From pets to people to products, there are a number of photo genres! Some photographers do fitness, while others shoot architecture. But what are those types of photography and what do they actually mean?
I get messages all the time about doing a certain type of photography, some people want Tennessee Peewee Football photos of their kids, someone else wants a destination wedding photographer in the Bahamas, while others want something more intimate for their significant other.
Below is a fairly comprehensive list of photography genres/types and a small definition of what they include (yes, I am leaving some out). There are lots of cross overs in these styles and while some styles are very specific, others have a much broader meaning.
Abstract photography: Abstracts are all about point of view. Zoom in close on tree bark or zoom out on an aerial shot to find a different perspective. It involves capturing novel views of familiar objects and landscapes.
Aerial photography: Aerial photography encompasses any photo taken from an elevated perspective, including drones. Generally, it’s a photo taken from a helicopter or plane, but a sky scraper can work in a pinch.
Architecture photography: From shots of cold harsh skyscrapers to intricate details of a 400 year old cathedral, architectural photography is all about how to showcase the interesting points of a building or structure.
Astrophotography: I have seen some absolutely amazing photography of our galaxy. Astrophotography is the term for photographers who like to lose sleep. Generally using tripods and extremely long shutter speeds, this type of photographer captures incredible starscapes, and light paintings that show how stars move in the sky as the earth rotates.
Black-and-white photography: This genre is simply telling a story or defining a model or subject with black and white photography. Not allowing color to distract the eye, but depending on contrast and shadows to create something amazing.
Body covering photography: This style of photo shoot generally uses rhinestones, glitter, small & large jewelry, and even temporary tattoos to cover a models body.
Body Paint photography: This photography style is applying paint to a model’s body. Using any sort of paint, from ultraviolet / black light, to acrylic, to water color paint. It is important to make sure the model is not allergic to anything. This can be a very abstract design, to something very specific, duplicating clothing. In some instances, multiples models are used together to paint an entire scene.
Body part photography: This is a very specific photo shoot dealing with very specific human body or even animal body part, ie. a hand, a paw, a muscle group, an ear, eyes. It does not allow for a full portrait of someone.
Boudoir / Lingerie: This is a sub style of portraiture, generally dealing with a soft, romantic or intimate, bedroom or dressing room vibe. This is almost always shot in studio or in an actual bedroom. It can be done with a male or female or, in some cases, a couple. It is more suggestive in nature, rather than explicit that you might find in glamour or erotic photography.
Candid photography: Candid photography is taken in the moment. It’s not staged or posed. Generally shot at an event such as a birthday party or a wedding.
Documentary photography: Simply put, documentary photography provides a straightforward representation of people, places, objects and events. This would be a news photographer style of shooting. Unlike a photoshoot where a photographer can tweak and adjust a model or their surroundings, documentary photography aims to capture reality and tell a true story.
Drone photography: Using a drone camera and remote to get unique angles on an event or landscape.
Erotic photography: This art photography style is usually sexually suggestive and provocative. Most commonly nude or in the state of undress or undressing, can be done in studio or on location. The word erotic means involving or arousing sexual desires.
Event photography: Simply shooting an event of some kind, wedding, corporate, nightlife, a stage performance. Various lighting set-ups and gear can be required. Completely done on location.
Fashion photography: This style is devoted to displaying clothes or fashion accessories, generally using a model. Used primarily for advertising purposes. Probably one of the oldest genres of photography.
Fetish photography: Fetish photography is a catch all phrase of taking pictures of people in fetishistic (yeah, it’s a word) situations, such as wearing leather or latex, bondage, ropes. Generally done is studio and covers a wide range of ideas, largely sexual, but not always.
Fine art photography: From still life to landscapes and even portraits, this kind of photographic expression is defined by the photographer. Subjects and shots pursued simply for the artistic purpose of the photographer is what puts these photos in the fine art category. They serve no commercial purpose and are the opposite of documentary photography.
Fitness photography: Originally, I was going to put this in sports, but there is a lil more involved here. Fitness photography showcases the human body. Clothed or unclothed, actions or still, oiled or dry, zoomed in on the strands of a muscle or showing the whole body. High key lighting with shadows makes for a dramatic fitness shoot. (Brett Seeley in Colorado is one of the best fitness photographers I know).
