Think that there’s only one type of photography out there? Nope. There are plenty of different types of photography out there in the world with varying subject matter, different equipment, and personal techniques.
Some photographers prefer to expand their skills and broaden their portfolio by pursuing multiple types of photography at the same time while others focus on perfecting a particular style throughout their careers. A wide range of experience shooting different subject matter can identify a niche or preferred theme for career or hobby photographers.
Here, we cover nearly 50 different types of photography, providing a brief description of each and showcasing some examples to get those creative juices flowing. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite topic to shoot or rediscover an old love.
Abstract photography, also known as conceptual, concrete, or experimental photography, is a genre that is difficult to define. Abstract photographs often use color, light, shadow, texture, shape, or form to imbue a feeling, sensation, or impression — without actually providing a representational image of the object or scene that’s being photographed.
Shots that typically fit into this genre of photography are not immediately associated with a familiar object in the viewer’s eye because they are created by isolating a particular object or natural scene in a way that removes contextual details from the image, either through framing the shot in a creative way or through image editing afterward.
Adventure photography is much more self-explanatory than abstract photography. This type of photography captures images of adventures, usually in the great outdoors. It often features remarkable landscape shots, adventurous travelers, and challenging shooting conditions because of accessibility to particular locations and shifting weather conditions while taking photographs outside.
Lugging camera gear into remote, rugged locations provides an additional challenge for adventure photographers. Hiking, biking, backpacking, and camping with gear is something that photographers of this niche genre are very familiar and comfortable with.
Another self-explanatory genre, architectural photography is when the main subject matter of the photograph is a building’s exterior or interior. These shots tend to be pretty accurate representations of the construction that are taken in a way that is also aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Exterior shots usually use daylight to capture the building along with nearby landscaping features. They can also be shot at night using ambient lighting from street lights, surrounding landscape, or moonlight.
Interior shots can be complementary to exterior shots to further depict a particular architectural style or can be used as a standalone.
Perspective control is a key aspect of this niche due to the sheer size of most buildings. The large-format view cameras of olden days, tilt/shift lenses, and post-processing can all contribute to getting a great shot of a big building.
The world’s oldest surviving photograph is an architectural photograph taken in 1826 or 1827, making the genre one of the first genres of established photography. As architectural trends have shifted and buildings of different styles have been erected around the world, photographers can delve deep into this niche, focusing their efforts on a specific architectural style such as Contemporary, Tudor, Postmodern, Gothic, Victorian, Classical, and beyond.
Taking photos of astronomical objects like stars, planets, and meteors, celestial events like lunar or solar eclipses and other phenomena of the night sky all fall under the spacey umbrella of astrophotography. Astrophotography revolutionized the field of professional astronomical research as long-time exposures made it possible to record images of stars and awe-inspiring nebulae that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. Eventually, optical telescopes were designed to record light using photographic plates, essentially functioning like giant cameras.
Photographers can use both film and digital cameras with long-time exposure functions to capture these types of photos since light photons are able to accumulate over time. Special equipment and techniques, however, are pretty essential for capturing details so getting into astrophotography is no joke.
Due to its unique need for particular conditions and special hardware, astrophotography is typically a subsection of amateur astronomy. However, photographers that have a passion for the night sky are also able to participate by getting the right equipment, using the correct camera settings, and learning a few special techniques. Tripods, telescopes, fixed wide-angle photographic lens cameras, tracking mounts, imaging sensors, and post-processing tools are just a few of the items needed for great astrophotography.
Black and white photography
Black and white (B&W) photography focuses on capturing an image with no color. This can either be done through a camera setting or through editing a color image afterward. Monochrome images that use minimal amounts of lighting also fall under this category.
When photographic technology first began, almost all images captured were either black and white or varying shades of sepia. Some early color photography was hand-tinted but it was quite rare and expensive to create. As technology advanced into the mid-20th century, color photography became prevalent, taking over the once-dominant B&W genre.
Often capturing classic, timeless, and elegant shots, black and white photography is mainly considered fine art photography these days. Art films and other motion pictures also sometimes make use ofB&W as the chosen aesthetic, producing a nostalgic or vintage vibe.
Business photos focus on the working world, with imagery being captured to support the growth and development of a business, usually for marketing and promotional purposes. By capturing images of the owners, their products, their teams, or their services, business photography allows companies to tell a story about their offerings through photos.
Portrait photography, product photography, lifestyle photography, candid photography (of things like workshops or meetings), and sometimes even architectural photography fit into this category, depending on the industry the business operates in.
These photos can be used as marketing collateral for a company’s website, brochures, and other promotional efforts as well as in editorials speaking to tech. Technology, after all, is big business. What did we even do before computers?
