Which kind of photography is right for you?
If you’ve been practicing photography for a while now, you’ve likely tried experimenting with multiple types of photography. It’s perfectly natural to try different types of photography when you’re just starting out. If you want to really excel in one, make it a career, and effectively market yourself as a specific type of photographer, you’ll eventually have to choose just one.
Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself when choosing a niche:
What do you enjoy doing?
By now, even if you happen to be a complete beginner, you’ve probably read about one or two niches that may sound fascinating and exciting to you. And if you’re an aspiring, practicing, or semi-professional photographer, you’ve probably already found a niche that you love.
If you enjoy exploring a particular photography niche, it’s a good sign that you may have found the right one for you. After all, why would you keep doing something that doesn’t interest you or suit your personality?
What are you actually good at?
What you love doing is not always going to be what you’re good at. There can only be two solutions to this. You can do your best to improve in the category that you love until you become highly skilled at it. Or, you learn how to love what you have a natural talent for.
Will you be needing additional equipment?
Some niches require you to upgrade your gear with additional, more expensive lenses, extra camera bodies, and a whole set of other accessories that can really add up to the bulk and expenses. And if you’re not ready to make the investment, you’d be better off with other niches that you can afford to explore with your current set of gear.
Does it suit your personality and lifestyle?
Many of these niches will require you to go out of your comfort zone. They will put you under intense pressure, and maybe even put your life at risk. You are free to push your own limits, of course. However, know that it will present even more challenges and hardships that may or may not be worth the effort and money.
What’s the competition like?
Popular niches like fashion photography and portrait photography have a huge market and therefore pay well. This makes it very difficult to break into them. If you’re confident enough about your vision and skill, you can try pursuing them. Or, you can break into a more specific niche within a niche. Consider food, toys, jewelry, or cosmetics under product and still life photography.
How much does it pay?
Some niches pay more and offer more steady work than the rest. Make sure to do your research about the pay scale of your niche so you know what to expect. But if you don’t mind doing it for service or even for artistic self-fulfillment, then you can pretty much try your hand at any of the niches mentioned above.
Does it allow you to work locally?
Many photographers are often obligated to fly off to different parts of the world for each project. However, if you’re not into that kind of jet-set lifestyle, then you may want to look into a different niche that will allow you to stay within your area.
Whatever you’re interested in, be it people, animals, nature, food or fashion, there’s a type of photography geared around that specific subject matter. Everything under the sun, literally, is something you can photograph. And the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. Discover your path with this list of genre open to hobbyists and professional photographers alike.
In photography, the subject is simply the object (or person or critter) that is shown in the image. But a single photograph can show several things — which one is the subject? The subject is the focus on the image, both literally as the sharpest point in the photograph and in a more figurative sense.
The subject leads the photographer’s decisions about aspects like lighting, composition, exposure settings and more. How do you decide what shutter speed to use without knowing if your subject is standing still or moving? How do you decide where to frame the scene without knowing what your subject is? The subject, then, plays an essential role in shaping the entire image.
Sometimes, the subject is chosen for you — when I’m hired to shoot senior photos, for example, the subject is the graduate-to-be. But often, the subject is left up to the photographer, both in what the object is and how it is portrayed.
Photographers often choose subjects by what inspires them — something in the scene that stands out, something that’s out-of-the-ordinary, or simply something they want to remember. Photography allows us to show others our own view of the world, and that’s often all the inspiration a photographer needs to find a subject.
The subject is essential to an image, and yet amazing photographs have been shot of things as everyday as a raindrop or a spoon. Subjects don’t necessarily have to be extraordinary to create a special image — though the photographer may have to work harder to find a unique way to portray that ordinary object.
While the subject is often the first thing that the photographer decides on, that’s not always the case. Photographers may decide on a subject after spotting great light, choosing something already in the scene that the light hits just right.
Photography subjects don’t necessarily have to be things either, or at least not easily identifiable things. Abstract photography focuses on an object’s shape or patterns. An image may actually be of folded paper, out-of-focus lights or ripples on water — in abstract photography, what the subject really is doesn’t matter — it’s the shape or pattern that it creates.
Photograph the natural world.
If plants, animals or the outdoors interest you, these types of photography might be right for you.
Travel Photography: Travel photography can include a variety of subjects taken while traveling. It can cover many sub-genres, too, such as portraiture, landscape photography, food photography, nature and wildlife photography, and even architecture photography and cityscapes. You can experiment with each of these styles of photography while you explore new places and enjoy new experiences.
Talented travel photographers, such as Ana Linares, have grown their business to include travel photography, videography, and social media. The possibilities are endless in this photography type, and the more you better your travel photos, the more success you’ll find.
Nature photography: Get tips for capturing the great outdoors and wildlife photography. With weather to work around and lighting you can’t always control, it’s important to plan ahead and bring the right gear, whether your aim is photos of mountains, trees or deer.
Another rewarding and well-paying niche is wildlife photography. Due to the obvious challenge of capturing good and clear images of wild animals without intruding on their natural habitats, a job in this niche requires major upgrades in camera equipment, wildlife accessories, and a whole lot of safety measures.
Not everybody can be a wildlife photographer. This is why people pay a good amount of money for these types of photos. Wildlife photography typically takes place in challenging conditions in some of the most dangerous and remote parts of the world. You’ll find that many techniques involved in sports photography are also useful in this niche.
Landscape photography: Learn more about the timing, lighting and technical challenges of capturing beautiful vistas, dense forests or vast deserts. Get tips from landscape photographers on the necessity of a tripod and which lenses and shutter speeds are best.
Those who love to travel have surely taken a lot of landscape photos. Contrary to popular belief, this type of photography is not limited to horizontal photos. Many landscape photographers find that shooting vertically lets you shoot tall trees, mountains, and anything else that you may feel compelled to capture while exploring the great outdoors. Landscape photographers work at all times of day, from sunrise to sunset, and even long after dark to capture a landscape below the night sky.
