If you’ve never dipped your toes into the world of photography, it might seem as simple as pointing your lens in the right direction and pressing a button.
But in reality, photography is an intricate art form with endless possibilities. So, if you’re just starting out on your photography adventure, it can be tricky to figure out where to begin.
Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, one thing you can do to make things easier is to pick a specific type of photography to focus on. Specialising can offer a more structured learning process, and help you develop your own style and artistic voice.
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up a list of 16 types of photography to master. From genres like nature and architectural photography to styles like surreal and abstract photography, we hope there’s something here to inspire you.
1. Abstract photography
Abstract photography is one of the least traditional photography styles but certainly one of the most interesting. The idea is to take pictures with little grounding in reality, instead using intriguing images, shapes, and colours to express artistic ideas and emotions.
Many abstract photographers like to play around with perspective – drawing in close to find new textures or pulling away to reveal exciting patterns.
The picture displayed above, for example, is a wide shot of mist-covered glacial rivers. But we wouldn’t necessarily know that at first glance. Instead, it might bring to mind ideas of the cardiovascular system or veins of sapphire ore embedded in rock.
To learn more about abstract photography, take a look at this article from Adobe.
2. Still-life photography
Like in painting or drawing, still-life photography involves taking pictures of inanimate objects. Its relative simplicity makes it a popular style to help beginners master their skills.
With that said, still-life photography offers a unique creative challenge for photography veterans too. Because the subjects are often relatively bland, everyday objects – a bowl of oranges, a vase of flowers – it’s up to the artist to experiment with things like light and composition to bring them to life.
If you’d like to learn more about still-life photography, take a look at this article from Format.
3. Documentary photography
Documentary-style photography is used to capture real-life events, people, and places accurately and objectively. In many ways, it’s the opposite of abstract photography.
In the 20th century, documentary photography was fundamental for reporting world events. However, with most of us now getting news through social media and TV, it’s become more common to use this style as an artistic pursuit – often with a motivation to spark social change.
So, if there’s a cause you’re passionate about and want to fight for through your photography, documentary style may be for you. Take a look at this article from Tate to learn more.
4. Fine art photography
‘Fine art’ describes any work of art that’s created to serve an intellectual or aesthetic purpose, rather than a practical one. In other words, it’s visually pleasing, expresses high-minded ideas, or demonstrates creative thinking. It’s what you might think of as ‘arty art’.
Like many of the photography types on this list, fine art photography isn’t a genre in itself – you might incorporate nature, portraits, long exposure, and abstract photography into the composition of your fine art pieces. However, it’s less about technical proficiency and more to do with evoking a feeling in your audience.
What separates fine art photography from an everyday snap is the thought behind it – try asking yourself: what ideas, emotions, and messages do I want to express?
Have a look at this article from iPhotography to learn more.
It’s often said that Mother Nature is the most talented artist around, and never is her work more beautiful and baffling than when we look to the skies at night.
Astrophotography – or the practice of taking images of the night sky – is a surprisingly accessible form of photography, thanks to modern technology. In fact, it’s possible to get great shots of the stars with just your smartphone and a tripod.
However, with some specialist equipment (like DSLR cameras and telescopes) and ingenious tricks of the trade, you can capture crystal-clear images of deep space phenomena, such as nebulae, planets, and galaxies.
To see what’s possible, check out the winners of this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. And to learn more about astrophotography and how to get started, why not read this beginner’s guide from Sky at Night?
6. Portrait photography
Portrait photography (sometimes called ‘portraiture’) involves taking curated pictures of an individual or group of people.
It’s perfect for those who love spending time with others because you’ll need to work closely with your subjects to arrange them into creative and flattering poses.
The job of a portrait photographer is to bring out and capture the personality and essence of their subjects. So, the better your interpersonal skills – such as empathy and being able to make people feel comfortable – the more genuine and engaging your snaps will be.
On the technical side, lighting is particularly important when it comes to portraits – with many artists using equipment like studio lights and reflectors. With this in mind, a good way to start your portraiture journey would be to learn the basics of lighting, which you can do here on the Creative Live website.
To find out more about portrait photography, check out this beginner’s guide from Format.
7. Architectural photography
The UK is the perfect playground for photographing architecture. From centuries-old, ornate bridges to brand-new towers of glass and steel, the possibilities are limitless.
Architectural photography is about much more than pointing at a building and snapping a shot. Instead, it involves exploring the interiors and exteriors of structures – using your lens to find fascinating patterns and entirely new perspectives that the original architects never imagined.
You might want to use a building’s textures to create thought-provoking, abstract artwork. Or, you could even try combining architectural photography with nature photography to explore the development of our ever-urbanising world on the environment.
To help you get started, check out this guide to architectural photography from Masterclass.
8. Pet photography
Are you an animal lover with a creative flair? Then why not combine your interests and learn pet photography?
Pet photography is essentially a form of portrait photography that also involves all the unique challenges (and joys) of working with animals – for example, getting them to look at the camera or sit still.
Like portrait photography, learning how to take professional photos of pets can lead to a lucrative side hustle or full-time career. There are currently 12 million dogs in the UK, and market research conducted by Rover.com found that nearly half of dog owners would be willing to pay more for professional portraits of their furry friends than ones of their families.
To learn more about pet photography, take a look at this article from Adobe.
9. Product photography
If you want to master a photography style with some earning potential, why not try your hand at product photography? Also known as ‘commercial photography’, it’s a form of still life that involves capturing items for advertising purposes.
The aim of product photography is to showcase items in their best light – highlighting their appealing features and details to convince shoppers to buy them. So you’ll need to be skilled at lighting and composition, as well as editing your images post-shoot.