Most photographs of people are often posed, with the photographer directing the shot and models. Candid photography is a type of photography that removes the posed aspect of the equation, with photographers taking shots of people in motion, spontaneously, or by surprise. Photographers should aim to capture subjects in a natural state, without needing to direct or pose them to get the right image. This doesn’t necessarily mean that subjects aren’t aware that photos are being taken – consent is still an important part of being able to use those photos! It should mean, however, that your candid images will capture authentic scenes, reactions, and facial expressions of the people in them.
Secret photography is considered a subset of candid photography and occurs when subjects are totally unaware of their photograph being taken. Due to its unobtrusive nature, candid photography tends to use small equipment that’s often discreet in order not to disturb or distract subjects when shooting. Flash photography is also not common when taking candid shots as the flash draws attention and can cause subjects to alter their behavior towards a less natural, more controlled position.
The urban counterpart to landscape photography, cityscape photography captures images of city skylines or sections of a metropolis. These images can be taken during the day or night and usually feature large sections of a city. Wide-angle lenses are needed to achieve these shots, but telephoto lenses can come in handy as well to capture a smaller area of the city. Tripods can be very useful to prevent camera shake blur.
Cityscapes are a versatile genre of photography that can be captured at any time and from many locations. Higher elevations, like rooftops or top floors of high-rises, and less dense areas like waterfront promenades, can provide lots of options for a great shot. Playing around with the time of day also provides plenty of opportunities to capture a cityscape at the magical golden or blue hour, and everywhere in between.
Commercial photography is that which is taken specifically for commercial use, usually to promote or sell a product or service. Photographers are hired to take shots of the product to be used in marketing collateral like brochures, menus, pamphlets, and beyond. Images of services can be staged using models or staff. Food photography, fashion photography, and product photography sometimes double as commercial photography. Headshots are another popular piece of the puzzle for this genre.
Confirming the type and amount of shots, as well as figuring out must-have shots versus nice-to-haves, will help ensure that a commissioned photographer can deliver what their client needs.
Some types of photography are created by combining multiple images to create one composite image. Composite photography requires post-processing and editing of two or more shots to produce a layered shot that still looks cohesive.
In the 1880s, way before digital photography and editing existed, composite portraiture was being produced using a technique that allowed multiple exposures to be taken on the same photographic plate. These days though, separate images are blended by using layers, masks, and blurs. Montages of photos, where a scene is photographed in small chunks and then combined, and multiplicity, in which a person is captured multiple times in the same scene, can also create a composite photograph. Focus stacking, where a scene is captured from different angles or points of focus and then blended into one, is another technique used to create a large depth of field.
These types of photographs can create unique, artistic, and editorial images that are incredibly creative and often very striking. Due to their relative complexity, they also take longer to produce.
Another hard-to-define genre, creative photography includes a vast variety of concepts and techniques. It encourages experimentation and creativity in composition, as well as in the equipment and techniques used to capture an image (composite photography can overlap with this genre).
Other examples include fisheye lens photography or crystal ball photography which manipulate the perspective of the shot. High dynamic range (HDR) photography and forced perspective photography also fall under this photographic niche. Concepts like the recently popular “cake smash” photoshoots for babies and toddlers are another form of creative photography.
Experimenting with filters, textures, and opacity, as well as shutter speed, multiple exposures, and motion blur can help create a new perspective. Using other forms of media, such as painting on prints, coloring by hand, or cutting and pasting other printed images to create a collage, can also produce a creative final shot.
Considered by some to be a part of professional photojournalism, documentary photography captures images of real life, usually in the context of historical events, as well as the everyday. A distinguishing difference between the two is that documentary photography tends to chronicle an event, subject, environment, or topic for an extended period of time, adding context to a particular storyline. Photojournalism usually deals with a shorter-term, more “breaking news” style of photography.
Sometimes shot in B&W for that timeless look, documentary photography can also be achieved by amateur or artistic photographers. Another popular subset of this type of photography can be found in the world of academics. Conservation photography and street photography may also be considered a part of this genre, but can also stand alone as separate categories.
Drone photography, also called aerial photography, captures scenes from high in the sky. It requires access to a helicopter, plane, or other airborne objects, such as a drone. Due to its challenging nature in terms of accessibility, many photographers have embraced the recent advances in drone technology, opting to use drones instead of flying in an aircraft with their cameras and taking shots themselves (also renting helicopters can get a tad pricey over time).
Using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, allows photographers to capture shots remotely and/or automatically. However, many countries have strict regulations as to where drones can be flown so being aware of these is an important part of getting a good image without running into problems.
