There are many different types of photographs and therefore there are many different types of photography. Different types of picture taking require different techniques and skills. Not every photographer is skilled to take every picture, most develop their own style. Whichever style you find yourself leaning towards, one thing is certain. You will never get a good photograph while your camera is at home! Be sure to take it with you wherever you go. You just never know when you will be able to snap the most perfect shot!
Types of Photography
There are literally dozens of different styles of photography, and most categories may even be able to be subdivided. You may find that you are brilliant at one category but weak at another. You may also find that there are many fields where you can produce good photography. It is a very personal thing and not one photographer is the same as the next. What is important is that you find the type of photography that suits you, your temperament and your own personal style, because this is where you will be your happiest and most productive.
From the air
- Aerial: here the camera is not supported by a ground based structure, normally this type is taken from an elevated position. They are often taking from an aircraft or a satellite in flight. Normally they are shot in a directly downward position. This type of photography plays a very important role in environmental studies. Platforms may include fixed wing aircraft, balloons, blimps, parachutes, rockets and even pigeons. When doing this type of photography, particular care should be pad to making sure that the camera is securely fastened onto a safe base, in case the aircraft hits a pocket of air and the camera is lost. Also, take off and landing can be very bumpy, so ensure that the camera is padded and in a safe housing.
- Air to air: this type of photography is shot from one aircraft to another. Often used for military purposes, it is also popular for documenting skydiving events, such as record attempts. A cameraman will be in one plane and photograph jumpers exiting the second plane, or capture a group exiting the plane together in a formation. In some instances there will be a cameraman in either plane, taking pictures of the other plane and jumpers exiting. In this instance the camera is normally mounted on the helmet of the cameraman, who exits the plane after getting his shot. As with any aerial work, it is essential that the camera is firmly mounted and padded in a safe housing to protect it from coming off the helmet, and also to keep it from knocking on the housing and ruining the shots. Often when a person makes a tandem skydive, the cameraman flies in front of the skydivers and films the event with either still pictures or a video, or both. This is then normally set to music and presented to the person who did the skydive.
- Drones: this type of photography is where an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is used to take photographs of things that may otherwise not be possible to see. The advantage of this is that you can take pictures of places you may never be able to reach because of adverse conditions. Fixed wing drones and rotor based designs are freely available, although there are some restricted places where you can fly them. You should be sure to check this out before you start. Drones are not allowed near airports or commercial plans and you may be prosecuted if your drone is seized, so it is worth checking where you ar permitted to fly and photograph.
- Kites: this is becoming an increasingly popular hobby, particularly in the USA. A lightweight camera is suspended on the lines of a kite and then lifted up when the kite flies. A remote trigger mechanism is used to take pictures. Cameras range from disposable to digital, and this is becoming an alternative to aerial photography. The camera should be set at a high shutter speed to reduce blur.
- Satellite: this category is used mainly by military and governmental departments. It consists of photographs of earth taken from satellites. Companies collect images and sell them under license. The images are used in oceanography, conservation and forestry, cartography and warfare, to name a few. There are several countries that have satellite imaging programmes, and also some private companies.
- Action: this is a shot of something that is still in motion. This could be a parent taking a picture of his child playing football, or an athlete participating in a sport. The definition of the word ‘action’ implies that something is still going on, and that is what this type of shot tries to do. A good example is a camera crew in a helicopter taking a shot of a moving train below them. Be sure to stand in one place if you are shooting things on the ground, as it will be possible to trip and ruin the shot if you move too fast. Feet apart, toes pointing forwards, and turning at the waist will be your best option.
- Amateur: this type of photography is where the person is taking pictures which are not meant to make money for him. They are shot entirely for pleasure instead of for financial gain. It also means that the professional – by definition of the word – knows more about photography than the amateur, although this may not always be true. An amateur takes photographs for his own hobby while a professional makes his living from this. This is not to say that all amateurs take less than perfect shots. Often some pictures by amateurs have won awards because they are incredibly good. The amateur just does not get paid for his work.
- Birth: this is a very private affair and should be handled with extreme discretion and respect. In this article about a birth you can see just how emotional the event can be.