As a product photographer, you could capture images of anything from a new line of skincare products to a restaurant’s latest dish.
To get some expert product photography tips, why not read this article from Adobe?
10. Surreal photography
Surrealism was an artistic movement that emerged in the early 20th century in response to the horrors witnessed during the First World War.
The movement rejected logical, rational, and objective ways of seeing the world and championed the strange creative potential of our unconsciousness and dreams. What followed was a flood of bizarre, beautiful, and profound art that looks like it’s been plucked from the farthest corners of our imagination.
If you’re a photographer looking for a new direction, why not join the ranks of creatives like Salvador Dalí and Jorge Luis Borges and start experimenting with surrealism? This blog post from Kate has some tips that may help.
11. Street photography
Photographer James Maher describes street photography as “candid photography of humanity”.
A sub-genre of documentary-style photography, it involves taking spontaneous, uncurated pictures of everyday life in urban public settings. Sometimes, the most unexpected scenarios – two men chatting at a bus stop on their way home from work, a queue outside a cinema – can produce the most profound photographs.
One of the challenges of street photography is getting perfectly candid photos, which might involve shooting from the hip at times. And you may need to do a fair bit of wandering before you find something worth snapping. But this is all part of the fun of being a street photographer!
For more information and advice on getting started with street photography, take a look at this guide from James Maher Photography.
12. Nature photography
Our natural world is truly spectacular. Tranquil and violent, comforting and terrifying, its limitless capacity for beauty has enraptured artists for centuries. So, if you’re looking for a photography focus, why not choose nature?
Before exploring the natural world through your viewfinder, it can help to first settle on a specific part of nature photography.
Nature photography is a wide genre that encompasses various styles and types of photography – and while you can set off into the wilderness to see what you find, choosing a niche can allow you to spend less looking for a subject and more time honing your photography skills.
For example, do you have a passion for the sea? Then, perhaps you’d like to perfect the art of underwater photography. Or maybe you’re a thrill seeker interested in chasing and capturing images of storms.
To get inspired, why not take a look at last year’s best wildlife photographs from National Geographic? And for some tips on capturing nature’s best angles, you can read this blog post from Expert Photography.
13. Event photography
Event photography involves taking photographs at events like birthday parties, weddings, business conventions, and music festivals. Being able to move around a function relatively unseen and document candid moments is a valuable skill, so once you’ve learned it, you could turn it into a profitable side hustle or career.
As well as the obvious moments – such as the vows at a wedding – a successful event photographer will always be on the lookout for smaller, equally memorable scenes: a bridesmaid fixing the flower girl’s hair or the fathers of the happy couple chatting over a beer.
One of the most exciting aspects of event photography is that it allows you to explore many aspects of the craft. For example, sometimes you’ll need to be a fly on the wall, capturing candid snaps, while other times you’ll need to arrange multiple people in a large portrait. Plus, it means you’ll get to attend exciting events!
For some advice on getting started with event photography, check out these handy tips from Expert Photography.
14. Landscape photography
The promise of the perfect landscape shot entices amateur and professional shutterbugs worldwide. But capturing the daunting majesty of a truly spectacular vista can be trickier than you might think.
Landscape photography is a great test of your composition skills, as you’ll need to move your camera skillfully to make the most of the different natural shapes on offer: a jagged mountain peak, an opalescent lake, or a thick bed of fluffy pines, for example. It’s the perfect type of photography to combine with long walks or cycle rides.
For some tips on capturing the perfect landscape shot, why not take a look at this article from Adobe?
15. Macro photography
Some technologies (like telescopes) can allow photographers to peek into worlds far beyond our reach, while others can help us see those hidden right under our noses. With the help of special lenses, macro photographers bring to life the tiny beauties that are all around us by taking close-ups of small subjects.
To master macro photography, you’ll need to invest in a macro lens. These have a shallow field of depth, which means they can focus with great clarity on tiny objects while leaving the backgrounds blurry.
Mastering macro photography opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Perhaps you’ll want to create abstract pictures by zooming in on the strange, difficult-to-see textures of everyday items. Or maybe you want to bring the world of insects in your garden to life as a nature photographer.
For some tips on becoming a macro photography maestro – including some advice on lenses – why not read this article from Adobe?
16. Drone photography
Have you ever taken a photo and thought, ‘Hm, if only I could get higher’ or ‘This would look great if I could get closer’? Perspective is one of the key tenets of photography – and while finding the right one can make the difference between a mediocre picture and a spectacular one, it’s often easier said than done.
However, the invention of drones has helped photographers access never-before-seen perspectives. A drone can allow you to take your photography to new heights: snapping aerial shots, accessing a whole host of new angles, getting close to subjects that are tricky to reach, and taking photos of timid wildlife without disturbance.
But learning to fly a drone is a skill in itself, and you’ll have to familiarise yourself with all the rules and regulations surrounding them – for example, you can’t fly over 120m or near an airport. This article from Canva will give you a good introduction to the craft of drone photography.
From creating thought-provoking, abstract pieces of fine art to immortalising someone’s special day, there are plenty of different styles and genres of photography to master.
While it can be helpful to pick one of these to focus on when you’re starting out, it’s important to remember that you can try as many as you like. Finding your own voice and artistic style can often mean experimenting with various types of photography, taking aspects of each to build something that feels right.
For more photography tips, check out our articles: A beginner’s guide to photography and How to take better photos with your phone. And, for a more in-depth learning approach, why not take one of the comprehensive courses available through our website?
Do you have a favourite type of photography? If so, what is it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.