Beyond selling aerial shots for artistic and commercial use, this type of photography is also employed in cartography to create maps, archaeology, movie production, environmental studies, inspection of power lines, other surveillance, and more.
Double-exposure photography is created by the merging of two images into one. Historically, this required special cameras and film development techniques. Modern digital cameras now have settings that allow for the capture of multiple exposures. Editing software like Photoshop also makes achieving this effect much simpler than film, although some purists would argue that it’s not a true double exposure if it’s not on film. Apps are now available to produce this effect on smartphones too.
The technique can be employed to deliver images with a surreal, ghostly quality to them. They often use silhouettes to create interesting, expressive imagery of two (or more) things at once. There is endless room for creativity in a double-exposure photo.
However, some planning of a double-exposure shot is required to determine a composition that will work well. A base photo must be captured, then the layer photo(s), and then the two images need to be edited and merged into one. The background of the base photo needs to be removed before adding in the layer(s) and blending them together for the final result.
Usually used in newspapers and magazines, editorial photography incorporates aspects of fashion, sports, and event photography, typically shot in a candid nature. Generally, these types of photos are meant to illustrate a story that’s newsworthy, educational, and/or informative.
Since these images are meant to be shown in printed media, they tend to accompany text, giving additional visual context to a story line or project. Different from commercial and advertising images, editorial shots are used to accompany articles and therefore fall under a particular licensing model.
Editorial shots usually can’t be used for commercial purposes to sell a product, unless the photographer gets appropriate model or property releases. Buyers who purchase these types of photographs from stock agencies are responsible for following the licensing conditions.
Event photography captures guests, activities, and the ambiance of a gathering. Weddings, christenings, corporate parties, birthdays, dances, awards ceremonies, funerals, conferences, live concerts, and other engagements fall under this category of photography.
These shots can be used for personal, sentimental value, as well as to promote or market an event, organization, or company for commercial purposes. Falling under the candid photography genre as well, some shots at the event may be posed to document the guests in attendance, but most of them are usually taken as the event naturally unfolds.
Taking photos of a family in posed or candid portraiture is known as family photography. These types of shots are often commissioned by the family for personal use to hang in the family home. They capture the relationships between parents, children, siblings, and sometimes extended family. Family reunions, weddings, and other family occasions are an ideal opportunity to practice this type of photography. Newborn photography and shooting events like cake smashes can also fall under this genre.
When used commercially, capturing family photos should feel authentic and real. Similar to candid photography, these images can show the connection and tender moments caught between family members or they can emulate a staged family photoshoot. Paramount, however, is that the models hired either are actual family or are able to communicate the intimacy associated with family. Otherwise, you can end up with an awkward group of models pretending to family.
One of the oldest types of photography, existing since the mid 1800s, fashion photography is the practice of capturing models in clothing and other fashion accessories for editorial or advertising purposes. Fashion shots can be taken in a studio, on location in an exotic or complementary landscape to the clothing, or live on the catwalk at a fashion show.
Fashion photo shoots usually require good gear and lighting. Hair and makeup stylists are often involved as well, preparing the models in ways that highlight and showcase their clothing and/or accessories. Fashion photography can range from haute couture that focuses on the latest trends and styles thought up by renowned designers to capturing models for a department store catalogue.
Film photography dates back to the late 1800s and is the precursor to digital photography. “Safety film” was introduced by Kodak in 1908, although previous iterations of film were used as early as 1889, but were made from the much more flammable material, nitrocellulose — usually referred to as “nitrate film”. Color film was introduced for home movies in 1935 by Kodachrome, and 35mm film lengths were used for still cameras as of 1936.
35mm color film uses multiple layers and filters to capture an image that, once exposed or developed, produces a color photo. Black-and-white photo processing was less complex and not as temperature-sensitive as color photo processing. However, the processing of black-and-white photos was less available on a commercial scale, prompting the design of black-and-white film (even though the processing was done in the same way as standard color film). Film size and speed are both factors to take into account when shooting on film. Film speed describes the film’s threshold sensitivity to light, denoted by the ISO scale.
Until the early 21st century, film photography was the principal form of photography. As digital technologies became more widely available, many consumers left film behind and moved to digital formats. In 1981, Sony released the first consumer electronic camera which was followed by Fuji’s first digital camera, released in 1989. However, a recent trend in photography over the last decade has seen a revival in film photography, with companies like Kodak and Fujifilm now revisiting their product lineup to incorporate film offerings once again.