This generation also offers us more creative possibilities with drones. With such technology, it has become much easier to capture a bird’s eye view of landscapes, breathing in more depth to our shots. To really get the best results, you’ll need to upgrade from your smartphone or compact digital camera. Invest in the proper gear, and use the right lenses for landscape photography.
Astrophotography: For those who find themselves staring into the night sky in wonder, astrophotography (a form of long exposure photography) is a good photography genre to explore. With tripods and extremely long shutter speeds, you can capture stunning starscapes, time-lapse images and light paintings that show how stars move in the sky as the Earth rotates.
Astrophotography has the sky as a subject matter. You can photograph the night sky full of stars or focus on astronomical objects and events, such as comets, asteroids, the Northern lights, and eclipses.
It is one of the hardest types of photography because it requires astronomy knowledge, planning, dedicated gear, and optimal weather conditions. Furthermore, astrophotography usually requires traveling to where the astronomical objects and events occur and, of course, staying up all night to capture them.
To photograph the night sky, you’ll need a high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera, wide lenses, and a solid tripod. Most photographs require long exposures, so make sure you stabilize and level the camera. Also, forget about using the camera in Autofocus mode and learn to focus manually. Instead, start with wide apertures, a high ISO (1600 or higher), and a slow shutter speed (20 seconds or higher). The exact settings need to take into account the focal length, and even the rotation of the Earth.
It is both a complex style of photography, but also a genre that can leave you amazed by the natural beauty of the Universe. Also, master the rules of composition because the vast scenery of the sky requires precision, imagination, and the ability to add a sense of depth.
Storm photography: If the sky within our troposphere piques your interest, you can study weather and take incredible photos through lighting and storm photography. The right gear and safety precautions are essential when shooting weather. With patience, practice and the right timing, electrifying pictures are in your future.
Weather photography is basically outdoor photography that mainly showcases different—usually harsh and extreme—weather conditions, such as hurricanes, snowstorms, sandstorms, hailstorms, and even thunderstorms. Many photographers around the world chase life-threatening storms to capture the beauty of what we are usually quick to hide and run away from. Using time-lapse, long exposure, multiple exposure, and other unique techniques, weather photographers can help depict the power and speed of various weather patterns and phenomena.
When given the chance, this niche will pay you well and reward you with possibly award-winning images, but whether it’s worth the effort to shoot and risk your life is up to you.
Pet photography: Get up close and personal with animals and take photos of people’s pets. Animal photography comes with its own special challenges, but preparation and an ability to adapt during a shoot will help you to snap great shots. Plus, learn some post-processing techniques to make photos of dogs and cats with dark fur pop.
Pet photography follows many of the same concepts and techniques of portrait photography, except you can have a bit more fun with pet photography. That’s because you can worry less about making your subject look good, and you can experiment with unique techniques like shooting close-up with a wide-angle lens. Digital photography makes it easy to experiment by taking lots of photos without worrying about wasting film or adding expense.
Whether you’re doing cat or dog photography — or capturing any number of furry friends — this photography type can be challenging if you’re not prepared. Work closely with the pet parents and encourage them to be involved in their pet’s photoshoot. This is an easy way to capture some of the best pet pictures around.
Macro photography: From insects and small birds to extreme close-ups of flowers and fruits, macro photos make the small appear larger than life. These photos can require a macro lens to capture and the plane of focus is very narrow, making a steady workspace essential. But with photography tips and advice from pros, you can investigate this window into a smaller world.
Those who want to take truly incredible images tend to like macro photography. Capturing objects to make them look much bigger than they really are is relatively easy. Of course, this is as long as you have the right equipment. You can simply equip your smartphone with a clip-on macro lens accessory or, for more ideal high-resolution results, use a macro lens with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
If you’re looking for regular photography work, macro photography may not be the right niche for you. Nonetheless, it’s a great genre for those who want to capture artistic, highly compelling photos of living or inanimate objects.
Flower photography: For those more interested in flora than fauna, flower photos are a great genre of photography to explore. These passive subjects are a good way for beginners to learn about shallow depth of field, lighting, exposure and other skills.
Capture cityscapes and structures.
It can be artistic or commercial when you photograph man-made structures and the tips for showing buildings in their most compelling light vary depending on your goal.
Architecture photography: From shots of skyscrapers to gothic gargoyles, architectural photography is all about how to showcase the interesting vantage points of buildings and highlighting their intriguing features. A wide-angle lens and knowledge of how to shoot in natural light will help.
If you’re looking for a niche that offers a constant stream of projects, you may want to look into architecture photography.
Photos of the exteriors and interiors of buildings and other structures within broader cityscapes can be of great use to designers, architects, leasing companies, and potential investors. It’s a mix of artistic and technical skills and may involve some serious knowledge in the elements of art and proper composition. This niche can sometimes be confused with real estate photography, which also involves photographing structures (mainly houses, apartments, or condominiums) and their interiors. You can technically switch between the two, as they both use similar equipment and skills.
Real estate photography: For a more commercial take on building photography, real estate photography provides an opportunity to build a career capturing home photos. Advice on technical choices surrounding gear and lighting can help you to build a foundation to grow your real estate photography skills.
Drone photography: You can take nature photos from the air, but drones bring an especially unique perspective to photographs of buildings, highways and bridges. Discover the challenges involved when you pilot a drone to snap pictures and gain advice on how to get the best images from this bird’s eye view.
Have you ever wondered how the world looks from above? Many landscape, event, and real-estate photographers use drones to take pictures from high above their subjects. It is a way of capturing very wide shots and revealing unique perspectives of a subject.
