Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres

March 22

26 min. to read

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Review the classic photography types and take a look into photography’s future to find out the key photography trends in 2021.

What is photography?

From the creative perspective, photography is the art of capturing the moments of a lifetime and replicating them digitally or on paper. From the technical perspective, photography is the art of recording light or electromagnetic radiation, either digitally using an image sensor or chemically using a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

Snapping a photograph has become second nature. With powerful cameras now built into smartphones, taking an outstanding image has become less about skill and more about utility. We take photos of things we want to remember: weddings, vacations, and even breakfast. This has caused photography to evolve as photographers discover new techniques and reach new heights. With various devices and lenses, we explore different types of photography and invent new ones we couldn’t have dreamed of before.

The main types of photography

Whether it’s eye-catching documentary shots or breathtaking fairy-tale pictures, one thing is clear – we can’t stop admiring the incredibly diverse world of photography. Although there are endless ways to create a picture, photographers tend to focus on one or two types of photography in their portfolios. That way, they develop their own techniques and define their own style. We’re going to discuss different types of photography, pointing out traditional genres as well as contemporary.

Macro photography

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Macro photography reveals small details that we can’t see with our eyes. Subjects of macro photography often include tiny bugs, birds, and plants. Macro shooting allows us to see the fantastic colors and characteristics of exotic insects. Once you own a macro lens, you can shoot your own macro pictures. Try out Tamron lenses, available for Nikon and Canon cameras. Alternatively, you can use affordable macro attachments for your smartphone.

Black and white photography

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These days, black and white photos are reinventing a photographic tradition. Shooting in black and white is now a stylistic choice rather than a technical limitation, and photographers use it to add drama to their compositions. When taking a photograph in black and white, pay attention to contrast; the shadows should be defined, while extreme tones should appear crisp and clean. For more insight on capturing bold and beautiful shadows, check out our post on black and white photography.

Interior photography

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image3Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev

Photographing interior spaces can seem daunting to people who aren’t familiar with the techniques. There are many reasons why interior photography is challenging, including not being able to fit the scene into your frame, bad lighting, and perhaps most importantly, not being able to capture the scene realistically. But photographing interiors of buildings is simple if you master the art of interior HDR photography. Professional photographer Tyson Robichaud explains how to get perfect interior HDR images using Aurora HDR 2021. And if you don’t have the time to take multiple exposures, Luminar is the best photo editing software for giving your single-exposure images HDR effects.

Dance photography

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With a camera, you have the power to freeze any moment you like. Why not capture the beauty of a dance? But photographing dancing is tricky. Snapping a dancer, especially in mid-air, is a split-second maneuver. So set a fast shutter speed and consider the best angle. Dance is more than just body movement, so be sure to capture a dancer’s face to get the essence of their performance.

Landscape photography

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image5Photo by Daniel Kordan

Landscapes were probably the very first subjects photographed. And it’s no surprise, as there’s so much beauty out there. Today, we live in the era of travel and social media when everybody can boast jaw-dropping shots while on vacation. Landscapes remain one of the most popular photography genres. Interestingly, modern photographers tend not to show the geolocation of landscape photos to save nature from tourists.

Documentary photography

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A photographer has superpowers. One of the most fabulous is revealing what usually is unseen. Documentary pictures give us a better understanding of the world, showing us people and places that are usually hidden from sight.

Contemporary photography

Composite photography

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Many types of photography deal with precisely what the camera sees, but the composite approach is a chance to look at the world from a different perspective. A composite image is made up of dozens or even hundreds of photographs. To create a composite image, a photographer takes multiple photos and then patches them together using an image editor. The result is an unbelievable scene. Find below the sample of a composite photo made by Skylum ambassador Abba Shapiro and his video tutorial on how to get to grips with composite photography easily.

Infrared photography

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image9 Photo by Fausto Meini

Infrared photographs reinvent the world as we know it. Using filters, you can turn ordinary places into otherworldly places. Trees and grass, for example, become colored in shades of orange, pink, and purple. Renowned photographer and educator Laurie Klein has her own signature look for infrared photography. She’s spent decades perfecting her craft, and now it’s your turn to discover this unique style of capturing and enhancing infrared images. Learn infrared photography from the masters.

Food photography

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image10Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

You run into food pictures all the time while swiping your newsfeed. Food photography is still one of the biggest trends among photographers. Professionals and amateurs alike can make mouth-watering photos with a camera or smartphone. If you’re new to food photography or just want fresh ideas, take a more in-depth look here. You can also get inspired by the pictures of Evgeny Tchebotarev, Skylum’s VP of growth in Asia.

Fairy-tale photography

Fairy-tale pictures may look tricky. But you don’t need a complicated setup to make your own fantastical images. You just need to get your hands on photo editing software and experiment.