Most modern photographers shoot using digital cameras these days, but enthusiasts and fans of the charm and aesthetic of film still use this original photographic technique to create amazing photos using fully manual settings on analog cameras. This type of photography is not as straight-forward as shooting on a digital camera, but it offers a deeper learning opportunity for professional photographers as they get to understand how their camera functions and how changing particular settings alter the art of capturing a photo.
Fine art photography
Fine art photography is created by an artist who is using photography as a means to bring an idea, concept, message, or emotion to life in imagery. It is meant to fulfill the creative vision of the artist, conveying a specific feeling to the viewer through the shot. These images are often framed and displayed as art on walls in the same way a painting would be.
Sometimes fine art photography overlaps with other genres of photography such as photojournalism and fashion photography. Representational photography, that which seeks to objectively capture the subject matter or scene as it really is, contrasts with fine art photography, which is meant to capture the artist’s subjective intent behind the image.
Becoming popular in the Victorian era and evolving to the present day, subsets of this type of photography include nude photography, portraits, and natural landscapes. Ansel Adams is considered an exemplar of fine art landscapes with his stunning black-and-white photography captured in national parks.
Another type of photography that overlaps with commercial, editorial, and still-life photography, food photography is a niche in which food is the main subject matter. Whether it’s fresh ingredients, kitchen scenes, or plated dishes being shot, this genre encapsulates all things food. These photos often become advertisements in magazines or on blogs and can also be featured on packaging and menus or in cookbooks.
A prolific genre of photography, capturing food usually includes a photographer that collaborates with an art director, food stylist, and/or prop stylist to get the final shot. Often shot from an overhead perspective or a 45-degree angle changing trends are now encouraging some narrow-angled shots that use effects like selective focus, tilted plates, or extreme close-ups to showcase an ingredient or fully-plated dish.
Golden hour photography
Popular with amateur and professional photographers, golden hour photography refers to the hour before sunset or the hour after sunrise in which the sun is at its lowest point in the sky, producing a warm, golden tone as background lighting.
Golden hour photography features less contrast than images captured during the day when the sun is higher overhead, creating strong highlights and dark shadows. Landscape photographers often prefer shooting in this hour as the unique conditions of sunlight enhance the colors of a particular scene (hence why it is also called magic hour).
Blue hour photography contrasts golden hour photography as it captures images in the hour after sunset and before sunrise when indirect sunlight gets evenly diffused and produces a blueish, colder tone across the sky. This hour is popular with cityscape photographers that can use the darker hue to accentuate skylines that are lit using the interior lighting of buildings.
Holiday photography is a niche can incorporate portraiture, landscape photography, food photography, night photography, and aspects of lifestyle photography, among others. It’s usually used to capture memories or still life imagery of Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, Solstice, Hanukkah or other holidays typically falling at the end or beginning of the year.
When planning to shoot holiday imagery with models, authenticity is the name of the game. In the northern hemisphere, winter is in full swing and feelings of togetherness with a cozy, insulated vibe are favored. Take a page from the Danes and get into the hygge state of mind, finding soft, intimate moments spent with loved ones. In the southern hemisphere, December holidays spell summer fun. Togetherness is still a key element with authentic imagery of happy families, but the mood is more exuberant, lively and open and the summer offers endless beach opportunities and holiday barbecues.
Images captured inside are known as indoor photography. Photographers must use special techniques or sometimes even minimal flash photography to capture a scene due to limited ambient lighting. ISO, focus, and shot composition are all important aspects of indoor photography.
Considered to be another subset of still-life photography, indoor photography produces imagery of scenes inside a home, workplace, and any other building or sheltered structure. Lighting is perhaps the most challenging aspect of this genre as windows, indoor lights, and additional lighting sources (such as a flash bulb) bring a level of complexity to how the photographer effectively captures a scene. They also provide unique conditions that change throughout the day as outside light filters through the windows of the building.
When practicing infrared photography, film or image sensors sensitive to infrared light are needed to capture images. Filters are used for in-camera effects such as false-color or black-and-white, delivering images with a dreamlike or unreal quality to them. They often feature dark skies and atmospheric haze, with clouds being more prominent as well. Post-processing software can also help photographers achieve this aesthetic.
Infrared photography did not exist until the early 1900s when Robert W. Wood, an American physicist, and inventor, developed a filter that allowed him to capture the first infrared and ultraviolet photography. Ultraviolet photography is similar to infrared but captures images using light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. The “Wood Effect”, mainly caused by foliage being captured using the infrared spectrum and giving off that imaginary quality to photos, is named after him.
Dealing with capturing the great outdoors, landscape photography focuses on trees, deserts, beaches, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, and all other aspects of the natural world. Landforms, weather, changing seasons, and ambient light are all aspects of this photographic niche. Wildlife photography often overlaps with this genre.