- Baby: this type of photographer needs buckets of patience! A baby is classed as being over the age of three weeks. Although it is by no means set in stone, this type seems to be done by women rather than men. Be prepared to wait for the perfect shot. You may have to fit in with baby’s waking hours. Be prepared to spend more time than you have planned. It will be worth it in the end, as babies are extremely photogenic and natural subjects.
- Boudoir: this type of photograph is normally given as a gift to a groom from his bride. They are always set in a very intimate place such as a bedroom or hotel room and the subject is sometimes dressed in lingerie of other romantic clothing. This is a style of photography which suits tactful people, as it it focused on very intimate poses and the subject may be scantily dressed for the ideal shots. Be sure to ask the subject how much skin they are comfortable showing as some people are more self conscious than others. The idea is to produce amazingly lovely photographs of a bride looking her very best for her husband.
- Concert: this type of photography requires patience, and then more patience! Crowds yelling, no control over lighting and low light make this type a challenge. Be prepared for things to happen and the need to improvise. Not good if you do not like noise!
- Documentary: this form of photography is used to document facts and events which are significant and relevant to history. Typically this is done by professional photographers or real life reporters, although amateurs also find this a challenge. Elections, royal weddings and births, and changes of governments are all huge attractions with this type. Occasionally there is a security risk, so you should be sure to check if you are permitted near the event. Confiscating equipment is one thing that you do not want to happen to you.
- Engagement: this type of photography is taken some time before the wedding. This can be combined in a package deal with the wedding photographs. These are taken in an informal setting, possible at the place where the groom proposed. The shots of the ring must be very artistic and clear so you should spend some time researching lighting techniques and hand positions.
- Events: parties, concerts, shows and even weddings all fall into this category. Normally a professional photographer will be hired to do the job, but amateurs also provide wonderful footage and may be more able to set a wedding couple at ease better than a professional. It is important that if an amateur is shooting a wedding that they remain sober to get the shots, otherwise the ‘day of a lifetime’ will be ruined!
- Fashion: this category is entirely devoted to photographing clothing and other fashion items such as shoes and jewellery. Often these will be shot in exotic locations to enhance the idea that the clothing company wants to portray. These shots are often used in fashion magazines to display items.
- Modelling: this type of photography uses plenty of lighting so it is essential that you have good knowledge of which options you can use. The model will be advised of how to be positioned and you will be able to shoot as many pictures as you need. Consideration to the model will be a good attribute. Should the models be walking, then you will need to be familiar with the best places to position yourself.
- Nude/erotic: if this type of photography appeals to you, then you should look upon your pictures as the portrayal of the nude form (male or female) in the most natural state, without make up, clothing or props. The surroundings should also be natural, whether they are indoors or outdoors. Strength, character and even weaknesses are to be captured in this form.
- New born: a photographer would describe a newborn babe as less than two weeks old. Newborn babies are very sleepy and incredibly pliable which allow you to produce some exceptionally beautiful pictures. Between day five and fourteen is the perfect time. Try not to get stressed if the babe does not want to curl up, there are many delightful shots that you can take!
- Paparazzi: this type of photography is normally done by amateurs who follow celebrities such as royal families, actors and actresses, athletes and entertainers, and politicians. Care should be taken if you choose to do this as sometimes this has been likened to stalking and lawsuits have been taken out against some photographers.
- Passport: this category needs someone who is careful with details as these are legal photos that need to be exactly as the rules. Attention should be paid to the background and the way the head faces. These are always done in groups of four or eight. The photographs must be printed on quality paper and the size of the head is important.
- People: this is a different category to portrait photography. This category is more relaxed, perhaps of the children at play, the family barbecue, the ladies luncheon. This is a very relaxed type of photograph although important to capture all the relevant important parts that are requested.
- Portrait: these are very formal shots of a subject. You will need to pay attention to the background and dress, and be prepared to use as many lights as you need to get the shot you want. This is easier to do with adults than with children as they may not want to sit still for long periods. These are not normally frivolous shots, but of a more serious nature. Ensure that no one has to run off to a meeting, and turn off the phones so you can all focus on the job at hand.
- Pregnancy: photographers who do this are extremely honoured to have a mom-to-be trust them to take good shots of them and their unborn babe. Often the shots will be almost in the nude as the stomach is the centre point, so it is worth asking just how much skin the mom is happy to show. You should ensure her privacy and comfort throughout the shoot. Pay attention to the room temperatures as some pregnant ladies feel the heat very badly. Kindness and consideration are important here, not too many hot lights or draughty rooms.
