Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning?

December 05

7 min. to read

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Not all modern photography styles are created equal. If you're looking for a new one to learn that won't go out of style tomorrow, try one of these.

Photography styles, like fashion, come into vogue and go out again—some more quickly than others. Remember the selective color trend from a couple of years ago, where the color would come through on certain elements of an otherwise black-and-white photo? It was a bit like bell bottoms—a hit that lasted for a couple of years and then fizzled. It probably won’t make much of a come back. On the flip side, there are a number of photography styles that have made it past the popularity peak and are still going strong today. While not all of them qualify as the “Shakespeare” or “Beatles” of the art, they still have a lot of staying power and are worth learning. Here are the top seven.

1. Long Exposure Photography

Though in no way new to the photography world, current technology has made long exposure photography far more accessible to the amateur photographer, and the results can be simply quite stunning. First popularized on 500px, these shots feature misty (or glassy) waters, streaking clouds, and/or light trails that. Combine them with excellent color and a great subject, and you’ll come up with a shot that is both brilliant and dramatic.

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image1Photo Credit: Matt Lamers

2. HDR

Another 500px staple, High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography reached its height in popularity a couple of years ago, but is still frequently used by some of today’s top photographers. The key with HDR is to use an editing method that doesn’t overdo the effect. In fact, one of the quickest ways to have your shot immediately dismissed by much of the photography community is to make an HDR photo look unmistakably like an HDR photo. That being said, HDR is still an amazing style and is well worth learning. (And if you need a great editor, Skylum’s Aurora HDR is one of the best around.)

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image2Photo Credit: Meduana

3. Macro Photography

Macro photography is one of those evergreen styles that will probably never go out of vogue. Well done, it has the power to both amaze and inspire. From bugs to ferns to your baby’s feet, there’s always something to be marveled at in the world of tiny minutiae we rarely get to focus on in our everyday world.

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image3Photo Credit: Paul Talbot

4. Black-and-White Photography

Another evergreen style, black-and-white photography will probably always be one of the main styles practiced by top photographers. When well done, it’s simplicity, focus on composition essentials, and ability to strip away everything that’s superfluous can create stunning, unforgettable imagery.

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image4

5. Time-lapse

Time-lapse—the art of taking a number of photographs over a period of time and then playing them back in movie form—has taken the photography world by storm over the last decade or so. The sped-up motion of everything from flowers blooming, lightning storms passing, busy city streets and train stations has rightly fed the community’s enthusiasm. When done well, the effect is both haunting and memorable. Just be warned, this technique is quite labor intensive and, to stick out from the crowd you’ll need to choose a subject that hasn’t been covered before. 

6. High Speed/Stop Action

High speed photography literally freezes time and allows us to see events that happen too fast for our naked eye to register. Breaking glass, cans exploding, and the ever-famous water drop falling—all of these show us a slice of a world that we’d never ordinarily get to see. The technique takes a lot of practice to master, but it’s well worth the effort. And now, with the advent of faster and faster cameras paired with inexpensive speedlights, even beginning photographers on a budget can get in the action.

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image5

7. Panoramic Photography

Another popular style that’s probably here to stay is panoramic photography. In the old days, this style was particularly tedious, involving hours and hours of work. Now, instead of stitching photos together by hand, our cameras do it for us. Or, if you’d rather, you can do it pretty effortlessly in post-processing as well. The results are a (hopefully) spectacular panorama that embraces a much wider field of view than even the best wide angle lens can manage.

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image6

8. Light Painting

Fairly new on the scene, this specific form of long exposure photography has captured the heart of many an experimental photographer. It’s not only fun to do, but when done well yields creative, innovative images that are hard to duplicate. The most basic version just needs a camera, a tripod, and a light source (like a flash light). The possibilities explode from there.

Photography Styles: Which Ones Are Worth Learning? Image7

Any one of these styles is worth learning, for the technical expertise alone (not to mention fun). And who knows? You might find yourself so inspired that you develop your own native style out of one of these. What’s your favorite style?

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