Sometimes shooting man-made features or changes to the landscape (such as farmlands, orchards, gardens, etc.) is practiced by landscape photographers, but many choose to focus on shots that show pure natural scenes, devoid of human influence or activity.
Playing around with camera settings such as depth of field, shutter speed, and aperture and using different lenses or filters can create various effects on landscape imagery. Tripods also come in handy when it comes to image stabilization and panoramic camera functions are also often employed.
This genre of photography captures people in real-life situations, telling stories about their lives in a way that documents the scene, while still being artistic. Most often, scenes are posed or directed by the photographer, but the imagery is meant to appear as natural as possible. Sometimes lifestyle photography is shot candidly.
Lifestyle photography also overlaps with fashion photography, documentary photography, and family photography as it tries to capture snapshots of the subject’s lives. These shots can be used for personal use, framed in the family home, or for commercial or editorial use to inspire or promote a particular approach to everyday life.
Long exposure photography
Long exposure photography, also known as time exposure or slow-shutter photography, uses a long duration of shutter speed to capture stationary aspects of a scene sharply, while blurring or smearing the moving aspects. It differs from conventional photographic practices as it captures an image over an extended period of time, instead of in a single snapshot.
Photographing moving water, such as a waterfall or stream, using long exposure creates a mist-like effect around the water, blurring together its movement while the rest of the scenery retains its sharpness.
Night photography often uses long exposure to capture star trails or other celestial objects. Light from other sources such as street lamps or headlights can also cause interesting effects in a shot that’s being taken using long exposure. Light painting is another technique that uses long exposure and a mobile light source, such as a flashlight or sparkler, to create a unique “painting” with the strokes of light.
Also called photomacrography or simply macrography, macro photography captures extreme close-ups of often very small subjects. Insects and plants or flowers are popular subject matter in this genre. Other macro imagery can include close-up shots of food, water droplets, everyday items such as fabrics or feathers, toys, eyes, jewelry, and other abstract patterns and textures.
Macro photography requires specialized lenses to capture a true reproduction ratio of the subject matter, with depth of field and lighting being important considerations in adjusting the shot. Extension tubes can also be used to extend lenses for that up-close and personal capture.
Photomicrography, which uses a digital microscope to capture images, is achieved when the reproduction ratio of the shot is greater than 10:1.
Milky Way photography
Similar to space photography, Milky Way photography focuses on capturing images of the Milky Way in the night sky. Challenging low light conditions mean photographers need a bit of experience with setting up wide-angle camera lenses to collect as much light as they can in a single exposure. Tripods can also be useful to stabilize a shot when making use of long exposure settings. Remote shutters help capture these types of photographs effectively as well.
A bit of research into what type of weather conditions are required, as well as figuring out when and where it is best to shoot will go a long way in ensuring that the images capture the Milky Way successfully.
Minimalist photography captures a scene using limited, or minimal, elements. Color, lines, patterns, shapes, and textures can play a big part in these types of photos.
Stemming from the minimalist art movement of the 1950s, minimalist photography encourages artistic simplicity. Shots typically incorporate natural landscapes or scenes as the main focus, often captured at sunrise, in the early morning, or under the darkness of night when not many people are active. Images give off a sense of barrenness or emptiness, showcasing the neatness and simplicity of using limited elements in the shot’s composition.
Closely related to family photography, newborn photography focuses specifically on capturing images of newborn babies. This type of photography can include the parent(s), but can also capture the child alone in a cozy or cute setting.
Many newborn photographers have a studio space set up to ensure the safety and well-being of the baby while photos are being taken. Props and accessories are staples.
Newborns may be captured when awake, although many are photographed while sleeping and easier to pose. Anne Geddes is a well-known baby photographer, recognized worldwide for her iconic images of newborns and babies.
All photos taken at night fall under the category of night photography. Camera settings must be adjusted and sometimes special techniques are used in order to capture images in these low lit conditions.
Long exposures and time-lapses are popular techniques, as is light painting and spiral photography. Astrophotography and Milky Way photography can belong to this genre of photography as well.
Besides capturing the night sky, other common subject matter in night photography includes city skylines, industrial scenes and factories, fireworks, nightlife or live concerts, roads, lit caves, abandoned buildings or bodies of water lit by moonlight, lighting, lava, aurora borealis or aurora australis, amusement park rides, lit aircraft, bioluminescence, and other creative sources of light.
Tripods, shutter release cables or self-timers, flash units, manual focus, remote timers, and special camera lenses can all be useful in capturing night photography. Many smartphones now also incorporate a Night Mode to facilitate mobile night photography.