- School: this is quite a stressful type of photography as kids will never do as you ask! Be prepared to have sticky fingers near your equipment and many questions to answer. Keep a close eye on your lenses and be prepared to take shots again. Keep a notepad to write down requests from moms, about photographing her little boy with a runny nose, or untucked shirt. And remember to smile – all the time!
- Sports: this genre covers all types of sports. Sports photographers may work for newspapers or sports magazines. The photographs may also be used for advertising and to sell brands of sportswear. Moving shots look extremely good so it is worth perfecting this skill. Be prepared to spend some time taking your pictures. Games like golf are slow, but the photographer who waits and is patient will get his shot.
- Street: it is important to try to capture everyday life as it happens. This may require unsociable hours and behind the scene images. City centres are full of interesting subjects which you will see if you keep an open mind. There are many stories happening right in front of the watchful photographer. Do not just visit popular tourist spots but try places that are off the beaten track. When you notice a story developing, be ready to capture the moment.
- Travel: these photographs serve to illustrate travel destinations. They may also be used on travel brochures and in catalogues. They should depict different cultures, customs and history. Try to find things that are out of the ordinary, buildings that are different, and scenes that you would not expect at home. This category can be adopted by either professional or amateur and examples can be found in some well known travel magazines. You should pay attention to different lighting techniques and try to capture moment which most people do not see.
- Equine: horses are some of the most majestic creatures and often the riders want them photographed, either on their own or with the rider seated. Some excellent shots are to be had when the horse is in mid jump or in a full gallop. You will need suitable lenses for this type of work. Also, remember that horses are animals and are unpredictable. Always be aware of where you are standing.
- Pets: this type of photograph is quite a skill as not many pets want to sit down and have their pictures taken. It requires a lot of patience, and sometimes more time that you would like, but you will be rewarded with great shots that the family can treasure for years. Times and places will be important here, sometimes Fido is best in his own home instead of out in the park. Sometimes the cat just does not want to leave the bed and that is where you may end up taking your shots. You should work with the animal when you do this, but also be aware that animals are unpredictable. Just because the cat looks friendly, does not mean she likes you to touch her!
- Wildlife: this genre focuses on non domestic animals so is not to be confused with photographing pets. Not only is this type known for the artistic content, but it is also useful for some types of scientific research. Good field skills are essential as you must know how to approach the animal without it running off – or worse – attacking you! Sometimes specialist equipment is needed such as long lenses for birds and macro lenses for insects.
- Nature: this category takes place mostly outdoors and pays attention to all and any natural elements such as landscapes, waterfalls, desserts, plants and trees. Often these are close up shots which are frequently published in nature magazines. Do not confuse this category with wildlife as nature very rarely focuses on animals, rather seeks to study plants and natural scenes.
- Digiscoping: this method is frequently used by bird watchers. A telescope is used to magnify the subject. A skilful photographer will be able to photograph a bird without any sign of vignetting, which is the black area around the subject. Often an amateur photographer will have this, until he has learned how to work with the various lenses to avoid it. It is worth experimenting with your lenses before going out to photograph any birds, so that you have a very good idea of how your lenses will work.
- Scenic: typically these photographs will capture the presence of nature along with man made features. The most common reason for this type of photograph is to remember a personal experience when travelling. Sometimes weather is the subject, while different lighting conditions are also popular here.
- Still life: this type of photography is more than taking a picture of a bowl of apples. Many other items may be added to the arrangement, such as fish and fowls. Pheasants are particularly vibrant in this type of photograph because of their colours. Attention must be paid to details like background and scale of subjects to each other. If this is a category that appeals to you, then you should be on the lookout for interesting containers, baskets and cloths to enhance your pictures.
Science and Research
- Astrophotography: this is a specialised field which records images of astronomical objects which are often not visible to the human eye. Things like galaxies and nebulae are favourite subjects as well as the moon, sun and the planets. Long term exposure is needed to do this. This type of photography has played a very important part in surveys and star classification.
- Forensic: this type is mainly used for photographing police work, also known as crime scene work, and the photographs here are to record the initial appearance of the crime. These then provide a permanent record for the courts. This type of photography is not for the faint hearted or anyone who gets ill at the sight of blood.