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There are countless opportunities to turn your images into mind-blowing pictures using Luminar 3. Try out the Creative panel where you can find tools such as Texture Overlay, giving you the power to become a genuine artist. All you need to do is open a photo for editing, load another image you want to use as a texture, play with the brush and sliders to adjust the position of the overlay and opacity, and the creative effect is achieved. See what you get and experiment to achieve the best result. Another creative option is the Sunrays filter, which adds natural-looking sunshine. Find out how to create fairy-tale images using the blend modes in Luminar 3.

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Film photography

Alongside old-fashioned trends, photography basics are also making a comeback. Many photographers are going back to film cameras. Online platforms have become a booming place for analog lovers to connect with one another.

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image12 Photo by Ilya Nodia

There are so many reasons why film photography takes our fancy, and nostalgia isn’t even the main one. Many photographers consider an analog camera a fantastic device to boost their technical and creative skills. Having no opportunity to check the results right after taking a shot makes photographers learn how light affects every scene, rather than merely relying on trial and error.

Portrait photography

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image13Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev

One of the most beloved types of photography is portraiture. This style includes family portraits, fine art photos, and commercial photos. The goal of portraiture is commonly to show a person’s character and emotion. Portrait photography is an accessible genre that can be approached with a starter kit of a single prime lens and flash (or whatever gear you already have if you’re just experimenting). But capturing the essence of a person or meeting the needs of a commercial project is indeed tedious.

Fashion photography

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A genre which stands next to portraiture but is distinct enough to stand on its own is fashion photography. In a fast-paced world of high-end apparel, Haute Couture, and Prêt-à-Porter, the best fashion photographers strive to keep up with the latest trends in clothing styles, not to mention top-notch lighting and photography. Fashion photographers are usually hired to shoot for brands and advertisements — but not always, especially in today’s Instagram world.

Commercial photography

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Commercial photography aims to sell products. That’s why commercial photographers do their best to capture products themselves and create images that match the emotions or arouse certain feelings and make people want to buy. To get started with commercial photoshoots, you need specific skills in studio lighting and visualization to make the client’s plan a reality.

Wedding photography

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The event of a lifetime is, of course, a wedding. That’s why wedding photography will probably never go out of style. Wedding photographers have a huge responsibility, and therefore need to have an excellent camera and skills in proper lighting. If you want to work closely with weddings, try to be patient and friendly to capture the right emotions almost effortlessly. This is a tricky photography type to practice, and you only get one chance to do it right.

Underwater photography

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It isn’t easy to shoot underwater, even if you live in the right place for it. Not only do you need a dedicated waterproof camera, but you also need a specific lighting toolkit the moment you start taking photos more than a short distance from the surface. Besides scuba diving equipment, you need to train for longer dives and practice a lot to become an expert in this tricky genre. But if you’re ready to shell out some money and put in some effort, you’ll end up with attention-grabbing photos. Plus, you can choose a speciality within underwater photography, which spans everything from wildlife and macro to portraits.

Water drop photography

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Water splash (water drop) photography, like any other photography type, is an art, not a science. Start with the basic mushroom shape for your drops and you’ll take a win. Be patient and persistent during shooting. This is critical for a water drop photographer. Creativity is also necessary. Make your pictures appealing, unique, and outstanding. If you get inspired by other photographers, reinvent rather than copy their work. We all follow somebody to get started, then create our own style.


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The result of multiple tries to take a picture of the stars can be awful. Shots appear totally dark, and some overexposed objects in the foreground ruin the whole view. This bitter experience makes people forget about astrophotography forever. But the reality is not that cruel – anyone can become a skillful astrophotographer. All you need is a helpful guide, adequate gear, and post-processing software. Any camera can become an astrophotography tool in your hands. Read this astrophotography overview that describes basic types of astrophotography, useful tips and techniques, the best cameras and equipment for shooting, and exciting ideas for post-processing.

There’s also a whole genre of astrolandscape photography with the Milky Way and a slice of Earth in the foreground. Although it’s tricky to take astrolandscape photos, you can learn some tips on how to photograph the Milky Way.

Scientific photography

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Scientific photography is a broad category that spans everything from extreme magnification microscope photographs to shots of SpaceX rockets. Some human-made objects sneak their way into this genre as well: photos of particle accelerators and rocket launches regularly go viral. Among other types of photography, this one hopefully will continue to spread and grab more attention in the future as it has the power to show us entirely new perspectives and change the way we look at the world.

Sports photography

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Another notable photography style is sports photography, which spans photographing international events like the Olympics to local amateur photography competitions in the most remote areas of the world. Even a parent snapping their child playing sports is part of this genre. What do you need to start shooting action shots? You need to acquire flawless autofocus skills, the right timing, and often a breakneck shutter speed.

