecropping (do you remember how the owners used to trick poor folks into thinking they actually “owned” their land, whereas in reality, they were indentured servants?— just a step above slave). Don’t build your kingdom on quicksand.

Google SEO

The more specific your website or blog, the better.

For example, when I started this blog, I knew my niche was going to be “street photography” not “photography”. The ocean of “photography” is far too vast. I started to focus on my passionate niche, which is street photography (a puddle in comparison to the entire field of photography).

I blogged passionately about street photography from 2010-2018 (8 years), and over 4,000 blog posts. Now I’m #1 on Google for street photography. I’m glad I focused on “street photography” when starting off, instead of just doing general photography blogging.

The basic way SEO (search engine optimization) works is this:

Write lots of high quality content which gets linked to by other people on the Internet.

Google’s “page rank algorithm” works like academia. The more “prestigious” websites link to your website, the higher you will rank!

So a simple tip is when you’re starting off your own website, blog, or platform, do “guest blog posts” on more popular websites in your field, and link back to your website.

Also, I recommend focusing on writing passionately about whatever niche you’re interested in, and try to do it 100x better than anyone else you see doing it. For example when I started blogging on street photography, there was very little information on the Internet on how to shoot street photography. So I’m lucky I had the “first mover advantage”; and I persisted — 8 years of constant blogging. On average I write 1-2 blog posts everyday, and I have over 1,000 videos on my YouTube channel (which I link back to my blog).


If you’re building your platform, I recommend keeping your day job. Because if you’re trying to monetize too quickly, you’re not going to create good content or information— you’re going to chase the quick nickels. But more important than quick money is building trust. And we all know that building trust takes a long long time — how long does it take before you consider someone a “true friend” or your “best friend”?

Also recognize you might be the smartest, hardest working, and intelligent person in your niche and still not be able to make a living from your passion. Why? Sometimes the technology, the infrastructure, or society isn’t ready for it yet. For example in today’s world, Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and others are taking off, because we finally have good enough technology and internet infrastructure to allow for it.

The same goes with photography — today’s the best time to be a photography entrepreneur because very good digital cameras are now super cheap and affordable, and everyone has a camera in their phone! And now we finally have fantastic internet connectivity which has totally changed the game for photography.

How to increase your probability of success

To be successful in your niche, these are things you want to increase:

  1. Hustle harder (the harder you work, obviously the more likely you are to build loyal followers, who might one day purchase your products or services)
  2. Avoid ineffective work: 90% of “work” doesn’t make a meaningful impact. For example sometimes we waste time with emails, whereas it might be fake work that really distracts us from work that makes an impact. For example for myself, I create the most value when I blog; I try to avoid doing other “busy work”.
  3. Experiment: Try taking unusual risks in your field. For example, I “open sourced” all my photos, free full resolution on my Flickr which was a huge innovation. The same goes with keeping all my photos, videos, pictures, ebooks, available open source. Much of what we are interested in doing (yet seems crazy in our head) is worth experimenting with! Just try it out, to see what happens! Nobody can predict the future – just experiment, see what happens, then modify your future behavior.

How to increase your luck

To me, luck is having favorable opportunities.

To increase your opportunities you can:

  1. Go to the right conferences to network with people in your niche you’re interested in contacting with.
  2. The more you blog (interesting and meaningful stuff), more people will discover you on Google, or via word of mouth.
  3. Upload interesting videos to your own YouTube channel — YouTube has been great for me as a trust-building and discovery tool. Consider that youtube is the second most used search engine after google (and google owns YouTube).
  4. “Cold call” or “cold email/message” people you want to contact in your field. Don’t take it personally if people don’t respond. If you send 100 emails and get 1 response, you’re probably doing well. Also use LinkedIn to contact certain people in your field you want to connect with, or Twitter.
  5. The more niche, specific, and uncommon your field, the better. Easier to be #1 as the world’s most famous “color flash film street style photographer” than the world’s most famous “fashion photographer”.


You must build your own niche (nest) stick by stick — just like a good momma bird flying to and fro from the nest.

Every stick is like every photo, blog post, video you share. Every day is like a new stick.

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Be persistent, hustle hard, and know that you have the power of your own destiny in your own hands! So disregard a business plan; build your own niche today and don’t delay– you’re racing against hourglass sand!


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Table of Contents

Learn how to make a living from your passion:

Photography Business 101

How to Make Money with Photography


Photography Marketing 101


How to Hustle.

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

Photography Blogging

How to Teach Photography

Social Media

How to Save Money