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Design & Style

15 Different Types of Photography, Explained

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 6 min read

MasterClass Video Lessons

Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography

What began with the daguerreotype nearly 200 years ago is now a popular hobby, career path, and sophisticated art form. Photography has evolved into a wide variety of types, styles, and uses—both amateur and professional, artistic and commercial, and everything in between.

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Annie Leibovitz Teaches PhotographyAnnie Leibovitz Teaches Photography

Annie brings you into her studio and onto her shoots to teach you everything she knows about portraiture and telling stories through images.

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Every Popular Type of Photography to Know

  1. Black and White Photography: Black and white photography is a unique art form that depends on retraining your eye to see monochromatic relationships in the world.
  2. Candid Photography: Candid photography is a style of photography in which the models and the scene are not staged or posed. Candid photographs are usually photos of people, and can be taken anywhere: at home, at the grocery store, at a child’s birthday party, and so on.
  3. Documentary Photography: Documentary photography is, by definition, the art of capturing historically, culturally, socially, or politically significant events and experiences. These photography subjects can encapsulate either breaking news, or more evergreen stories about real life stories across the world.
  4. Fashion Photography: As the photographer, you are the director of the shoot and everyone will look to you for guidance. This can mean simultaneously telling the model how to pose while making sure the next look is getting prepared properly while also making sure that you are getting the best shot. Everyone, and especially the model, needs to feel comfortable on set and it’s your job to remain calm—otherwise the negative atmosphere will impact your images. Learn more about fashion photography in our guide here.
  5. Food Photography: From mouth-watering plates pictured in the pages of magazines to scrumptious dishes photographed close-up for cookbooks, food photography is the styling and documenting of great food for advertorial or editorial purposes. The rise of social media, specifically blogs and Instagram, has catapulted many a home cook to semi-professional food blogger or food photographer status. With equal parts planning and practice, food photography can be a satisfying creative outlet that might even turn into a lucrative career.
  6. Landscape Photography: Landscape photography is photography that occurs in the great outdoors. It is separate from what we know as nature photography. Usually, landscape photography captures an impressive natural scene—an imposing mountain range, a serene, sprawling field, a river roaring by—untouched by human presence (besides the photographer’s, of course). For all beginner landscape photographers seeking to explore the earth while capturing their own magnificent images, here is a complete guide to get started.
  7. Macro Photography: Macro photography is a form of close-up photography, originally developed for scientific research. The strictest definition of macro photography is that the subject is photographed at 1:1 magnification—in other words, the subject is life-sized in the photo. However, most people use the term “macro photography” to refer to any photograph that depicts a close-up and extremely detailed image of a small subject. Learn more about macro photography in our complete guide here.
  8. Night Photography: Night photography refers to the photographing of objects or vistas between dusk and dawn. Night photography relies on a color palette of darker shades of purples, blues, and black. Photographing at night is an excellent excuse to get out of your comfort zone with your camera and experiment using manual mode, selecting all the settings yourself instead of relying on the camera’s presets to do it for you.
  9. Portrait Photography: Portrait photography is a style of photography that portrays human subjects. Portrait photography has been around since the dawn of photography, when Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in 1839—the same year that Robert Cornelius aimed the camera at himself and took what is widely believed to be the first self portrait photograph (or “selfie” in modern parlance) ever, laying the groundwork for portrait photography to emerge as its own art form. Cheap, fast, and portable, portrait photography soon replaced traditional hand-painted portraiture, allowing amateur and professional photographers more freedom in documenting the human condition.
  10. Architecture Photography: Architecture refers to the design, engineering, and construction of manmade structures, as well as the final structures themselves. Endless architecture styles have emerged throughout the centuries, each with its own unique expressions: Romanesque, Gothic, Classical, Neoclassical, Baroque, Modernist, Brutalist, etc. While it’s possible to simply point a camera at a building or a bridge and snap a picture, there is an art to photographing architecture. Famous architectural photographers include Albert Levy, who began photographing older buildings in the 1870s, and American mid-century modernist Julius Shulman, who became popular after photographing modern buildings. Learn more about architecture photography in our guide here.
  11. Sports Photography: Sports photography offers many chances to get a great shot—but it also offers many chances to miss what could have been an amazing moment. When the action moves quick, a sports photographer has to be ready to click at just the right moment to get the perfect shot. Follow these four tips in order to ensure that your photos are as dynamic and crisp as possible when you’re shooting sports.
  12. Street Photography: Street photography is a form of spontaneous photography that portrays everyday life as it happens, on the streets and elsewhere. Street photography is not only limited to bustling city streets, narrow alleyways, and busy urban centers, however; street photography can happen in any public space, with people or without. The only rule of street photography is that it must capture a truly candid, unstaged moment that reveals some true aspect of society.
  13. Travel Photography: The travel photographer is a collector and curator of experiences. A good travel photographer will show the emotions and sensations of a destination, evoking a sense of enviable wanderlust. Travel photography is not just about snapping photos of smiling faces on the beach, however. It is about observation, research, and thoughtful composition. While becoming a professional travel photographer requires dedication to the craft, the reward of frequent travel to new, exciting, and beautiful destinations is certainly worth the effort.
  14. Wildlife Photography: Wildlife photography is all about understanding your subject—that is, wildlife! While you don’t need a PhD in Biology (though, that wouldn’t hurt), having a basic understanding of the animals you are photographing is essential to becoming a wildlife photographer. A good place to start is in your own backyard, a local park, or a nearby national park. Learn about wild animals in your area—their daily habits, their mating rituals, and, most importantly, the time of day when they are most active. This will help you know when to go out to photograph them and what to look for.
  15. Long Exposure Photography: Long exposure photography is also known as slow-shutter speed photography or time-exposure photography. The technique has its roots in the early days of photography, when rudimentary technology made it necessary for photographers had to keep an image exposed for several hours to get any result on film. Modern-day long exposure photography uses the same technique, which relies on keeping the shutter open for an extended period of time. Thanks to advances in camera technologies, the resulting images feature stationary subjects in clear focus while moving subjects appear blurred.

Want to Become a Better Photographer?

Whether you’re just starting out or have dreams of going professional, photography requires plenty of practice and a healthy dose of creativity. No one knows this better than legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, who has spent decades mastering her craft. In Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass on photography, she reveals tips on working with subjects, crafting concepts, and shooting with natural light.

Want to become a better photographer? The MasterClass Annual Membership provides exclusive video lessons from master photographers, including Annie Leibovitz and Jimmy Chin.

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