It could be landscapes and portraits, weddings and newborns, or sports and wildlife. No matter the genre of photography you wish to specialize in, you need to have a good idea of what the requirements of that genre are.
In this discussion, we’ll learn about the many different photography genres. In future discussions, we’ll cover more about each of them in detail.
Landscape photography produces images that are wider than they are tall and often aims to capture nature scenes or cityscapes. It is widely considered an easy genre to shoot, but this can be far from the truth. Landscape photographers have not only got to be at the right place at the right time to be able to capture a photo, but they also have to brave the elements, often hike for long hours, and then go through the complicated process of capturing the essence of a scene on a two-dimensional medium.
Landscape photography can often test the mettle of a photographer. Bad weather, poor lighting, long hours on the road, and then the heartache of not being able to capture the kind of images you ventured out to capture can all take a toll on the body and the mind of the photographer.
Shooting landscape photography doesn’t need special equipment. However, capturing an excellent dynamic range is often a good feature. You can start with any interchangeable lens camera and a wide-angle lens. Even telephoto lenses can be used to shoot landscape photography.
Portrait photography usually has people as subjects and it is something that every photographer does at one stage or another in their career. Portrait photography involves more than just the subject’s image in front of the camera – it involves capturing the person’s essence, personality, and identity.
Portrait photography can be done using a kit lens like 18-55mm and a crop body camera. The kit lens offers an effective focal length to capture beautiful portrait images.
That said, professional portrait photography setups can be expensive. They involve one, two, or three lights depending on the kind of portrait photography a photographer does and the mood and feel the photographer wants to achieve. Professional photographers can easily use three or more lights.
Wedding photography, as the name suggests, is a photography genre that involves capturing and documenting the precious moments of a couple’s special day.
This genre is similar to documentary photography, where the photographer is primarily responsible for capturing every critical moment and, if possible, some artistic photos. It primarily revolves around the wedding couple and taking images of them on the wedding day, but it also involves images of the invitees.
Although the typical approach to wedding photography may appear cliched, the formula has been proven to work. Regardless, every photographer offers something unique, be it posing techniques or post-production editing, that creates their signature style.
Event photography, much like wedding photography, is about capturing important moments. Event photography is a genre that encompasses many different events and many different occasions, but typically not weddings. Wedding photography is a different genre requiring a slightly different approach. Event photography can involve musical events, corporate meetings and events, birthdays, award functions and gala events, and anything and everything in between.
Wildlife photography is about capturing stunning photos of wild fauna and flora. It’s the art of capturing creatures in their natural habitat. This is a challenging genre of photography for two prominent reasons. The first is that to photograph wildlife photography, you often have to travel vast distances. Many areas don’t have the sort of wildlife sanctuaries or reserve game forests that are needed for a photographer to consistently produce unique, stunning shots.
The second challenge is that wildlife photography requires a fair bit of skill. Many times your subject may be obstructed by foliage, the lighting may not be to your advantage, or your subject may be moving quickly. This means that wildlife photographers have to act quickly and know their cameras very well. It’s also a gear-heavy genre that benefits from good quality, fast-aperture telephoto lenses of at least 300mm or longer. Also, it would help if you had cameras with excellent autofocusing and continuous shooting speed. The requirements of sports and wildlife photography are very similar.
Macro photography is about capturing photos from a very close focusing distance to capture a life-sized image of a subject. This can be any subject, such as a bug, a flower, a coin, a currency note, or even a tiny grain of wheat – there is no shortage of subjects for macro photography.
For shooting macro photography, you need special dedicated macro lenses. The camera isn’t that important. You can shoot macro photos with any camera as long as it can use interchangeable lenses – specifically lenses that have macro properties. We’ll do a separate article on the topic of macro photography. However, for the sake of this discussion, I’ll just say that macro photography is all about capturing the 1:1 magnification of a subject.
Documentary photography has traits of both street photography and photojournalism. However, there is a thin line of difference between the three photography genres. Documentary photography is about capturing and documenting events that are important for social causes and require the urgent attention of the public.
Let’s say a photographer captures a series of images related to a waste dump in a nearby river – if the images highlight the effects of waste dumping and how it affects the immediate environment and the river’s ecology, it’s an example of documentary photography.
In straightforward terms, we can define commercial photography as a genre that helps sell products and services. If your photography is being used in advertisements, commercial ads, billboards, or publications, then you’re indulging in commercial photography.
Perhaps the most expensive of all photography genres, travel photography requires a lot of investment beyond the obvious. The obvious is the investment that you make in your photography gear. Beyond the obvious is your investment towards paying for your travel costs.
