Styles & Types of Photography
You’re probably aware that there are far more styles and types of photography than just wedding, landscape and portrait.
However, you may be surprised to know just how many genres of this wonderful art there actually are!
If you’re looking to experiment with something new, or just want to kick-start a new photography career – look no further than this.
We’ll describe the most common types of photography, from Abstract all the way to Wildlife… with everything else in between!
The next time you pick up your camera, take a look through this list and attempt some amazing new photography genres.
Who knows – you may just find your new creative calling ;-)
82 Common Types of Photography in 2020
Abstract photography is a way of creating and depicting a visual image that doesn’t have a direct relationship with the real world.
It’s a means of expressing ideas, thoughts and emotions through the different elements of a picture, without trying to create a traditional or realistic photo.
Adventure photography involves capturing images of activities like extreme sports and action-adventure.
Kayaking, rock climbing, spelunking and even sky-diving fall into this category. Action and 360-degree cameras are best suited to this genre.
Advertising photography is a commercial venture where images are used for advertising purposes.
These photos might be used in magazines, newspapers, posters, billboards and also product catalogues like the one you get each week from your grocery store.
Generally speaking, this genre is more focused on the brand than individual products.
Aerial photography involves images captured from a bird’s-eye view, usually from great heights.
While drones can capture aerial photos, this genre also encapsulates images taken from larger aircraft like planes, gliders, helicopters or even hot air balloons.
Aerial photos can be captured by the photographer personally, or by mounting camera equipment to airborne vehicles.
Architectural photography captures stunning shots of buildings – usually only the outside. Although with larger structures, photographing cavernous interiors is also part of the job.
These photographs may be used by architects to promote their designs and work.
Astrophotography is an incredible genre as it involved capturing images of the night sky. Much like astronomy, astrophotography can be used to capture images of deep space objects such as stars, planets and galaxies.
Black And White Photography
Black and white (or monochrome) photography is a little old school but incredibly popular. In this field, photographers only work in black and white and rely on tonal qualities, exposure and contrast to give an image character.
Blue hour photography describes being outdoors, capturing photos during what’s known as the ‘blue hour’.
Blue hour happens twice per day. It’s the brief period of unique light cast over a scene right before sunrise and after sunset. Shooting during this time results in moody pics with soft tones.
Boudoir photography is the art of photographing intimate and romantic scenes of the human form.
More often than not, you’ll see boudoir images captured in a bedroom or a living space. Another telling sign is the choice of clothing, or lack thereof, which sets a saucy tone.
Business photography is often used in professional settings or in the workplace. Images can vary from a group of employees in a meeting to hard-hat wearing builders on a construction site.
The point of this genre is to help sell a business’ professional services or for use in internal communications.
This style is a little like street photography in that you usually photograph your subjects without them knowing it.
Candid photography is put to good use in situations where capturing someone in a natural state is desired. This way, people are not forcing a smile or changing their behaviour just to have a photo taken.
This is a fun genre usually employed by those who want to capture images of children for a client. A child photographer may take portraits of children or more likely snap them at play.
Cityscape photography is a lot like capturing a landscape except that it’s done in an urban and built-up area.
Images of big city skylines are a popular form of art, especially if it’s your favourite city on display. Cityscapes can even be captured from the top of tall buildings or a helicopter.
This is a professional genre in which a photographer is hired to take pictures specifically to sell a service, promote a product or create a unique collection of photos for another business.
Composite photography is a fantastic art form where a photographer will combine several images, overlays and even alternative mediums to create an image.
Taking the actual photos is just a small part of creating a composite – more time is spent afterwards in computer editing.
Concert photography involves someone attending music concerts, band rehearsals and even backstage events. Their role is to document the concert, usually for the sake of the band or a publication reviewing the event.
Crystal Ball Photography
Crystal ball photography has become a popular choice used a lot on social media platforms.
In this style, a clear glass ball is held up in front of the camera. When the image is taken, the background will be out of focus, but the ball will contain a perfectly crisp reflection of the same background.
Similar to the concert genre, dance photography involves photographing performers on stage. This could be for classical ballet, modern dance, or any other style.
The images may include rehearsal and staged shots to be used for promotion and dancer portfolios.
Documentary photography is the process of capturing and detailing events, activities and even locations. The images captured will be used for historical purposes to be preserved for future generations.
A successful documentary photographer will often travel to far flung corners of the world to capture unique stories – a the ability to travel at a moment’s notice is a big asset.