Drone photography was boosted by technological innovations that provide easy and affordable access to high-tech 4K drones. Moreover, there is a growing commercial interest in drone photographs. You’ll find plenty of tips for taking amazing photos with the help of a drone. However, drones are still subject to strict regulations in some parts of the world and may require registration, so make sure you plan your photo session wisely.
To enter the world of drone photography, you need dedicated gear and lots of practice. You not only have to acquire technical and compositional photography skills, but you should also learn how to control the drone. Drone photography is used for documentaries, weddings, nature and landscape photography, real estate photography, stock photos, and more. Before starting this journey, take some time to understand what motivates you and what you want to achieve.
Aerial photography: Aerial photography encompasses any photo taken from an elevated perspective, including drones. Whether you want to try your hand at photography from a helicopter or the top of a skyscraper, investigate the ins and outs of this sky-bound method of shooting.
Work with people.
From fashion photography to personal portraits, these types of photography are perfect if you want to take aim at people.
Portrait photography: Portrait photographers need a mastery of their camera and an ability to make a subject feel at ease. A great portrait is more than a good picture of someone, it tells their story. Get more information on portrait lighting and sitting and hand poses for your subjects to help improve your shoots.
Portraiture is arguably one of the most popular types of photography. Today, virtually anybody can practice this genre of photography with their smartphone. With powerful specs becoming more accessible and social media platforms promoting sharing the activities and highlights of everyday life, it’s become natural to point and shoot.
Also known as candid photography, the beauty of portrait photography is that it allows you to capture a subject’s personality. This can be done through poses, close-ups, and evoking genuine expressions. Professional photographers in this niche normally photograph supermodels or famous personalities on red carpets or at magazine shoots. In some cases, they also do graduation pictures, family portraits, and headshots for aspiring models and actors.
For a more compelling portrait, follow top portraiture tips from the pros and make sure to highlight your subject’s best features by playing with lighting, shadows, and distance.
Newborn, baby, or infant photography is essentially the same as portrait photography, but we’re listing it as its own niche due to the unique challenges that come with it. Aside from newborns being very fragile, their eyes are sensitive to light, so you’ll need to get the right gear and learn how to use your camera to make the most out of the available light. Babies also have difficulty regulating their body temperatures, so your studio will have to be cold or warm enough, depending on your precious subject’s clothing.
Did we mention that their bowel movements can also be very unpredictable? One newborn photography session can be the craziest in your entire career, but it can also be the most rewarding.
Family photography is one of the oldest types of photography. Not so long time ago, people didn’t have personal cameras and smartphones. Instead, they relied on a professional photographer to record their family’s life milestones. So, going to a photo studio for a family portrait was a regular activity.
Nowadays, family photography is an established business. It is commercial and artistic at the same time. It means much more than owning a studio and having a family pose before a fake background. Family photography requires managing a small group of people in different locations, arranging the décor and coming up with props ideas, finding the best family poses for any location and personality, dealing with children, and continuing to upskill and come up with new ideas.
For this style of photography, you need to find your voice and uniqueness, experiment with different types of lenses, and be extremely creative. Like many other popular photography styles, you have to continuously find new perspectives and creative ideas for family shoots to stay in front of the competition and make your clients happy.
Headshot photography: A more commercial form of portrait photography, headshots are professional photos used for resumes, websites and social media profiles. Learn how headshots differ from portraits and how to snap a great business-ready shot of a subject.
Headshot photographs are pictures of a single person, framed from the chest up. They are required for passports and ID cards, driving licenses, school albums, diplomas, business documents, websites, etc. Most of the time, the photos have a plain headshot background to make the person’s features stand out.
Although you can easily see the commercial aspect of headshot photography, there is also an artistic part to it. It isn’t easy to take pictures of people from a short distance. Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera. Furthermore, you need to find a way to capture their personality and make the headshot look good in artificial lighting and with a fake background.
A good tip is to use a telephoto lens and a tripod and keep the camera farther away from the subject. Another idea is to avoid using the flash and use continuous lights instead. Give the person some time to adjust to the environment, find a pose that suits them, and relax.
Fashion photography: Work with models to create stylish photoshoots. Whether your aim is runway photography, catalogue or editorial shots, the ability to take client direction and give guidance to models, all while snapping great shots, is key.
When people think of a job in photography, many suggest fashion photography. For decades it has remained one of the most lucrative niches. Most like, this is thanks to the demand for it in advertising and marketing.
Fashion photos typically feature supermodels and celebrities in high-fashion clothes, shoes, and accessories. Due to the need to showcase the outfits, this niche usually involves a lot of full body shots. However, it can also involve some portrait shooting. You may want to practice your portraiture skills if you want to get into fashion photography.
Depending on the clothing style, fashion can take you anywhere—from studios with full lighting setups and modeling runways to the great outdoors. If you want to break into fashion photography, you’ll need to equip yourself with a lot of skill in dealing with different kinds of people, in posing, and in both the artistic and technical aspects of the craft.
Sports photography: While documenting live sports falls more into the realm of photojournalism, more commercial sports photography can showcase apparel and products, typically worn by an athlete. Whichever type of sports photos you hope to take, the ability to work in fast-paced environments with and around people is essential.
Sports photography is a more professional niche that involves a lot of high-speed shooting. Photographers who shoot sports are normally armed with dedicated sports cameras and long and heavy lenses that are capable of zooming in to where the action is. These lenses are also specially made to shoot at fast shutter speeds, without ending up with underexposed images.
Sports arenas are regularly packed with photographers, so the competition for a slot is still pretty tough. If you want to try your hand at sports photography, crank up your ISO so you can use faster shutter speeds, experiment with angles and lenses, and always be prepared to aim and click that shutter.
