Photography Genres

Kevin Casper
mother and baby portrait
Portraits, number one photography genre

For someone just getting interested in photography, the number of genres that exist can seem daunting. Some genres are so specialized that the skills required to excel in them are drastically different than the skills required for another genre. For example, sports photography relies on being able to control a telephoto lens and capture fast moving action from a distance. Portrait photography, on the other hand, requires a deep understanding of light and focus depth in order to capture the best shots. One of the things you can do to help you choose a genre that best fits your talents is to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a photographer.

Top 10 Photography Categories

While there are many more than just the following photo genres, these are among the most popular in the industry.

1. Portrait

Probably the most compelling subject matter for a photographer is humans. Pictures are taken to document people's lives, and this makes portrait photography a profoundly important genre. There is an art to capturing someone's personality in a photo that requires both a technical ability and a certain amount of innate intuition. Soft light, soft focus, and wider angle lenses are the technical requirements, but being able to make your subjects comfortable enough so they open up to you is equally important.

2. Travel

Out of all of the photography genres, travel clearly falls under the category of "good work if you can get it". Imagine being able to travel the world, take pictures and get paid for it. To stand out, however, you'll need to have an eye for capturing the essence of a destination rather than just snapping photos of the most popular attractions. Travel photographers usually work in conjunction with travel publications, so you will need to develop contacts and network to find an inroad into this genre.

3. Sports

Sports, number 3 photography genre

Sports Illustrated, one of the most popular sports publications of all-time, owes its whole existence to the beauty of sports photography. Shots that freeze the best athletes in the world in their most intense poses has proven to be something that the public loves. When the high-speed action is stopped, viewers are able to slowly look at a particular moment in a game or match. This also reveals a different perspective of the competition. Sports photography is one of the most technically challenging genres since the subjects are typically moving very fast. The subtleties that the camera records are hard to pin down and require many, many shots to get just one usable photo.

4. Paparazzi

Paparazzi photography is one of the most ethically debated photography genres. The question of where to draw the line between celebrity obsession and basic human compassion lies at the heart of the paparazzi's work. To succeed in this genre, you need to come to terms with this quandary, because the most valuable shots are often the most controversial ones. However, if you can overcome any inner conflicts about this type of photography and can get the big shot before somebody else does, then the payoff of this genre can be akin to hitting the lottery.

5. Fashion

fashion model pose

One of the most lucrative genres of photography is fashion photography. The fashion world generates billions of dollars, and photography is obviously a huge part of broadcasting this visual art form to the world. Visual appeal and composition are vital to creating a unique look that will set you apart from the competition. Breaking into fashion photography is a case of who you know, so be prepared to network and make the rounds in order to gather the connections you will need to get work. Determination and patience are two traits that will served you well in this genre. Once you are established with a particular company or designer; however, you could really make a name for yourself.

6. Photojournalism

Journalism is in a period of transition, from print media to digital publications, and photojournalism has certainly been affected. As news blogs and online magazines expand, the field is expected to evolve beyond its current presence. In this genre, photojournalists need to be ready to go at a moment's notice. In addition, you must have a sense of daring and adventure, plus a hunger to capture the story before anyone else does. Competition is fierce and being in the right place at the right time can mean scooping a story or missing it entirely.

7. Nude Photography

The human form has captivated artists throughout the centuries; hence, the popularity of nude photography. This genre can also pay well, especially if you drift into the realm of erotic photography. Photographers wishing to work with nude subjects need to have an open mind and the ability to be comfortable working in vulnerable situations.

8. Black-and-White

dunes in black and white

For many, black-and-white photography is the pinnacle of the art form in this medium. There is something almost mystical about the way a great artist can capture the essence a subject using only shades of black and white and manipulating light. Many true aficionados of black-and-white photography still work with film and develop their shots in a darkroom where they can really manipulate shadows and contrast to create a greater work of art.

9. Wedding

Wedding photography is the bread and butter gig for many a working photographer. This too can be an artistic expression if you allow your creative nature to emerge in setting up your photo shoots, especially during a wedding ceremony and reception. This genre also gives you a paycheck that you can count on. In addition, you get the satisfaction of capturing once in a lifetime moments. Aspiring photographers must have the ability to get along well with people and thrive under stressful situations. Weddings can be incredibly intense, and you need to be able to blend into the background and work around the chaos to capture the subjects in their best light.

10. Nature

island paradise

Nature photography has been one of the most enduring and compelling genres of this art form since its inception. From the black-and- white large format landscape masterpieces of Ansel Adams to the ever astounding photography found in National Geographic magazine, nature photography can take your breath away. Those with an interest in this genre must understand that patience is key. Waiting for the light to be just right, traveling back to the same place day after day to get the right cloud coverage, or waiting for a particular animal to present itself in your viewfinder are examples of what this job will demand in order to thrive as a nature photographer.

Additional Photography Genres to Explore

While not all of these photo genres may interest you, there are plenty of others to choose from, including aerial photography and lo-fi (toy or pinhole cameras) photography. The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding on a genre is to identify what you like to shoot. Once you make your choice, then keep shooting. You'll only improve your skills if you keep firing away and strive to learn all you can about your chosen profession and genre.

Photography Genres