Types of Photography

Jennifer L. Betts
Aerial view of intersecting highways

If you think photography is just a matter of snapping an image at the right time, you'd be wrong. There is a lot of thought and effort that goes into each professional image you've ever seen. Just like photographs come in all shapes and sizes, the field of photography is far-reaching and full of different subgenres.

Aerial Photography

The world is viewed from the ground most of the time, but aerial photography can offer an interesting and unique perspective from the sky. This type of imaging is typically done from an airplane or other type of flying vehicle like a drone. There are specific regulations that you must follow for aerial photography, especially when you are taking images with a drone.

Advertising and Commercial Photography

You know those pictures you see in magazines that make you want to purchase product? Those appear thanks to an advertising photographer. These photographers work with agencies and companies to promote products in magazines, brochures, online ads, billboards, posters, etc. These images are typically pretty straightforward and depict the product in the most appealing manner.

  • Advertising images must be of the highest quality and present the products in the best possible conditions. Therefore, you'll want them to be clear and properly lighted.
  • Additionally, there will be little to no background to interfere with the image.
  • These types of images are typically taken in a studio with a very controlled lighting situation. The photographer examines the best angles and lighting to make the product the most appealing.
  • Multiple shots are typically taken to find the best one.

For example, makeup companies will hire a commercial photographer to photograph models wearing their products for magazines. These companies want to present their models looking flawless and beautiful in their products. Therefore, the photographer will shoot multiple angles and images until the product is portrayed in the best possible light.

Agricultural Photography

Maybe you have seen a stock image or two with a combine and a tractor, but did you realize there is a whole slew of photographers dedicated to this field? Agricultural photography is the capturing of images of rural life and farming. While some images are staged, others are captured in the moment as life happens. These can include the people that work in the fields and the machines that slave to produce our food.

These images might be used for stock photography, ad agencies, or by publishers. This type of photography can also be used to advocate for the agricultural community and create proposals to preserve this way of life.

Vintage Old Rusty Tractor

Black and White Photography

The art of black and white photography has been around since the first images where produced. While it has been enhanced through the years with the introduction of the digital camera, black and white photography is simply capturing a moment and printing it in black and white. Back before digital cameras, you used specialized film. However, now, you just click a filter and the image is automatically recorded in black and white.

Documentary Photography

The key word in this field of photography is document. This could be documenting a person's life or photographing an event as it happens. This could also mean documenting a person's illness or decline. Regardless of the event, these images are not staged but rather document what happened. Through still images, you show the progression of the event.

In this type of photography, it is important to capture the essence of what is happening. These photographers will also research the event or person to have a background before going in. Documentary photographers must think of the big picture and scene setters. Feelings and emotions are also important for this field. These types of images can be used by publishers, magazines, and even newspapers.

Fashion Photography

As you can probably guess, fashion photography is where you take images of clothes and fashion designs. This can include specific outfits and even fashion events. Most of the photography in this field is staged within a studio setting under strict lighting conditions. Fashion photographers are highly trained and have an advanced understanding of fashion and photography principles.

Fine Art Photography

Unlike commercial or documentary photography, fine art photography is more of an art form. The photographer uses the camera to make a statement or tell a story. There is an artistic motivation behind the piece rather than just telling a story or making a person or object look appealing. Fine art photography can take many forms, such as nude photography.

This art form typically experiments with lighting and contrast to play on emotions or express an artistic vision. The focus might be purposely skewed or the focus of the image absurd, making you think about the message behind the piece.

Dandelion with white smoke

Food Photography

Do you enjoy the look of a nice plate of food or find joy in snapping images of a great table arrangement? You might be a budding food photographer. This field can expand to the people that make the food as well, but the images typically make food look appealing and delicious.

Interior and Architectural Photography

Per the name, this type of photography deals with shooting buildings and their interiors. Images show lines and angles and portray the buildings in the most unique and appealing lights. You can find this type of photography in magazines as well as real estate and stock photography.

Photographs of buildings are taken outside in natural lighting settings. However, the interior photos will require the use of interior lighting setups and camera settings. Photographers in this field might photograph anything from an old barn to a high rise. A specialized area of this field is gothic photography, which focuses specifically on gothic buildings.

showcase living room

Landscape or Scenery Photography

Images of the sun falling into the ocean or snow dancing on the caps of the Alps fall into the category of landscape photography. These shots capture the natural beauty of the world. They can include trees, flowers, mountains, sunsets, or anything else that's scenic. These are always taken outdoors and use natural lighting settings.


Similar to documentary photography, photojournalism specifically focuses on newsworthy events from around the world. These photographers might photograph a protest or a political event. They might even shoot wildlife or local events. Images are typically found in newspapers and magazines.


Strangely enough, selfies are a form of portraiture. Portrait photography is taking images of people. These can be alone or in a group, like family photography. Portrait photography can be done in a professional studio or outdoors. This is the most common type of photography you see at malls and supercenters. Think Christmas photos.

Sports Photography

Fast movement and action are key features of sports photography. These professionals capture football games, baseball, volleyball, tennis, and even badminton. If it is a sport, you will see them on the side lines capturing that perfect shot.

baseball player in stadium

Travel Photography

Maybe you've seen an image of a Buddhist temple or the inside of a cathedral and wondered about these images. Chances are these photographs were taken by a travel photographer. Travel photographs demonstrate exotic locations and cultures. They might be used to highlight a travel location like Bahamas or document a culture in Africa.

Working as a commercial travel photographer, you might take pictures of tourist destinations or local events. Images for this field can be used by travel agencies, advertising, merchandising, and even magazines. Depending on the area, these professionals might take candid shots for a resort, travel to far off locations and shoot specific cultures, or even take formal portraits for a cruise ship. While some positions might require you to travel constantly to exotic locations, others might just be done by a freelancer who sells his work.

War Photography

While it might seem crazy to go into a war zone just to grab a few photographs, there are several professionals that make a career from documenting the effects war have on places and people. These professionals are placed in harm's way, but they also have the important task of molding public opinion about conflicts and tragedies happening around the globe. A war photographer might work for a news outlet or be a freelance professional.

Wedding Photography

Photographing a couples wedding day is a huge undertaking that includes weeks and possibly even months finding the clients' vision, visiting the venue, and preparing to shoot the wedding and reception. Wedding photography includes taking both candid and formal portraits. This type of photography can be done in conjunction with other types of photography, but there are also professionals that specialize specifically in weddings.

hands of a marriage

It's not Just About Taking Pictures

While it would seem that taking a picture is just a matter of pointing and shooting a camera, there are multiple factors that go into shooting at that image, including the type of photographer that you want to be. If you like photographing people, then portraiture or wedding photography might be your cup of tea. But if you want to examine and document life, then give photojournalism or documentary photography a try. Now grab your camera and get out there and find your niche.

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Types of Photography