Not to be confused with street photography, photojournalism is a vocation that typically covers specific scenes and stories for the news. It uses elements of street photography to take objective photos that are more historic in scope. And because they tend to get published in newspapers, professional photojournalists get paid a good amount of money for their work, particularly if they are affiliated with newspapers, magazines, book publishers, or certain agencies and organizations.
Photojournalism is another niche where it becomes crucial to capture not necessarily picture-perfect shots, but those candid moments that best tell the story. Get inspired by the work of renowned and award-winning photojournalists Carol Guzy, Taylor Rees, Al Satterwhite, and more.
Documentary photography: Chronicle community events and other important aspects of people’s lives in this genre for aspiring photojournalists or anyone with an inquiring nature. Unlike a curated photoshoot where a photographer can tweak and adjust a model or their surroundings, documentary photography aims to capture reality and, through photos, tell a true story.
Ever heard of war photographers? These brave people of the press are part of the documentary photography niche, along with other photojournalists that cover social and political problems that are a lot more historically significant. They capture raw emotion in real-life situations and significant moments in time. Images tend to be given more universal captions as they don’t merely cover local rallies or any other celebrity.
If you aspire to take timeless photos of world issues or of presidents for some of the greatest magazines, documentary photography may be for you.
Take lifestyle photos.
From momentous occasions to the little moments of everyday life, get snapshots of the world and people around you with these styles of candid photography.
Street photography: A perfect place to start for budding photographers, this form of lifestyle photography focuses on capturing life in a certain setting. From a bustling market to a scene from a local park, if you can be agile enough to find new perspectives while being observant of your surroundings, you can shoot intriguing street photography.
For those who bring their camera everywhere and enjoy exploring their artistic freedom, street photography is a particularly appealing niche. It’s a unique type in photography that documents the human condition, day or night. It captures unplanned events as they unfold, usually with no central theme or topic. The best part is that you can use different types of cameras for street photography and a variety of camera settings.
Usual subjects include street vendors, street food, children, graffiti artworks, and a lot of concrete, sometimes in black-and-white. They don’t necessarily have to be taken in the streets, as long as they highlight or portray the reality of the outside world.
Fortunately for many street photographers, such photos often get featured in magazines, blogs, and newspapers. However, there isn’t always a guarantee of steady income. Street photographers usually shoot wherever they wish and at their own convenience instead of on a per-project basis.
Wedding photography: Event photography of the biggest day of a couple’s life is a big responsibility. But with the right equipment, practice and preparation, you can get great wedding photos. Learn the technical and environmental details wedding photographers need to shoot photos during a long, busy wedding day.
Wedding photography has a single subject matter (i.e., a wedding) but many approaches. For example, you can take the commercial way and use the same pattern for all the wedding photo sessions you attend. Or you can embrace candid wedding photography and take snapshots without asking people to pose for you. There are also portraits, engagement surprises, trash-the-dress photo sessions, couple albums, and wedding ring close-ups. As a wedding photographer, you have to be fast, creative, and master many photography styles.
Because it is so versatile, wedding photography requires a broad range of gear and accessories. You will need lenses for every situation, filters, tripods, and flash units. Moreover, sometimes you will need to change the photo set up so quickly that it is easier to have a second camera ready, with a different lens and filters.
If you are breaking into beginner or amateur wedding photography, consider your budget or select a few styles you can manage. You don’t have to do everything from the beginning. You can start by offering private photo sessions for the bride and groom and then advance to photograph church ceremonies and parties.
Event Photography: Event photography is a wide and popular niche that includes many specific kinds of events, such as concerts, birthdays, corporate meetings, and weddings. It usually involves a mix of different photography techniques as you may be taking pictures of everything from people and their candid moments to the venue and the food.
What makes a good portfolio for these types of photography, especially for wedding photographers and concert photographers, is knowing how to tell a story with your pictures, rather than just covering the event itself. It will obviously take a lot of practice, particularly in dealing with people and covering a specific type of event. You’ll also need a variety of lenses to successfully bag each shot in your “shot list” and not miss any important moments.
We all think we are good at taking pictures with our phones, but mobile photography is much more than that. It is, in fact, one of the most misunderstood types of photography. Mobile photography means taking artistic photographs using a phone. The subject matter isn’t important, as long as the photographs can stay in line with those captured with a professional camera. There are amazing examples of fashion and travel photographs taken with a phone camera that impressed the world and ended in galleries and exhibitions.
While you can rely on the phone’s camera, most mobile photographers use an add-on lens to improve the quality of their images. Phone cameras have small sensors, have very wide lenses, and don’t perform well in low lighting conditions. Therefore, you can avoid situations where the phone camera doesn’t work well or use an add-on lens.
The great joy of mobile photography comes from the freedom of movement. Because it is so tiny and lightweight, a phone takes pictures from any angle. You can try any ideas that come to your mind. Besides, you always have the phone with you, so capturing candid snapshots will be very easy.
Social Media Photography
Exhibiting your photos and becoming famous on social media is a trend that won’t go away soon. But like with all other types of photography, this one has rules too. Social media photography means finding a subject matter and a way to photograph it that is appealing to your target audience. It also means creating high-quality images within the requirements of a particular social media platform, which may limit the pixel size of your images, aspect ratio, or file format. Furthermore, you should know a thing or two about social media algorithms and strategies. These factors determine what type of photographs you can share, how often you should post, and how many followers you’ll have.
Regarding choosing a camera for social media photography, you should first consider the image quality you need. No social media platforms will accept RAW files, so aiming for a good JPEG quality seems the best idea. If you travel a lot, you may want to use a lightweight camera, such as a mirrorless or a phone camera. If you mix photo and video content, you may want a professional mirrorless camera and a few accessories. Social media photography is versatile and a good place to start marketing your work.
Learn commercial photography skills.
If you want to turn a photography hobby into a source of income, these types of photography might be up your alley.
