Photography Types: Understand and Hone your Photo Style

Free Photography Bundle ($180 value): PS actions, LR presets, photo overlays, & print templates!
Get it here.

With so many people picking up photography as a hobby, there is a tendency for beginners and amateurs to get a little lost in the art. Therefore, learning about the various photography types is one way to better understand where your own abilities and interests lie.

Photography Types Every Professional Should Know

First of all, there are three basic genres of photography (Fine Art, Commercial, and Documenting). Within those categories, there are a lot of various styles and types. Some photographers will overlap or combine more than one style. Some styles may not always remain in their basic genre. For example, you might have a black and white shot of a war-torn country. That would be both fine art (black and white) and documentary (photojournalism). You might use a very long exposure to shoot a sports shot in an artistic way and not in a documentary way. As a result of familiarizing yourself with the industry, you may find that different styles inspire you in new ways.

Fine Art Photography

Photography is, without question, an art. Unlike many other art forms, photographers must capture their image in real time. Photos are created by an understanding of light, movement, technology, and frame. Photography types adhere to the same design principles (balance, emphasis, contrast, pattern, movement, rhythm, and variety) and art elements (shape, space, form, texture, line, value, and color) of any other art form. In fine art photography, the emphasis is on beauty and technique over experience, realism, advertising or idealism.

photography types

Photography Types: Fine Art Photography: Moody

First, moody photography involves dark hues and often grayed colors to cast a brooding feel over a photograph to evoke an emotion.

Photography Types: Fine Art Photography: Airy

Bright whites, lightened shadows, and intensified colors bring about a light and carefree feel to images.

Photography Types: Fine Art Photography: Macro

A small aperture number (1.8 or smaller) opens the lens wide, making the depth of field is very small. That very select point of focus paired with a lens that can focus on close objects is how macro photography magic happens. With macro photography, the viewer experiences textures and colors they might otherwise never notice.

photography types

Photography Types: Fine Art Photography: Abstract

Not all photography has a subject matter or story. Some images rely on the pattern, color, repetition, and light to interest the viewer.

photography types

Photography Types: Fine Art Photography: Black and White

From 1826 (when the first photograph was taken by Joseph Niepce) to 1861, images were all black and white. This style of photography is outdated and unnecessary in the literal sense, but still very beautiful and appealing. Almost all black and white images rely on contrast, value and texture over color.

photography types

Photography Types: Fine Art Photography: Long-Exposure

Changing the exposure setting can lead to artistic license with even the most cut and dry subjects. Unlike time-lapse photography, the long exposure is used for visual effect and not necessarily to signify time.

Documentary Photography

Photography can document a moment, feeling or specific occasion. Documentation of those moments is different than the artistic or commercial photography types. Capturing an event takes skilled timing and a trained eye to catch the big moments.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Event Photography 

Weddings might be the best-known type of photographed event, but fundraisers, graduations, parties, births, charity events, breaking ground and other big moments are often photographed too. Photography at an event needs to show off the overall feel without missing the details or important moments.

Photography Types: Documentary: Photojournalism

When there are stories to tell, photographers are some of the loudest voices. A picture says a thousand words. Photographers have changed our feelings on the realities of war, poverty, sickness, success, greed, desperation, culture and more.

Photography Types: Documentary: Candid Photography

Unposed shots that capture a moment are very effective at evoking the emotion of the viewer and capturing the feel of the moment or event photographed.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Portraiture

Portraits are set up, but still documenting something specific in the subject’s life. While some shots, like a headshot, might be better classified as Commercial, the majority are commemorating an achievement or time in life (like a wedding).

View this post on Instagram

Goin' up on a Tuesday.