Food photography: Wow, can you guess this one??? Yep, simply taking mouthwatering shots of food! Generally used for advertising. A creative use of complimenting colors, angles, and garnishments can help create something incredible.
Glamour photography: Think fashion, but it’s about the person, not the clothes. Glamour photography focuses mainly on the beauty and charm of a person. Regardless of the outfits or accessories, it’s the expression, pose, and overall vibe of the model that is being caught.
Headshot photography: A more commercial form of portrait photography, headshots are professional photos used for resumes, websites, and social media profiles. Traditionally, a headshot is just the head, but over the last decade or so, it has come to be more and more of the body as well.
Implied Nude: This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a photo where the nudity is suggested. You can’t actually be certain how undressed the subject is. No naughty bits are actually showing. The proper use of clothing, props, and the right camera angle make for wonderful implied nude images.
Landscape photography: Landscape style is an incredibly challenging photography genres. Ansel Adams, one of the most famous landscape photographers took years and years to develop his craft. It involves learning the timing, lighting, and technical challenges of capturing ONE beautiful scene, and then doing it all over again for the next scenic scape.
Macro photography: EXTREME close-ups… Pretty much a big zoomed in photo of anything from an insect, to a bird, to a plant. With the right lighting and gear, this can be an incredible photo. This can wonder easily into abstract photography as well.
Nature / Plant photography: Exactly as it sounds, taking images of nature. This style easily crosses over into wildlife and landscape.
Nude photography: This is the creation of an image with a nude or semi-nude subject. Implied can cross over here, but usually not.
Pet photography: Get up close and personal with animals! People love photos of their pets. Animal photography comes with its own special challenges (namely teeth), but preparation and an ability to adapt during a shoot can help in major ways.
Portrait photography: Portrait photography includes a vast majority of other genres. It can be any age or sex, any composition of the subject, any location or studio. Generally, flattering lighting is used, but dramatic and high key lighting is still on the table here.
Product photography: From food to make-up to furniture, product photography showcases the wares of different brands. It’s a clear, enticing photo of the item.
Projection photography: This is a specialty for sure and still fairly new. It involves using a video or still image projector to cast images or lights onto a model. This style is almost always done in a very controlled studio.
Real estate photography: This is almost a subclass of architecture photography, but designed to take favorable images of a commercial or residential piece of property or structure that is for sale.
Sports photography: Documenting live sports, it may be anything from Peewee Football to the NBA, or any other competitive endeavor. Personally, I love photographing adventure races. There is actually some cross over here, as I have done sports photography for senior photos. Setting up and staging the action.
Stage / performance: Dance photography and/or performance photography is amazing when done properly. Capturing a ballerina in flight is simply thrilling or an actress giving a dramatic line can simply take your breath away. Using stage lighting that changes constantly is quite the challenge. I love doing stage photography.
Still life photography: Like the style of painting of the same name, still life photography encompasses photos of inanimate objects arranged in a specific composition. From the traditional bowl of fruit to an assortment of intriguing garage sale items, still life is a broad category. The skills needed to do still life can also help on a career path to food and product photography. Still life is like fine art, as it has no commercial value, simply the artists need for expression.
Surreal photography: Surrealism displays recognizable images in unique, dream-like ways. This can be an amazingly beautiful image or a deep dark disturbing one.
Underwater photography: Exactly that, underwater! Special cameras and housings, lights, and other gear are needed for this. But if you wanna catch the mermaid down under, this is where you have to go.
Wedding photography: I have been doing wedding photography for 30 years and I love it!!! Every wedding is different and challenging. Weddings are fluid and constantly in motion and changing. Your skills have to be with the camera, but also communication, scheduling, dealing with conflict, dealing with stressed individuals. It covers everything…and no second chances. I have known some amazingly talented photographers that wouldn’t touch a wedding. Local weddings, destination weddings, weddings in a cave – I have done em all and I always come home smiling!
Wildlife photography: This is where photographers go that have no life! LOL Total respect for these guys, this genres includes sitting for hours and hours watching and waiting. No playing on the cell phone, no making noises, no going to the bathroom, they literally sit and watch, waiting for some specific wildlife to poke their head out of their den. Simply astounding work by so many great photographers!
Yes, there are lots more types of photography!! And even more sub-genres, but this should help when you want to do a photo shoot and knowing what to tell your photographer. Good communication is the absolute key to photography and life!!!