A subset of family photography, pet photography focuses on capturing beloved two-legged and four-legged friends. Birds, cats, dogs, horses, bunnies, hamsters, and even fish can be captured in a portrait manner for a family to cherish.
Depending on the type of pet, treats, props, and various other accessories can come in handy when trying to get the animal to pose for a shot. Candid shots of multiple pets chasing one another on a beach or at a park can be achieved, as can more formal posed shots of pets in their home environment, perhaps on their favorite chair or with their favorite toys or humans. Moving shots will require adjusted camera settings and perhaps even a special prime lens with a fixed focal length and a wide aperture.
A form of journalism, photojournalism uses images to tell a news story. Although it is closely related to other types of photography such as documentary photography, street photography, still-life photography, or war photography, it is unique in that it must meet strict ethical standards. Work needs to be honest, impartial, and must tell a visual story meeting journalistic terms.
Photos are often used in news media or magazine editorials. Photojournalists are reporters that carry photography equipment and make split-second decisions in what images to capture to represent a news story as it unfolds. Often, this means they are in extreme conditions with regard to their personal safety.
The genre has origins in war photography, beginning as early as the mid 1800s. Its popularity began to decline in the 1970s as some photo-magazine publications stopped printing. More recently, these types of photos are entering art galleries, alongside fine art photography.
Social documentary photography, considered to be a form of photojournalism and subset of documentary photography as well, records events in the world through a social or environmental focus. Also sometimes called concerned photography, this type of photography highlights social issues, including capturing the lives of impoverished or vulnerable communities.
Portrait photography captures a portrait of a person or group of people. Portraiture is a challenging genre of photography because it needs to use lighting, backdrop, and posing to convey the personality of the subject in a single shot. Self-portraits and silhouettes, as well as headshots, also fall under this genre.
Lighting especially plays a big role in setting up a portrait, with high-key brightly lit shots being common. There are plenty of other lighting options to consider as well. Fast, medium telephoto lenses are preferred, used to isolate the subject by controlling the depth of field. When away from the studio, using the lens’ bokeh effect to blur the background elements that are out of focus can provide an easy solution to not shooting on a clean background. Environmental portraits, those that are meant to show the subject in their environment, would not want to have much, if any, background blur, however.
Belonging to commercial photography, product photography focuses on capturing objects for advertising purposes. Catalogues, brochures, and websites all use product photography to show their goods.
With e-commerce continuing to grow as a platform and the internet providing a much faster way for people to bring their goods to market, even the world of fashion photography is incorporating techniques that no longer require human models. Clean product photography that features the product on a white background, techniques like knolling (where objects are arranged in an organized, eye-pleasing way and shot as creative ads), and ghost mannequin photography, where mannequins are used and then edited out of the final shot, are just some of the recent trends in product photography.
Real estate photography
Real estate images are often used for commercial purposes to sell a home or workspace or to showcase a beautifully executed design in editorials. Interior photography and exterior photography both fit as sub-genres of this category.
Experience with lighting techniques, optimal camera settings, and gear is important for real estate photographers as indoor lighting is often not adequate enough to get effective shots. When shots are used to sell a property, making the space feel warm and welcoming is critical. Staging scenes by decluttering spaces and ensuring rooms are presented as clean and functional, yet lived in, will also be important to achieving a quality final shot.
For commercial spaces like offices or storefronts, the same principles can be applied. However, the functionality of the space for different purposes should come across in the imagery.
Also called ocean photography, seascape photography is a subcategory of landscape photography that focuses on capturing seas and oceans. Sometimes other objects or subjects are in the shot, such as people in the water or on boats. Islands, cliffs, and other geological formations may be captured as well, alongside marine wildlife. Coastal photography is a niche in seascape photography.
Capturing the motion of waves is popular in this genre, as are reflections in the water of cityscapes. Long exposure and sunburst techniques, in which the sun’s rays can be seen in the photo, are also often employed in seascape photography. Golden hour and blue hour can be ideal times to shoot seascapes to avoid harsh midday sunlight reflecting off of the water.
Tripods, filters, and other gear to keep the camera (and photographer) dry and safe should be accounted for when going on a seascape photoshoot.
Social media photography
Social media photography is an all-encompassing genre of photography that uses images for social media posts on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or any other social network. Images tend to have still-life or editorial qualities to them, but fashion photography, product photography, food photography, and other types of photography are also often incorporated in social media posts.
When used for personal posts, images tend to capture a moment or tell a story about a person’s life and usually contribute to their online persona. In commercial campaigns, images are mainly used to promote a brand or sell a product or service.