Shooting with drones can be considered a form of aerial photography; however, the difference is that the photographer never leaves the ground.
With this photography type, a propeller-driven drone or robot is remotely controlled to achieve elevation and capture images of the land or subjects such as mountain tops and tall buildings.
Editorial photographs are those used in news sources such as newspapers and magazine articles. They’re also more commonly used in online media outlets and document everything that’s newsworthy.
Event photography is a more generalised genre where a photographer is hired to capture special events. These could include family shoots, engagements, birthday parties, weddings, festivals, or corporate events and promotions.
The whole point is to document the experience of the guests, but you’ll usually need great people skills to get the most out of your subjects.
Family photography is a style of portrait shoot that involves getting multiple family members into the photo. They can be staged line-ups or even candid shots to freeze time and record a family’s growth.
A lot of families organise annual portrait sessions to chart the passing of time.
Fashion photography is another form of commercial work where images are taken of clothing and accessories. The clothes and fashion accessories can be laid out or styled on a model – there are usually art directors and stylists on a fashion shoot that can lend a hand with this.
Fashion photography can take place in a studio, a store, on location or even at live fashion shows. Location scouting is usually an important element in planning successful magazine shoots.
Femto photography is a style used by scientists to take high-speed photos that freeze the movement of light.
The camera works at a trillion frames per second and captures photons in motion.
Film photography is where the medium first originated as far back as the 1800s.
Old-school cameras use a roll of film made from cellulose material. Not unlike a digital camera, a film camera would expose the film to light for a fraction of a second to record the scene on the cell.
As the name suggests, fine art photography is an art form where images fulfil an artistic purpose. Fine art images are often displayed in galleries or are sold to collectors or those with the cash to display them in their homes.
The fish-eye style produces some incredibly exciting and distorted images. This is due to the specialist ultra-wide-angle lenses used.
The wide field of view captures an image that includes a lot of peripheral details. Sometimes you’ll even capture your feet in the picture.
Food photography is enjoying popularity thanks to the social media craze of people photographing their meals with their phones.
Professional food photography will see a dish and its ingredients stylised for the shot. These images are used by restaurants for advertising and menus, and by publications about food.
Forced Perspective Photography
Forced perspective relies on a bit of a camera trick. It’s all about creating a form of illusion through the placement of subjects and the positioning of the photographer to fool the natural scale.
Forensic photography, or crime scene photography, involves the documentation of a crime scene. Police and security organisations employ these photographers. It’s hard to comprehend some of the scenes they’re called in to photograph.
Glamour photography is very similar to boudoir but usually leans more to headshot portraits rather than body nudes.
These are more often than not images of female subjects with their hair and makeup prepared by a professional. These can be used for professional or personal purposes.
Glitch photography is an exciting and creative genre that requires forced defects to be introduced to create an image. A glitch can be caused by damaging or manipulating the camera or by manually altering the data contained within an image file.
Golden Hour Photography
Golden hour is often considered the best time of the day to capture images with natural light. It covers the time just after sunrise and just before sunset when the light turns to a warmer hue.
Landscape photographers love this time of day as their scenes are bathed in gorgeous light.
Headshot photography is another form of portraiture. The difference is that with this style, you’re only photographing the subject’s head.
These photos are used for business websites, personal portfolios, security passes and even the standard driver’s licence.
High Dynamic Range Photography
High Dynamic Range or HDR photography is a process where you capture multiple images of the same scene. Some will be under-exposed and others over-exposed.
In post-processing, or sometimes in-camera, you can stack and blend these photos. That way, you end up with a single image with exceptional detail in both the light and darker areas.
High-speed photography is used for scientific purposes but is also a fun pursuit.
To do this type of photography, a special high-speed camera is used with super-fast shutter speeds. Images taken will freeze even the fastest of subjects from cars to speeding bullets.
Holiday photography is a growing phenomenon where seasonal festivities are captured. This could be for family purposes, but more often is used for commercial purposes. Images of seasonal food, events, locations and how people interact are used for marketing purposes.
While it’s relatively apparent, this genre involves taking photos while inside. The lack of natural light requires the photographer to set up alternative lights such as strobes and flash. This genre tends to be called upon for commercial shoots.
Infrared photography has been around for a very long time. The process means that to create the image, infrared light is captured by the camera and, as a result, records light and dark differently to a standard image.
You can create stunning shots with an infrared camera, filter or editing process.