- Macro: also known as macrography, this category is normally of incredibly small insects. Macro lenses which have been specifically designed for the purpose are used. They have a long barrel for close focusing. A true macro lens can achieve a higher magnification than life size which enables the photographer to take shots of insects’ eyes, snowflakes and other tiny objects.
- Medical: this is a highly specialised area that involves recording medical and surgical procedures. This type is a very highly skilled section because the photographer must ensure that he does not present misleading information but purely takes a photograph of the specimen. These may be used in research and also for publication in medical journals. Often photographs of this kind are used to teach medical students so it is important that there is no misinterpretation.
- Microscopic: this is where the photograph is taken through a microscope so that you can see an enlarged section of it. Subjects are always too small to be seen with the human eye and is often used in medicine and biology.
- Post Mortem: with this type of photography, the recently deceased are photographed, before the undertaker removes the body. Sometimes this is thought to help with grieving. Post mortem work is also used for Police and pathology work. If you choose this tpe, then make sure you are prepared the first time you see a dead body, even though it has been well laid out, it is always something of a shock.
- Scientific: a scientific photographer takes pictures that illustrate or record scientific data. Techniques such as aerial, close-up and high speed photography are used and these photographers mainly work for scientific teams for the government, or at universities or research facilities. These photographs are also used in scientific magazines and books so they must be clear and unbiased.
Other Interesting Types of Photography
- Abstract: this type of photography is also called non- objective photography. This focuses on shape, form, colour and textures. You may never be able to actually see the whole object, possibly just a part of it. Good quality blur – called bokeh – is often used to enhance the shot. Highlights and dark shades along with reflections are commonly used. Another dimension is called movement blur, sometimes seen in shots of athletes running or other movements. This style is used to draw the viewer into the picture as if he were part of the movement.
- Advertising and editorial: these photographers are commissioned to produce very high quality photographs which sell a product, or the benefits of the product. The end result is always to sell an article. These photographs are often used in newspapers and magazines. This type may also include sales brochures, business cards, menus and flyers. The photographs are always used to enhance a text, or promote a product or service.
- Amateur astrophotography: this type is very closely linked to astrophotography although this is done purely for pleasure and not to assist in any research. They watch the night sky, eagerly waiting objects to appear. These photographs are normally taken with the aid of telescopes and are not usually for sale. Occasionally an amateur may spot something of relevance which would be handed over to a research department, and he may get paid for it. On the whole, this is a hobby for a personal collection.
- Architectural: all types of buildings fall into this category. Any interesting form, shape or colour may be the subject. Interiors as well as exteriors make good compositions. Lighting will always be a challenge here, as will image distortion. Countries with different types of architecture are very popular, like India and China, although there are always many places of interest in your own country.
- Black and white: while there is no colour in this type of photography, it is in fact not very often black and white, but more a combination of black and white is various shades of grey which is called monochrome. Early photographs were always either in black and white or sepia, with colour only becoming more affordable in the mid 20th century. Black and white is a niche market for photographers looking for a different medium. Black and white work wins many awards because of the contrasting greys which are accentuated.
- Candid: this differs from photographing people in that this is all about waiting for the right shot, instead of shooting action, family pictures. These candid shots are often still, with the subjects being unaware of being photographed. You should always use a long zoom lens so that the subject is not aware and self conscious. Be prepared to wait for your shot.
- Fine art: there does not appear to be a definition of what Fine Art photography is, but there are some things which help to define this type. It is about a message or an emotion that the artist wants to convey. It may be a whole sentence or a simple word such as ‘poverty’ or ‘joy’. You do not need a degree in photography to explore this avenue, but you should think carefully about the message you want to convey.
- Floral: most amateurs start their photography career taking pictures of flowers. You do not need to have a big camera in order to take very good pictures of flowers. One tip when photographing flowers is to get down to their level as this will give your picture a whole different look and feel for the flowers. Pictures of one flower in a field will have a better effect when the whole background is blurred as this will make your single flower stand out.
- Food: this type of shot is needed for restaurant brochures, flyers and sometimes business cards. Photographers who take these shots should never use a flash when taking a shot of food. The flash may make the food look greasy and give it a washed out look. Natural light is important, so pick your area and time to shoot.