Food photography: The ability to take mouthwatering shots of food can help you to score commercial gig creating restaurant ads, menu photos and images for hospitality websites. It’s also a great skill to build if you want to post appetizing shots on social media. Food photographers can even licence out their work as stock photography. Learn the tricks of the trade to help you to cook up some good food photos.
If we were writing this article about a decade ago, the food photography niche would be a lot harder to break into. Fortunately, today’s social media generation has influenced us to keep taking photos of our food, whether for fun or for marketing purposes.
With today’s camera phone specs, it may not even be necessary to use a professional standalone camera. A decent camera phone and the right lighting for food photography are enough for truly mouthwatering food shots.
Just make sure that the correct white balance is set in order to get accurate colors. You can also boost the saturation of your images (especially the reds and yellows) in post-processing to make your food look even more appealing.
Stock photography is another growing niche among today’s professional photographers. Stock photographers supply and sell photos that will be licensed for specific uses. Although it’s been around since the advent of photography, the market for stock photos has increased significantly. This is likely due to the growing demand for it in blogs, websites, and for digital marketing purposes.
It’s not exactly one of the most popular ways of getting into photography. However, stock photography can be a good source of income. It allows you to work for yourself at your convenience. Plus, you get passive income from repeat sales. If you don’t mind taking a lot of pictures and not being able to really explore your artistic freedom, it works.
Product photography: From trainers to camping equipment to makeup, product photographers showcase the wares of different brands in clear, enticing photos. Explore tips for styling and editing shots of products.
Create artistic shots.
Discover new ways to craft intriguing images through these different explorations of photographic art.
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.
As the name entails, this popular photography niche mainly involves taking photos of inanimate objects. It crosses over to product photography, through which advertising agencies have branded items photographed for catalogs, magazines, and billboards. You can feature just one main product or several that follow a central theme, just like in the photo above.
One of the secrets in taking amazing still life photos is to have great lighting, whether outdoor or indoor. In product photography, many photographers use a lightbox. This eliminates harsh shadows by illuminating the item from all angles.
Long Exposure Photography
Long exposure photography involves making use of your camera’s technical abilities to hold the shutter open for longer periods of time—which allows you to capture surreal images that we won’t ever get to see with the naked eye. This genre crosses over to night photography and astrophotography, which can result in incredible light streaks, starbursts, and stunning gradients (at the very least) in what appears to be a dull black sky in real life. It also includes the use of an ND filter during daytime to capture velvety smooth lakes and frothy rivers.
Given that long exposure photography requires the use of long shutter speeds, you’ll definitely need to upgrade your gear with a tripod, a remote shutter release, a camera with good low-light performance, and real skill in manual photography.
Black-and-white photography: This stark form of photography can be perfect for inspiring artistic output, but it’s also a helpful practice for learning the foundational skills of photo composition, without the distraction of colour.
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. Fine art is a type of photography that involves the sale of prints (or digital images) for pure appreciation. The focus of fine art photography is the photographer themselves, their techniques, their preferred subjects, and the statements they make with their work. To begin a career in fine art photography — like fine art photographer Brooke Shaden — you’ll need to develop a personal style that others will be able to recognize as your own.
Double exposure photography: Double exposure, a once-manual photo effect made more accessible by digital editing software, stacks two images to create a new piece. Learn the technique, then follow your inspiration to try and create new kinds of double-exposed photos.
Surreal photography: If provocative images are your goal, surreal photography is a great genre to explore. Surrealism displays recognisable images in unique, dream-like ways. This is a perfect medium to pursue if you’re interested in creating composite images from existing photos.
Abstract photography: Abstracts are all about point of view. Zoom in close on the cracked earth or zoom out on an aerial shot to find intriguing perspectives. If you’re interested in capturing novel views of familiar objects and landscapes, this is the type of photography for you.
Abstract photography is one of the photography styles with deep roots within art. It is inspired by the art movements from the beginning of the 19th century, such as the Cubist, Futurist, and Surrealist currents.
Abstract photography goes beyond the realistic representation of the world and renounces recognizable objects as the primary subject matter. Instead, it focuses on geometry, microscopic designs, concepts, and ideas.
If you want to capture amazing abstract photography, you should start by training your eye to see the unusual and create structural compositions with symbolic meanings. Abstract photos aren’t just aesthetic; they have a narrative, atmosphere, and powerful message. Study the history of art and the artworks of your favorite artists, and try to understand why their works are so impactful and reach your heart. Lines, colors, and shapes work together to build a scene, and this should be your purpose as an abstract photographer.
Among the most famous abstract photographers are Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan, John Baldessari, and Jackie Ranken. Whether they turned their lenses on people, nature, or still life, their artworks look like nobody else’s, are easy to recognize, and arouse strong feelings.
No matter which of these popular types of photography you choose to pursue, a good understanding of foundational photography skills will help you. Learn more about focal length, shutter speed, ISO, aperture and depth of field. And hone your skills with different photo composition guidelines, like the rule of thirds. For absolute beginners, learn more about whether a DSLR or mirrorless camera is right for you. However you start, with editing tools like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop at your disposal, you can enhance or add filters to photos and much more. There’s so much to discover, but the first step is to select a subject or genre and get out there and shoot.
Think about your professional end product
When you’ve thought about what kinds of subject matter you’re interested in, which style suits you, and which niche you might fit into, the next step towards becoming a professional photographer is thinking about your end product.
If you’re interested in showcasing your photography as an artist, you’ll need to consider which shots will go in your professional portfolio. Choosing your best work and displaying it in a fine-tuned portfolio will help you break into the professional world. Then, you’ll need to submit portfolios to galleries and artistic contacts. You want to show your work in the best light, which is why Printique’s professional portfolio books are the perfect tool for beginners and established photographers alike.