Kinetic photography sees you move your camera not to capture movement, but to create it. While this goes against every rule of photography, fast and purposeful movement of a camera can result in fun and dynamic images.
Landscape photography is one of the most significant genres, and its popularity has not diminished with time.
It involves finding and photographing beautiful landscapes to celebrate the natural world.
Landscape photos can be sold for thousands of dollars in some cases, especially when the location is remote or unique in some way.
Lifestyle photography is all about freezing a scene involving people interacting with their world. But, unlike street photography, this one is mostly staged and unobtainable.
The images are primarily used for commercial purposes, such as selling a product like cars or fashion.
Light Painting Photography
Light painting is the fun and creative process of using long exposures – see next genre below – to build a mesmerising image. While the shutter is open, you can run around with a torch, spin a fire-stick or even play with sparklers.
The final image will show the entire path of the light source within the composition.
Long Exposure Photography
As hinted at above, long exposure photography means you can alter camera settings to force the shutter open for long periods of time. A standard photo might see around 1/250 shutter speed. But a long exposure can result in the shutter exposed for several seconds, minutes or even longer.
Long exposure is most commonly used for night shots and astrophotography.
Macro photography allows you to use a unique lens to photograph teeny tiny objects. The most common form of macro is to get down low and photograph insects and tiny plantlife. These pictures bring the minute and often unseen critters to larger-than-life scale.
This sub-genre documents a woman’s progress towards childbirth. These images are often commissioned to celebrate the wonders of pregnancy. These photos are essential as they form the first half of a before and after shot to remember forever.
Milky Way Photography
Milky Way photography is a specialised form of astrophotography that focuses on the Milky Way. With the right gear, time and the right time of year, you can capture mind-blowing images of the galactic core.
In this situation, long exposure photography comes into play to allow as much light as possible to hit the camera image sensor.
Minimalism is a stylistic art form where photographers will take pics of a scene or setting with minimal elements and subjects. In the spirit of minimalism, that’s all I’m going to say.
Mobile photography is a booming genre where people use their smart device as an everyday camera. Beyond this, there’s a growing industry of professional mobile photographers creating art and commercial work with their phones.
If you’d like to get better at taking photos with your phone, see this review.
Often confused with black & white photography, monochrome refers to photographs that show variations of just one colour.
In this way, a b & w photo can be classed as monochrome, since it uses variations of a single colur, but a monochrome photo can be created with variations of any other colour in the spectrum.
Motion photography is a lot more controlled than kinetic photography but follows a similar style.
With this genre, a photographer will use the controlled movement of a camera or subject intentionally. As a result, the image will have smooth and blurred lines that create a sense of movement.
Motorsport photography is a niche off-shoot of sports photography.
Photographers will photograph anything and everything to do with cars and motorbikes. There’s a huge demand for this kind of imagery from fans and it can include races, car shows and promotional events.
Multiple Exposure Photography
Multiple exposures photography is exactly as is sounds: you use numerous images and overlay them to form one.
This can be done in some cameras but more commonly is achieved with editing tools. The results can be very creative and tell a unique story to the viewer.
Newborn photographers capture photos of a newborn child, often styled using cute outfits and props. The time that we’re babies is fleeting and being able to document it in a beautiful setting is essential to many parents.
The type of photographer who shoots newborn portraits often also works in maternity photography.
Night photography is similar to indoor photography in that you need to alter camera settings and introduce additional lights to be able to take a shot. An alternative is to use no other light sources but instead rely on long-exposure techniques to create an image.
Most modern cameras and mobile devices have a setting to create panorama photography. These are images where you pan the camera slowly around a scene, which is usually of a vast landscape.
The camera is actually taking multiple shots and ‘stitching’ them together to form a single wide image.
Pinhole photography is another old-school photography where a crude camera box is made with a tiny pinhole opening. This momentarily lets in light that hits a piece of photographic paper. The exposed paper captures a not-so-clear image.
Pet photography is another form of portraiture, but in place of humans, you photograph someone’s beloved pets.
This is a specialist genre, as you have to be able to manage animal behaviour. You also need to be prepared to photograph everything from a rat to a prized pig.
Photojournalism is one of the oldest forms of photography and is a vital part of the news media world. Images captured in this style are used for news-related publications and online platforms. It’s influenced by a whole array of other genres.
Portrait photography incorporates many of the styles we’ve already covered here. It’s the skill of photographing people or yourself in a range of settings and situations. Portraiture traditionally focused on the head and upper torso.