The act of capturing sports imagery is known as sports photography. This type of photography is often considered to be a branch of photojournalism, particularly with regard to professional sports. Sports photographers often work for newspapers or sports magazines, but may also create imagery for advertising purposes. Amateur sports photography usually belongs to the vernacular photography niche, in which the focus is on capturing the everyday life of regular people.
Since most sports are fast-paced, camera gear and settings need to be able to capture the action as it happens, with shutter speed being most critical. Location is also an important part of getting a great shot. The type of sport being shot will determine a lot of the requirements for the camera body and lens that works best. Individual sports, such as golf, boxing, cycling, or track-and-field may focus on a small depth of field, capturing the intensity of the participants. Team sports, like football, hockey, soccer, and the like, require a larger depth of field to properly capture all of the action and the various teams participating.
Still-life photography is another overarching genre of photography in which inanimate objects are arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner and shot for either personal, editorial, or commercial use. Images usually incorporate some artistry, with the photographer having creative leeway in how to arrange the composition of the shot. Lighting and framing also play an important part in the setup.
Popular still-life subject matter includes food, flowers, and plants, personal desk space or workspaces, household items such as dishes, vases, and plates arranged in creative or artistic ways, and the like.
Since still-life photography tends to be centered around the arrangement of the objects being shot and the lighting used, photographers of all levels and skills are able to take beautiful photos, without necessarily needing to use complicated techniques or gear.
Surreal photography, similar to abstract photography in that the final image is not always immediately recognizable, encourages photographers to find unique perspectives to capture. Part of a wider surrealist cultural movement that began in the 1920s, surrealist photographers used darkroom tricks and optical illusions to produce dreamlike shots before digital editing tools became the norm.
Underwater portraiture and underwater landscape photography can usually be classified as surreal due to their supernatural ambience. Landscape photography captured in the right conditions are also able to incorporate aspects of surrealism.
Food photography, fashion photography, and conceptual portraits or closeups are sometimes shot with a surreal aesthetic in mind. Images are captured and often edited afterwards to add an eerie or supernatural effect. Architectural photography, as well as still life photography, provide more opportunities for surreal subject matter.
The end goal of this genre of photography is to deliver images that are inspired by passion and a unique perspective, blurring the lines between a dreamlike setting and reality.
The art of capturing a scene in a public place, particularly on the street, is called street photography. Many of these types of photographs are also considered to be candid in nature, usually unstaged and shot spontaneously.
Depending on the country, there are certain consent laws to take into account when taking photos of people in public. Being aware of what these laws are in a given location is an important part of capturing street photography for broader use.
Another genre that’s closely linked is urban photography, in which photographers capture street scenes in city settings. Portraiture and architecture often play a part in these images as well.
Subject matter doesn’t always need to include people, however. Capturing environments that don’t include visible human activity can also be considered street photography. In those cases, human presence is usually implied through the composition of the image. While also having many similarities to documentary photography, street photography tends to be less deliberate in its purposeful or defined messaging.
In time-lapse photography, a series of frames of the same scene or subject matter are captured to depict a state of change or fluctuation. The final result is a collection of shots that can be played back like a short video that shows the object or subject being affected by the passage of time.
Popular subject matter includes things like the motion of the sun, stars, moon, and other celestial bodies in the sky, the growth of a plant, the decay of a piece of food, the evolution of a big project like a new building, or people and traffic moving around in a city.
Time-lapses use a formula to achieve their distinct moving quality. Perceived speed of the subject matter equals the projection’s frame rate, divided by the camera’s frame rate, multiplied by the actual speed of the scene taking place (math!). Recorded shots will vary in how quickly they appear to move, based on this calculation. Time-lapse photography also uses short and long exposure times, in addition to modifying the speed of the camera, to control the amount of motion blur present in the frames. Combining this technique with others such as high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging and day-to-night transitions can produce stunning imagery.
Documenting a place, particularly one that highlights the cultural, historical, touristic, or iconic aspects of the given area, is called travel photography. Dating back to the 1850s, the genre had been made incredibly popular by travel publications like National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveler.
Images can be used for editorial or commercial purposes, depicting the ambiance of a place, as well as the feeling one gets from the land, people, and cultures that inhabit it. Very broad in its subject matter, the genre makes use of elements of portraiture, landscape photography, architecture photography, street photography, and night photography, among others. B&W photography is also a commonly employed technique.