It’s important to choose the theme, style, and quality that best represent you as an artist. Whatever your style and subject matter, collecting your photos in a high-end portfolio book is the perfect way to express yourself professionally.
Professional printed products
If your preferred niche is more commercial, you still need to anticipate the end products you’ll provide your clients. Professionals, from event photographers to portrait photographers, will profit from offering high-quality, polished photo products such as:
Photo prints: The first thing you should offer your photography clients is a selection of prints in multiple sizes and styles. From glossy to matte and everything in between, Printique offers professional-quality photographic paper, fine art paper, and vibrant prints for serious photographers.
Photo books: Whether you’re snapping photos of a wedding, an aspiring model, or your own artistic shots, collecting your photos in a photo book is perfect for you and your clients. Professional-quality photo albums are an ideal way to capture individual moments or a body of work in one vibrant, impressive product.
Photo wall decor: When you become more established in your niche, branching out to new photo products is a fun way to build your client base. Printing your photos and turning them into wall decor offers your clients artistic opportunities to enjoy every snapshot. We recommend products like canvas prints, collages, framed prints and more to decorate their homes.
Photo calendars: Everyone loves an artistic calendar—especially when it’s full of their favorite photos. Offer your clients the opportunity to turn your photos into a calendar they can enjoy all year. You can sell calendars with your own photos and themes or turn a client’s photoshoot into a personalized calendar keepsake.
Custom photo cards: Whether you’re selling stock cards with your best snapshots or customizing prints for your clients’ custom needs, photo cards are a gorgeous way to put your work to use.
Improve your Images with Photography Projects
Have you ever been in a situation where you are stuck for ideas about what to take photos of? I certainly have, and a lot of it comes from being so familiar with my surroundings that it’s hard to see the photographic potential in anything. A newcomer to my local area would probably see it completely differently, and find lots of inspiration.
Given that most of us spend the majority of the year at home, is there an easy way to find inspiration? There is – the secret is to get in the habit of setting yourself photography projects.
Projects are a way of giving yourself something to aim for, and developing a thematically linked body of work. Professionals set themselves projects to learn new skills, make new contacts and give themselves something creative and positive to do in quiet times. But you don’t have to be a pro to benefit. Projects can help you become a better photographer, no matter what your level.
Benefits of projects
Here are some of the practical benefits of projects.
Projects help you develop new skills.
For example, the photos illustrating this article were taken as part of a personal project photographing circus performers. The aim of the project, apart from creating an interesting set of portraits, was to improve my portrait taking skills. Setting myself a project with a specific theme allowed me to hone in on a group of interesting people. Circus is a tight-knit social group, so once I’d got started it was easy to meet more performers by asking the ones that I’d photographed if they knew anybody else who would be interested.
Best of all I got to meet and get to know a new group of people. It has been great fun and opened my eyes to a way of life and outlook different to my own. The project has fuelled personal growth as well as helping me become a better photographer.
Projects give you something to aim for.
Once you’ve committed to a project, and the idea of taking a series of photos over a period of time, you get to compare your newest work with previous photos. You will see how your skills and ideas progress over time.
Projects can last for years.
That’s right, there’s no need to work on one project at a time, or to work on a project with a finite time span. There’s no reason why you can’t have several ongoing projects, each with an indefinite time span, that only come to an end when you feel that your time with the project is done.
Projects let you explore a subject in-depth.
One way of taking photos is to visit somewhere for a day or two, taking photos of the scenery and anything else that catches your eye. That might help you take photos of landmarks and other well-known scenes, but it’s not an in-depth exploration of a subject. I’m aware of this because I’ve just returned from a trip exploring New Zealand’s South Island. I spent no more than two days in any location, photographing the most obvious (and sometimes not so obvious) landmarks and scenery. But that’s only a shallow coverage.
Imagine how much more depth you can get if you have time to explore a place on a deeper level. If you live somewhere with beautiful landscapes, you can go beyond the more obvious scenic spots and find photogenic but little known places. Or you could photograph the lives of the people who live and work there.
This isn’t easy to do when you’re visiting a place for a short period, but it’s something that’s much easier when your subject is closer to home. That’s why projects are such a good way of getting more out of your home town, or places nearby within a convenient travel distance.
Here are some ideas for projects to get you started:
This has become a classic – take a photo a day for a year, publishing the best photo from the day or your blog or Flickr photostream. The idea is that the discipline of taking a new photo every day pushes you to explore new subjects and encourages you to take your camera out with you to find things to take photos of. Your photography skills should improve immensely over the year.
A powerful portfolio involves so much more than just a strong grasp of the technical aspects of photography–it’s a complex mix of style, techniques, and intriguing ideas. Many photographers struggle to achieve a high-impactportfolio, feeling that they lack the creative spark to invigorate them andmove their work forward.
Creative 52 is that spark–and your guide to a new and more creative portfolio in just one year! A remedy for that “average” portfolio, this collection of innovative projects will help portrait, wedding, and fashion photographers build a portfolio that draws the attention of editors and clients–leaving the competition behind. While other how-to books often use bland imagery simply to prove a technical point, and many fine art books are filled with beautiful imagery but contain minimal (if any) educational insights to help working photographers, this book blends both: inspiration and knowledge that you can use to create images that attract potential clients.
100 strangers project
I love this concept (written about on Digital Photography School a few months ago by Matt John Robinson). The idea is to take photos of 100 strangers. Not candid photos taken without their knowledge, but by approaching your potential subject and asking if you can take their photo. Not only will you become a better portrait photographer by doing so, but you will meet some new and interesting people along the way.