That said, I once heard an interesting definition of travel photography. “It’s not about traveling to photograph, but instead to take a photograph that would inspire someone looking at that image to travel.”
So, if you’re initially trying to become a travel photographer, you don’t have to travel far and wide. You can travel in your backyard and make images that inspire someone to visit your little corner of the world. Travel photography isn’t dependent on the gear. You can shoot great images with anything from a starter kit to professional equipment.
Sports photography is all about shooting great images of sporting action. Sports photographers are responsible for capturing those decisive moments in a sporting event that makes a difference.
Sports photography is a very demanding genre of photography. It depends on the photographer’s skills as much as the equipment that the photographer uses. Sports photography requires that a photographer use a camera with a fast continuous shooting speed, excellent autofocusing, and sharp images. They also need long telelenses and an understanding of the game they are capturing.
Underwater photography is a particular genre that uses specially designed underwater camera housing to take photos of underwater life and the environment. There are a bunch of cameras, such as the GoPro Hero and the Olympus Tough TG-6, which are waterproof up to a limited depth without the need for special housing.
Professional underwater photographers shoot with specialized gear that includes flashlights packed inside specialized housing for profound underwater photography.
Aerial photography involves capturing scenes from above. Back in the days when drones were not every day, aerial photography was done entirely from aircrafts or some sort of aerial craft like hot air balloons. It was costly to hire these vehicles to capture a few shots.
With the advent of drones, aerial photography (and videography) has become very easy. Photographers can easily capture still images using these drones and copy them onto their portable hard drives or laptops. The initial investment is still large, but the long-term payoff is much greater.
Astrophotography is a genre of photography that captures photos of celestial bodies, stars, and deep-space objects like constellations, ort clouds, and much more. It’s about using different techniques to capture photos of objects located at vast distances, often several light years from Earth. Because these objects are low light objects, you have to capture their photos using a high ISO number and many other techniques to be able to successfully capture them in the night sky.
Fashion photography is a genre of photography that revolves around shooting images of clothes, accessories, and other fashion items. Fashion photographers cover fashion events, but many also work as photographers at fashion houses, shooting in-house.
Their work routinely makes it to the pages of fashion magazines, billboards, and newspapers, among many other media. Fashion photography is an excellent genre of photography and one that uses techniques that we use in portrait- and product photography.
Street photography involves capturing images of people, places, incidents, and anything else that intrigues you while on the streets. Much of street photography is shot impromptu and without much planning involved. It’s about looking at your surroundings and capturing photos in the spur of the moment.
Of course, some street photographers plan their shots when they find a scene and then wait for the last element of the image, the human factor, to show up. Photographers like Gary Winogrand and Henri Cartier Bresson are known for that. But many photographers capture the moment when it presents itself.
Pet photography is the art of capturing photos of man’s best friends. Professional pet photographers use state-of-the-art lighting tools and setups similar to portrait photographers and are experts in handling pets.
This is the second important aspect of becoming a pet photographer. You have to be good with animals. You have to understand their psyche – when they’re getting bored and when they’re getting anxious. Understanding animal psychology will help you connect with your subjects and produce better images.
Product photography is a part of the commercial photography genre. Product photography involves capturing images of products used in advertisements, banners, websites, and other media, including print publications, to promote and sell those products.
Product photography uses many of the same techniques used in still life and commercial photography though, in this case, the techniques of lighting are different, and so is the treatment of the images. Product photography revolves around the commercial application of the images; thus, just like in commercial photography, the images go through a lot of post-processing. Every image file is cleaned and made sure that they’re devoid of noise and imperfections so they can be flawless and ready for publication.
Food photography is a part of both still-life photography and product photography, the product here being food. Many of the techniques you typically use in product and still-life photography are also used in food photography.
Food photography requires good, controllable lighting – both soft and directional lighting is used. What kind of lighting will go with a particular plate of food will depend on the color, texture, look, and feel of the final image the photographer wants to capture, among other parameters.
Special lighting and an expensive camera are needed for professional food photography. These days, many food bloggers are photographing food using their mobile phones. So, the need for expensive equipment will only come later when you have gained more experience.
Still Life Photography
Still life as a genre is similar to product photography and a few other genres. Because still-life photography depicts images of inanimate objects. However, still-life photography falls under the genre of art photography which is about the subjective representation of an inanimate object. Please note that still life is about inanimate objects; therefore, portrait or other genres don’t qualify as still life photography.
Architecture photography is about capturing architecture in the most aesthetically pleasing and visually accurate form possible. Architectural photography ensures that the finer details of the architecture are captured tastefully. It also ensures that the images are accurate in how they represent the actual property in the images.