The purpose of such photos varies wildly from fine-art to police mug-shots – because of this, portrait photographers are always in high demand.
As we discovered with the crystal ball, holding a glass object in front of the lens can produce amazing results.
Prism photography is no different as the image appears fractured via the angled glass. It can be a very creative effect that draws in the viewer.
Product photography is another tool used in the commercial and advertising world. We live in a time of intense consumerism, and the best way to represent a product is to take and publish photos of it.
This style covers taking photos of everything from tea bags to T-shirts.
Real Estate Photography
Real estate photography takes place in and around properties that are for sale or lease. A photographer will take pictures of the outside of the building to represent and sell the site.
Real estate photographers also take shots of every interior room and space, styled to make the property attractive.
Satellite photography doesn’t involve a photographer – at least not a human one. A satellite that’s orbiting the earth can be remotely controlled to capture super-high-altitude shots of areas of the planet.
These photos are used for weather forecasting, disaster recovery and also military purposes.
This photography genre is always evolving to document scientific discoveries and pursuits.
It’s a pretty wide field of study, but being able to document such activities for review and historical preservation is critical.
Photographing seascapes is similar to the landscapes genre, with the exception that there’s less land and much more ocean. These images may be taken to create visually stunning works or for more commercial reasons.
Social Media Photography
Social media photography is a blend of almost every photographic genre – especially mobile photography. Being able to capture and quickly share images on social platforms is now a part of our everyday life. And who can forget a quality selfie complete with filters, effects, stickers and text?
This is a broad genre that covers so many types of sports performed in every corner of the globe. One thing that stands out with sports photography is the need for cameras that can shoot high-speed bursts along with telephoto lenses.
Still Life Photography
Still life photography is pretty much the same as still life painting – an art form that has been around for centuries.
With this style, you photograph inanimate objects, usually placed in a purposeful and artistic arrangement. Still life photography and fine art photography often blend due to their similarities.
A great example of stock photography is the imagery used right here in this article. Photographers submit and sell a broad range of image styles to special stock photo sites. The site then allows others to use them – usually for a price – for various applications.
Street photography is a blend of the candid, architectural and photojournalism genres all rolled into one.
The easiest way to define it is the documentation of people interacting with their world in public places. Taking street photos may seem simple, but capturing subjects up close while remaining candid (and polite!), is actually quite challenging.
Tilt-shift photography is a specialist genre and, as such, requires specialised tools such as a tilt-shift lens. It’s a creative genre that shifts the focal plane to distort perspective and scale. While it’s a lot of fun, the lenses are not cheap.
Time-lapse is a little like stop-motion animation. Instead of manipulating the subject, however, you usually let nature take its course. It involves multiple images being taken over a period of time which are then played in sequence – much like a video.
You could use a time-lapse sequence to capture a thunderstorm rolling in or a city becoming dark, for example, only the action is sped up.
Travel photography is just as it sounds – taking photos of unique and beautiful locations all over the world. Some people get into travel photography as a profession, while the rest of us take holidays pics for fun.
Underwater photography creates a window into a world that many of us would otherwise never get to see. Using diving gear and underwater cameras enables you to explore a whole new world. The results are often visually stunning and captivating.
Urban Exploration Photography
There’s something very mystical about urban exploration photography. More often than not, this style plays out around and inside abandoned sites and buildings. It’s an urban style of photographic archaeology with a moody element thrown in.
This genre is an off-shoot of photojournalism, but in this case, it involves a photographer finding themselves in the middle of war zones.
War or conflict photography is not without its risks, as you document real-life crises unfolding around you. There have been several cases of war photographers being captured or injured while performing their jobs.
Some people find studying the weather to be a fascinating hobby – and then, of course, some make it a career. Photographing weather patterns, occurrences, and events provide a platform to see nature at its worst and best.
Wedding photography is by far one of the most popular genres and photography professions. Wedding shoots are big business, and there’s a tremendous amount of competition in the industry.
Being able to capture a couple’s special day successfully is an exercise in strategic planning, and can lead to a fair amount of stress – wedding photographers certainly earn their money!
Wildlife photography is another one of those photography pursuits that get your out in nature. This genre exposes you to the absolute beauty of nature and how animals interact within their ecosystem.
The plight of wildlife on earth makes this genre an essential part of the preservation process.
With so many different types of photography to choose from, you should have no shortage of ideas for the subject of your next creative project.
Which styles are most appealing to you? Have you dabbled in any others that aren’t on the list? Let us know in the comments!