Night skies project
I’ve been very impressed by the work of Wellington based photographer Mark Gee. He has built a reputation taking photos of the night sky, principally in the southern part of New Zealand’s North Island. This is a great example of a long-term project that anyone who lives outside a heavily built-up urban area can undertake. Not only will you learn a new skill (taking photos at night) but it will encourage you to go out and explore your area and appreciate its natural beauty during the night hours.
Garden flowers project
Mandy Disher is another photographer whose work I admire greatly. She takes photos of flowers and insects, the majority created within her own garden. This is a long term project that anybody with a garden can undertake, and it’s a great example of something you can do close to home.
10 Photographic Assignments to Hone Your Skills
- The one focal length/lens weekend – either choose a single prime lens or a focal length at one end of a zoom and only shoot at that focal length for a whole weekend (choose one you don’t naturally shoot in a lot). This teaches you a lot about that focal length and makes you think about your composition of your shots.
- The one aperture weekend – this can be hard if you shoot a wide range of subjects like I do but choose an aperture and try to stick to it for a period of time. To do this you’ll find it easier if you shoot in Aperture Priority mode – you’ll also probably find it best to choose either to shoot at one end of the aperture spectrum. This will teach you a lot about depth of field and get you thinking also about how to balance shutter speeds and ISO to get well exposed images.
- The one shutter speed weekend – similarly to the aperture challenge this can be challenging but spending some time either looking to capture subjects with long or very fast shutter speeds will teach you a lot. To do this shoot in Shutter Priority Mode.
- Manual Exposure Mode Weekend – if you don’t venture into fully manual shooting that much set yourself a challenge to shoot in manual mode for a weekend. This is perhaps the best way possible to teach yourself about exposure!
- Manual Focusing Weekend – similarly if you rely upon your camera to always focus for you in Auto focus – switch to a weekend of just shooting with manual focus. This will break you out of your laziness and help you to really think about focal points.
- Switch cameras – got an older camera in your cupboard that you’ve been neglecting? Perhaps its an old film camera or an old digital camera without all the bells and whistles of your current one? Take it for a spin – sometimes older cameras require you to think more about settings and not rely upon the features of your modern camera. Shooting with film cameras also makes you slow down and get the shot right the first time.
- Compositional Rules – pick a ‘rule’ like the Rule of Thirds and try to adhere to it in every shot you take over a weekend. Alternatively choose to break the rule as much as possible but still end up with ascetically pleasing shots.
- Explore a Technique – spend a weekend really honing your skills in a particular shooting technique. For example you might like to spend time working on using Fill Flash in your shots – or Slow Sync Flash – or Zoom Blur – or Panning etc
- Lighting Technique – similarly set yourself the challenge to practice your skills with a particular lighting. It might be Natural light, window shots, one light portrait setups, silhouettes, classic lighting etc
- Recreate someone else’s work – one last one that I am borrowing from a friend. My friend chooses an image each week from a photographer that he admires and he sets out to recreate it. While he never passes the shots he takes off as his ideas he finds it useful to analyse the work of others and to then try to recreate those shots – in doing so he finds he learns a lot.
10 unique photography exercises to improve both your creative and technical skills
Improving photography takes constant practice. A great way to do this is through regular photography exercises that aim to boost both your creative and technical skills.
Here we take a look at 10 exercises that will not only inspire you, but also help you get to the top of your game.
01. Think on film
What to do: Adopt the mindset of working with film—you have strictly 24 to 36 takes to nail your shot, and there is no opportunity to preview any of it. Set yourself a limited number of photos for the day, turn off the preview on your screen, and don’t view your images until you get home.
Why you should do it: This will encourage you to spend more time considering your shot and thoughtfully composing it before taking a photo. It will also help you learn to trust your instincts and abilities.
02. Shoot only in black and white
What to do: Dedicate an entire day to shooting purely in black and white from morning til night. Instead of relying on post-processing or using filters, set your camera to black and white before you capture photos.
Why you should do it: Without the distraction of color, shooting in black and white forces you to focus on contrast, lights and shadows, lines and shapes. It not only shows you the world from a different perspective, but also allows you to hone a different set of skills for your practice.
03. Break the rules
What to do: Certain traditional rules tend to guide how we think we can capture the best shot: portraits must be lit from the front; landscapes should be captured during golden hour; and photos should be composed using the rule of thirds. For one day, give yourself permission to break those rules—focus on photographing backlit portraits, midday landscapes, and centered subjects.
Why you should do it: This exercise will test your skills in unfavorable conditions, which may arise in a real shoot. Plus, the unexpected results may be even more dramatic or atmospheric.
04. Set a time limit
What to do: Pick a scene focused on subjects in action and limit yourself to a timed five-minute shoot. It might be at home, in a market, at a park, or out on the street. Look for a scene that has a lot of action in it: people rushing to work, having a picnic, engaged in a sport, or playing with their pets. Set a timer for five minutes and purposefully capture the bustling scene in various ways. Practice getting shots up-close, from a distance, and from different angles.
Why you should do it: This exercise will help you become more familiar with shooting people in an uncontrolled setting. The only thing you have control over is how creative you can be in capturing movement, expressions, interactions, and relationships. This practice helps you develop flexibility as a visual storyteller.
05. Work with a brief
What to do: Give yourself a photography brief (or ask someone to write you one) including as much detail as possible. This can include any of the following:
Goal (Is the shoot for brand awareness? Or is the aim to inspire or evoke a certain emotion?)
Brand profile (If this shoot was made for a particular brand, what are that brand’s values? What is their aesthetic? Who is their target market?)
Subjects (Should the shoot include particular people, products, or locations?)
Length of shoot (What is the timeframe to start and finish the project?)
Use (Where will the photos be published? On social media? Through a magazine? In an advertisement?)
Why you should do it: A brief provides specific requirements and goals that you will need to focus on delivering. This is a great practice for the kinds of projects that you will be working on with future clients. It prepares you to work with and deal with their expectations.