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

Photography Types: Documentary: Sports

The fast-moving world of sports requires a quick eye, anticipation and top-notch equipment for the best shots. Indoor sports require extensive rafter flashes to get balanced lighting. Perhaps the trickiest part of sports photography is knowing where to be and not missing the big moments as they flash past.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Wildlife

Animals are wary of people and don’t often cooperate. Wildlife photography has the same thrill as hunting with a very different result. Photographers of wild animals often try to get the beautiful close-up shots that show the animal in its element.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Landscapes

Ansel Adams is the most well-known landscape photographer, working largely in the American West. Photographs focusing on landscapes offer texture, form, and perspective, unlike other subjects. Large landscapes can be difficult because of lighting, weather, lack of control and tourists.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Aerial

With drones, aerial photography is becoming more popular than ever before. People often use the art of aerial photography to show the changing landscape of a given location over time or to show the bigger perspective.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Weather

Storm chasers and golden hour photographers live for the changing weather to impact their pictures in ways photoshop can’t. Dark stormy clouds or wild winds can make beautiful images, but following the bad weather can also be dangerous.

photography types

Photography Types: Documentary: Street

The grittiness of the street is a different feel altogether. Urban photographers often shoot the concrete jungles with a sharp eye for human behavior and a grungy or color-saturated style.

Photography Types: Documentary: Time Lapse

Photography that utilizes slower shutter speeds can show the changes occurring over a period of time. Many photographers use time-lapse photography to show celestial changes in the night sky.

Commercial Photography

Certainly, for a while, there was a debate as to whether sales art was really art. But advertising requires an understanding of design, audience, and communication that goes beyond the other artistic styles. Commercial artists have to produce imagery that is technically flawless and visually enticing to succeed in their campaigns. Of all of the photography types, commercial photography is typically the best paying with a consistent job market.

Photography Types: Commercial: Fashion

Fashion photography is one of the most noteworthy areas of commercial photography. It is unquestionably artistic in nature and borderlines fine art. The primary focus of fashion photography is the product, but great fashion photographers work with models to get dynamic, creative images.

Photography Types: Commercial: Food

What looks edible is not always what tastes best. Most of the time, food photography should be brightly lit, vibrantly colored and shiny. To get the best shots, food photographers may use cooking spray to boost shine or fake ingredients for a product that holds up during a shoot. Indoor shots can result in dull, off-colored food, so the right lighting is very important. A bounced flash or natural window light makes the image more true to color.

photography types

Photography Types: Commercial: Product

Products without a model are another beast altogether. Some product photography is very technical to help show the potential customer the difference between items (like furniture might all need to be from the exact same distance and angle to show the variety of styles). This photography must show the item in its best light, but also cannot look better than the real thing.

photography types

Photography Types: Commercial: Architectural

Buildings can create beautiful images that sell a contractor’s skill, the architect’s mind, or just belong in a museum. Photography for buildings usually depends a lot on perspective and a wide depth of field to show off the structure in its entirety.

photography types

Photography Types: Commercial: Real Estate

Similarly, as with architectural photography, real estate photography shows off the character of a building. Real estate photography captivates potential buyers and makes them want to see the home. Realistic coloring, wide-angle shots and staging the space are all very important elements for real estate photos.

View this post on Instagram

I need more space. . "As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man…" – James Irwin, Apollo 15 . All my life I've been fascinated by the wonders and the mysteries of the universe. You can only start trying to comprehend it. The outer space is deep and mysterious. But also dark, empty and hostile. No matter how much it can captivate us and make us want to explore the stars, no matter how soon we might be forced to leave the Earth in search of "more space", everything and everyone you ever knew is on this little blue marble we call home. . Special thanks to @Lupolight_filmmaking for providing amazing LED lights! Equipment used: • 2 x @Lupolight_filmmaking Superpanels • @Lupolight_filmmaking Dayled 1000 • Nikon D600 • Nikkor 50 1.4 Model – @angelzheng_

A post shared by Anya Anti (@anya_anti_art) on

Photography Types: Commercial: Conceptual

A lot of photography may be conceptual. This photography type takes an idea and presents it through photographs alone. This is often helpful for advertising because it only takes a few seconds to see an image and ponder its meaning. As a result, most audiences are more willing to look at an intriguing photo than read a block of copy.

Photography Types: Commercial: Stock

Finally, in the right place, stock photography can illustrate a point. Because it is designed to work for just about anyone, stock photography is often generic and somewhat stiff. Consequently, business and artistic photographers see this style as the lowest point on the artistic totem pole of photography types.