- Night: this technique is used to photograph things at night using any means available. Between the hours of dusk and dawn falls into this category and photographing things such as night skies are a good example. There is normally a choice between using artificial light or a long exposure where the subject will be seconds, minutes or sometimes hours so that a usable image is obtained.
- Panoramic: this is also known as wide format and is where the subject is horizontally elongated. Wide angle is very similar to this although a wide angle lens does not necessarily make a panoramic picture. Any image which shows a field of view greater than the human eye can be called panoramic.
- Paranormal: also known as spirit photography. This category seeks to try and capture images of ghosts. It also tries to photograph paranormal behaviour and dates back to the 19th century when ghost hunting was prevalent.
- Phone: you can also think of this category as ‘convenience photography’. While a cell phone may not produce the best shots, there is a place for them since they offer the opportunity for ‘on the spot’ shots. Make sure you have enough free space on the phone, that the battery is fully charged and you have your ‘selfie stick’ if that is what you like.
- Stereoscopic: this technique is where two photographs are taken at the same time and give a 3D effect. This is often used in films and videos. The equipment is slightly different and includes a built in stereo camera and paired cameras, as well as the normal array of traditional cameras, tape and digital cameras. To get a true stereoscopic image pair, the photographer must take two photographs from different horizontal positions. There are ‘side by side’ cameras now available for this.
- Stock: these are photographs which are available for the public to use, normally for a fee. They can be of any subject although they tend to be quite generic like people working, places and well known images. They are often used by students in projects. Once you have found a niche to sell your stock photographs, you will also have a better idea of what viewers look for and be able to tailor your shots to this, thus making extra money.
- Time lapse: these photographs are used to illustrate something that happens over a period of time, such as a flower opening, or a car driving past. They are taken using a very long exposure and processes that are normally very slow to the human eye, such as a plant opening, seem to be sped up. Popular subjects are plants opening and closing, food ripening and decaying and completion of construction projects such as skyscrapers.
- Real estate: normally the main equipment needed here is a camera, lens and a good quality tripod. Wide angle lenses are best with a flash and a cable release an advantage. You should be able to find the best angle to take your shot, remembering that the outside shot is the most important. If the house is up for sale, this is what most people look at first. Attention should be paid to getting a shot of everything that will sell the house, such as any outside shed or beautiful pond. You should have an eye for a flattering shot taken from a good angle.
- Ultraviolet: this type uses only the light from an ultraviolet spectrum. Reflected ultraviolet photography is primarily used in medicine and criminology. A UV transmitting filter is used on the lens. In this article about lenses you can read a good explanation of different types to use.
- Underwater: the most essential piece of equipment is a camera with a watertight housing. The photographer should preferably also know how to swim. This is normally done while scuba diving, but can also be done while snorkelling. Another section of underwater photography is using an ROV – a remote operated underwater vehicle. The skill here is to be able to guide the vehicle to the perfect position and then take your shot. Fish and mammals are great subjects, but many people also photograph shipwrecks, underwater caves and geological features.
- Vehicles: you don’t need to own a supercar to want to collect photographs of them! This is mostly done by amateurs who enthusiastically collect pictures of any supercar they spot. If the car is moving then the shutter speed will be a point to consider. Be prepared when you first start shooting these pictures, for a bit of trial and error. You may want to get as far back from the car as you can so that you have plenty of space in the screen, if the car is moving. You should also try to avoid moving your feet so have them apart and facing forwards so that you can swivel with your torso only.
Things you might like
For every amateur photographer who wants to improve, this Portrait Studio Collection is a good way to start.
This backpack is the perfect thing to carry your camera, lenses and accessories in.
In this book Understanding Exposure you will learn everything you need to know about shooting great pictures.
For anyone wanting to shoot Macro, this LED Power Light will give you a head start.
When taking pictures of babies, this snuggly wrap will be a great accessory.
There are literally dozens of different types of photography which an amateur may begin with. Normally you will find that the types start to evolve into a category that is personal to you. Your style will be different from any other photographer. You may find that there are more than one type that appeals to you, and that you are good at. On the other hand, it does always not mean that if you are good with nature, you will be able to photograph pets. It is important that you find your own niche, where you are comfortable and confident. This way, you will be happy with the work you produce, and so will your subjects.