06. Do not post-process
What to do: Rely on your skills rather than on post-production techniques to enhance your photos. All the elements that you would normally crop, retouch, or adjust in post-production? Focus on addressing them before you even take your shot.
Why you should do it: This will allow you to refine your technique and skills pre-shoot by removing the safety blanket of digital retouching. This practice encourages you to get the photo right the first time by carefully considering all the compositional details before you take your photo.
08. Stick to one location
What to do: Walk around town like an urban explorer, and practice standing still in a single location and taking 10 photos from that specific spot. Afterwards, walk 100 paces, and do the same thing all over again.
Why you should do it: Photography is about tuning into details. By focusing on your observational skills, you will start noticing things in your surroundings that you would have otherwise missed out on.
09. Draw lots
What to do: Write one easy-to-find subject on 30 slips of paper (for example: shadows, a cat, a tree, coffee, an eldery person). Put the slips of paper into a bowl, and draw one each day. Focus on finding and capturing the best possible photo of that particular subject for a day.
Why you should do this: The exercise will encourage you to find beauty in the ordinary, and to view everyday scenes in a new and creative way.
10. Plan your feed
What to do: Instead of choosing the best photo in a shoot, choose three to post each time on Instagram. Ensure that the three photos stick to particular theme. They can consist of the same subject, color palette, or even make use of the same filters.
Why you should do this: Posting in threes allows you to carefully plan posts and curate your work on social media. Planning out your Instagram feed’s aesthetic trains you to see the bigger picture and scope of your body of work. (Featured IG feed by @fritzbielmeier)
In order to get better at your craft, it’s good practice to regularly give yourself challenges and to set goals. Make your photography a daily practice, and you’re sure to see your skills improve with each exercise.
How can I learn basic photography?
If you don’t know how to get into photography, the best thing you can do is try it. Use a phone camera or a compact camera if you have one at hand. Photograph anything you like and see if your pictures look like the scenes you photographed. Most cameras have an Auto mode that takes care of camera settings for you. Phone and compact cameras usually have only the Auto mode, meaning you can’t change the settings yourself. Thus, you don’t have to worry you won’t get the exposure right.
However, getting a grip on photography requires some technical and compositional knowledge. Start by learning how to manage aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, the three parameters determining exposure. Then, learn how lenses work, how to master focus, and how the camera-subject distance influences your photographs. The rules of composition are the first step towards well-balanced and appealing images. Learn to use them properly before learning how to break them to increase the artistic value of your photos.
Basic photography skills also include working with the flash, learning to handhold a camera, mastering depth of field, and experimenting with long exposures. Focus on a single subject matter and compare your photographs to see what works better for your subject.
What basic photography gear do I need?
Regardless of which of these types of photography you choose, you’d want to make sure you’re equipped with the essentials. Lens cleaners, a collapsible travel tripod, a light meter, and a collapsible reflector kit are good investments for every photographer. An external flash is also handy for a variety of situations, as well as a remote shutter release.
What is the best camera for beginner photographers?
The best camera for beginners is one that is intuitive and can perform many functions without swaps and manual adjustments. Mirrorless cameras are a top choice on this front as they have a lot of the features that make DSLRs so powerful while maintaining a smaller and lighter body.
Do I need to go to school to become a photographer?
Yes, a degree in art, business, or marketing looks great on a resume. However, a formal degree isn’t required to be successful in any photography niche. A strong portfolio can be had by grabbing opportunities and having the willingness to learn on-the-fly. With perseverance, you can hone your skills and end up with a lucrative career.
How much should a beginner photographer charge?
As a hobbyist, you can charge up to $50 an hour or $10 to $25 per image. These rates may vary depending on your niche. First, you’ll need to be more familiar with techniques and have built a portfolio. Then, you can bump up your rates to $25 to $100 an hour or $25 to $50 an image. By expanding your skillset, you’ll be learning how to make money with photography.
Can I teach myself photography?
The short answer is yes. There are plenty of self-taught photographers who can inspire you. Nowadays, you can easily find photography books and online materials to get you started. There are discussion forums that answer your questions and photography classes that teach you the art of photography. You can learn the basics of photography without leaving your house.
But the best teacher you can have is practice. Take time to observe the scene you want to photograph and imagine how it will look. Then, practice until you achieve the image in your head. Compare your photographs as often as possible and see what you can do differently next time. Change the shooting angle, camera-subject distance, and camera settings until you are happy with the result.
Don’t forget there are books about the art of seeing, storytelling, and photography philosophy. There are also masters of photography you can study. The world is full of examples of great photographs and failures. But, more important, try to find your voice as a photographer, what makes you different from others. The only way you can do this is to find out what you want to convey to the public and why. So, start the journey of learning photography by asking you why you want to take photographs.
How do I get my work noticed?
Take advantage of the Internet to gain a following which will ultimately lead to a client base. Start a photography blog, post your works often on social media, and be active on photo-hosting sites. Pursue an original aesthetic to set yourself apart and work hard on getting your material published on established outlets.
Whatever your niche, your end product as a photographer is very important. Think about the creative ways you can display your best work and sell your photos. Explore Printique’s high-quality selection of photo product options for all your professional needs.
Here are a Few of my Photo Projects
adobe.com, “Explore many different types of photography. From portraiture to photojournalism to product photography, there are a vast number of genre you can pursue. Learn about your options before you select a style to focus on.”; digital-photography-school.com, “Improve your Images with Photography Projects.” By Andrew S. Gibson; “Creative 52.” By Lindsay Adler; digital-photography-school.com, “10 Photographic Assignments to Hone Your Skills.” By Darren Rowse; canva.com, “10 unique photography exercises to improve both your creative and technical skills.”; adorama.com, “28 Types of Photography: Which Niche is Right for You?” Written by Adorama;