Taking photographs while underwater, usually while scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, or from an underwater vehicle or automated camera lowered from the surface, is known as underwater photography. This type of photography results in images of marine life, the subaquatic environment (including shipwrecks, geological features such as cave systems and other underwater-scapes), and/or people pursuing underwater activities. More recently, underwater imagery has also been used to document the state of bodies of water and their ecosystems when it comes to issues of climate change and pollution.
Equipment is an important aspect of this genre as cameras tend not to be waterproof by default. If they are, they are usually limited to a particular depth. GoPros or smartphones in plastic pouches are sometimes used as a gateway into underwater photography before investing in more advanced camera equipment and proper, often expensive, underwater housing for a particular camera.
Shooting in water also comes with adjustments to the lens as water decreases the angle of view for a lens by 25-30%. Water clarity, the presence of waves or bubbles, currents, dangerous marine life, and proximity to the seafloor will all impact shots as well. Time of day and location in relation to the sun also play a significant factor in how underwater photos get captured, as do the settings of the camera being used. This genre is, therefore, more challenging to master, simply due to the additional costs for equipment and special safety concerns of the shooting environment.
Urban exploration photography
Somewhat related to travel photography, urban exploration photography, also called urbex photography, focuses on capturing abandoned places and spaces that have been long forgotten. Aspects of architectural photography, as well as interior and exterior photography, comprise part of this genre.
Since the subject matter is usually old, dilapidated, and structurally questionable buildings, ensuring photographer safety is key. Often, these locations require photographers to trespass on private property, bringing into question the legality of capturing these types of shots. Background research is highly recommended before embarking on an urbex photo session.
A range of camera gear and techniques will be needed, depending on the location being explored and the ambient light that filters through the abandoned structure.
Often overlapping with photojournalism and documentary photography, war photography delivers iconic, sometimes difficult to look at imagery of armed conflict and its aftermath. War imagery is usually used for editorial purposes to enhance public awareness of areas engaged in combat.
Some of the earliest war photographs can be traced back to the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856, captured by Roger Fenton. These early shots recorded stationary imagery of war, like fortifications or soldiers and land before and after battles took place, mainly because of the limited photographic technology that was available at the time.
More modern war photography taken in the 20th century included chronicles of World War I and World War II and were usually captured by soldiers, as well as by photojournalists. However, as technology advanced, mass-produced images led to an over-saturation of the often terrible scenes, with viewers becoming desensitized to the value and historical significance of this type of photography.
Nevertheless, armed conflicts are still captured today. Due to the dangerous nature of the job, journalists and war photographers have designated special protection through international conventions to prevent fatal injury in the field — but it remains a risky occupation.
Wedding photography can include engagement photos, pre-wedding photos, shots taken during the ceremony or reception on the big day itself, as sometimes may even include honeymoon or “trash the dress” photos. Wedding photography is also one of the larger categories of commercial photography, with many photographers specializing in this service.
There are two main approaches to wedding photography: traditional or photojournalistic. The traditional approach typically has posed images that the photographer controls and directs throughout the event. The photojournalistic approach usually has a more editorial feel, with candid, more natural images taken using little direction. A third, more fashion-focused approach also exists, with these shots using more innovative or creative techniques, delivering more dramatic imagery. Culture and tradition often play a large part in the style and types of shots a couple is looking to capture.
Wildlife photographers generally need to have an “in” or some experience to achieve great shots of wildlife. Patience, good gear, and safe shooting locations are all important when trying to capture animals in the wilderness. Did we mention patience? It can take days of waiting to achieve the perfect shot of a wild animal. The type of animal being photographed will also determine the amount of preparation and type of camera gear required.
Equipment like tripods and shutter releases and telephoto, wide-angle, or macro lenses, are usually used in wildlife photography. Sometimes, camera traps are set up in the environment for an extended period of time, taking shots using motion detection so that animals aren’t spooked and their natural behaviors aren’t disturbed by lurking photographers. These shots are often used in editorials for publications like National Geographic. If you’re about to undertake this kind of photography or hiring a custom content crew, don’t forget your badge of patience. You will need it.
Perfecting different types of photography
As you can see, there are lots of different types of photography to try out, experiment with, and perfect. Subject matter, lighting conditions, and the location of the photoshoot will all impact the type of camera gear and techniques used to get a great photo. Possible uses of the photos will also help photographers determine if they need to meet any other special conditions, such as getting model or property releases for the imagery.
Experience and practice go hand in hand — if you’ve found something on this list that you never tried capturing before or even thought about shooting, there’s no time like the present to go get that shot!
And if you’ve already got a portfolio that showcases your talents, send some eye-catching shots our way. Apply to become a contributor and show us your photography portfolio or check out our contributor FAQs for more on what we look for in the Stocksy collection.