Still life photography

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Still life photography is a vibrant and profitable genre where a photographer creates a picture with almost full control over lighting, feel, and composition. This is a great way to unlock your creativity and make some money through stock photography or by selling art prints on a variety of websites. Another benefit of still life photography is that you don’t need a studio or a lot of space. All you need is a table and natural light. If you end up getting serious about it, you can get a continuous light like an LED panel.

Architecture photography

Architectural images complete our list of the most popular photography styles. This type of photography requires a specific and at times expensive set of tools and demands a discerning eye. When photographing buildings, it’s critical to capture every detail that the architect has laid out.

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image23Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev

Since most people viewing your images will likely never visit the space you’re capturing, it’s up to you as the photographer to convey what the architect intended. It’s your responsibility to take what someone has created in three dimensions and translate their vision to the viewer through a two-dimensional image. If you’re up to the challenge, read these five tips and tricks for creating better architecture images.

Photography trends in 2021

Brand-new photography styles frequently emerge in this era of social media and the internet. It’s not a surprise anymore when we encounter new types of photos and entire photography genres. Let’s have a look at what photography styles are popular and looking to establish themselves.

Drone photography

Not that long ago, drone photography was difficult to access. It was hard even to imagine how the area around us looked from a bird’s-eye view. We could only see Earth via Google Maps or through the plane window during take-off. Then the first drones came, which were a far stretch for most budgets. Today, you can buy a good quality drone for half the price of a smartphone.

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image24 Photo by Iurie Belegurschi

As drone fever is rapidly extending all over the globe, landscape and travel photography are the most substantially affected. But it’s almost impossible to find a genre where you can’t use drones. If you follow this trend or are thinking about it, make sure you know the rules for beginners. Read this guide to get off to a good start with drone photography.

Social and environmental photography

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It’s time to generate awareness, and photographers worldwide are revealing humanity’s problems. Over the last decade, social and environmental consciousness has dramatically increased, and social media platforms are the best place to reveal these issues. Many famous photographers have become active ambassadors of NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and are using their images to foster change.

Candid photography

In a time of artificially composed and over-processed images, people are looking for authenticity. Fashion photographs, unreal postures, and overly Photoshopped portraits are no longer something to admire. Viewers are searching for natural emotions, smiles, and gestures. This is where candid photography comes into play.

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Photographers get out of the studio and perform photo shoots outdoors. This allows them to capture less staged scenes in which people can interact in everyday situations. Although artificial light is still very much in use, the aim is to achieve the look of natural lighting. As for weddings, many newlyweds prefer documentary wedding photographers to traditional ones to get more unique and spontaneous snaps.

Animal photography

Complete Guide to the Most Popular Photography Genres Image27Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev

Wildlife and pets have earned a spot in our hearts and photography portfolios. Many outdoor photographers have noticed that four-legged friends make us thrilled and emotional. Couples are including cats and dogs in their wedding photoshoots. Meanwhile, parents want portraits of their children with bunnies, chicks, and other baby animals. To keep pace with this photography trend, brush up on your pet photography skills and get ready for a lot of adorable content on social media. Check out the awe-inspiring work by world-renowned photographer and Skylum partner Kevin Dooley.

Vertical photography

In 2021, almost three-quarters of total internet traffic comes from smartphone users. This means that most viewers will see your photos on a vertical screen. That’s why many photographers are adopting vertical photos as their default format. But should you be following their steps? Yes, as long as your target audience is mobile users.

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Vertical pictures are more comfortable to view on mobile devices and are usually displayed at a larger scale. However, it’s crucial to remember that the orientation of the frame affects the composition. Focus on what you want each photo to elicit and the best way to capture it. After all, you can always crop your photos to adjust them to social media formats.

Outdoor photography

Outdoor photography is here to stay, at least for another year. Continuing the momentum of 2021, eye-catching landscapes in seemingly remote locations will continue to occupy social media for months to come. The hugeness of this trend leaves room for may subtrends. For instance, in the past, we’ve seen many images taken with smartphones or views from the open back door of vans flood social media.

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In 2021, one of the chief subtrends within outdoor photography will be product photography. This will concern both online and offline advertising. Apparel, accessories, photography equipment, transportation, and real estate are likely to be the key topics covered by these photographs.

Product photography

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Another branch of commercial photography is product photography, where you’re typically shooting in a studio with careful lighting to accentuate the product (though sometimes outdoors or on location). As with commercial portraiture, a product photographer’s goal is to match the vision of the company. An outdoor brand will have different needs from a high-end lifestyle brand, even if both sell the same type of product, such as clothing or backpacks.

Wrapping it up

Trends come and go, and in the end, all you can offer is your personal style. You should keep an eye on photography trends, but we advise you not to jump blindly into them. Use this list of different types of photography to learn new styles, get inspired, and unlock your potential.

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