The Genres

There are many genres of photography. Each has its own subject matter and requires different composition, style, and techniques.

As well, image manipulation plays a powerful role in editing the image that will become a digital photograph. Most digital photographers would agree that there is nothing wrong with using Light room or Photoshop to manipulate or enhance a digital image. For instance, adding the effect of a blue filter to make a landscape scene more picturesque.

The following are the most popular genres of photography:

Still Life/Close Up/Macro

Still life photography involves taking photographs “static objects” or “inanimate objects.” There are two types: found objects such as a seashell on the beach, and objects arranged in a studio, such as product that a business wants to market. In other words, the photo can be unplanned, such as a found object, or planned, such as a shot taken in the studio

This type of photography has been influenced by painting, such as realism, abstract, surreal

  • Lighting plays an important role in creating drama, like shadows.
  • Much of the still life photography is done commercially
  • However, still life is important to the “art of photography.”
  • Advertising relies on still life photos to market its products
  • Some still life is like a work of art
  • Edward Weston shot captivating still life of seashells and vegetables, which looked like abstract sculptures.

What are important aspects?

  1. Lighting-The best time to shoot is just before sunrise and just after sunset.
  2. Subject matter-should be interesting; should provoke a reaction
  3. Arrangement of elements in the photography-background, subject matter, platform, perspective


Portrait photography is about taking a studio portrait of person or environmental portrait of a person. For instance, taking a photograph of a President in the Oval Office, a picture of a hockey player at the ice rink, a picture of a pianist sitting at the piano.

A good portrait reveals some aspect of the “inner person.”

“A person’s eyes tell much, sometimes all”

The photographer is 50% of the photograph, and the sitter is 50% of the photograph. (The Photographer’s Vision)

“It’s one thing to make a photograph of what a person looks like; It’s another thing to make a photograph of who they are.”

For some ideas on how to shoot portrait, see the work of Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Arnold Newman, and Annie Leibovitz.


Landscape photography involves taking pictures of a river, meadow, trees, woods, lake, beach, palm trees, mountains, or any other type of landscape.

Consider the following:

  • Perspective or point of view
  • Composition of the elements of the photograph
  • Lighting-quality of the lighting (hard or soft); direction of the lighting

A good landscape photograph should have a focal point or point of interest and foreground interest to provide perspective.

Shooting in bad weather, such as fog or rain, can create dramatic landscape photographs

Landscape photograph has become a playground for all kinds of ideas, experiments, and techniques, such as:

  • Abstract
  • HDR or high dynamic range
  • Colour to evoke a mood or emotion
  • Strong black and white

Famous photographers of landscape include:

  • Adam Ansel
  • Edward Weston


It involves taking pictures of dwelling places, such as office towers, historical buildings, churches, monuments, historical landmarks.

It includes both:

  • Exterior of the building or structure
  • Interior of the building or structure

This type of photography  boring to the viewer, and so the photographer must bring the building to life. How? Lighting. Contrast. High dynamic range (HDR)

Other aspects to consider are:

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Form
  • Texture
  • Pattern

The aspiring photographer always risk of copying what photographers have already captured. Therefore, the photographer shooting some architecture must see the building from an original perspective.

What to shoot? Popular buildings, such as the CN Tower. Or shoot ordinary buildings, commonplace buildings, both domestic and commercial.

When capturing the interior, photographers often show how people live.

For instance, capturing derelict and sloppily inhabited places.

For ideas on how to shoot architectural photographs, see the work of Julius Shulman, who is one of the masters of architectural photography. The following is a link to some of his photographs:

Documentary Photography

Any life is suitable for documentary photography. But it usually centers around people and how they interact. Newsworthy photos published in the newspaper, magazines, and on the Web. The photograph creates a record of an event, most often a newsworthy event, such as war, famine, or natural disaster

The purpose of documentary photography is to tell a story or part of a story that is newsworthy with a single photograph.

This type of photography came of age in the 1930s, when the technology of photography made it possible to shoot quickly and accurately with 35 mm film cameras, like the Ermanox and the Leica

What are the ideals? To make the public aware—social awareness.

What is the ideal shot? To tell a story, the complete story in a single photograph.

In contemporary society, many issues of importance cannot be photographed.

For ideas on taking street photographs, the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Wildlife and Nature

Wildlife photography is about taking photographs of birds, animals, mammals, fish in their natural habitat. Nature photograph is about taking photographs of plant life and the different habitants of the world, such as the Arctic, desert, ocean.

The photographer focuses on strength and dignity and beauty of the wild life, such as the bald eagle and nature. Other aspects to consider include:

  • Focusing on the beauty of the animal or bird or mammal
  • Paying special attention on the “rarity” and “behaviour” of the wildlife
  • Searching for never seen before images

So much depends on being at the right place at the right time.

Context and realistic view of wildlife are important.

Since the 90’s wildlife and nature photography have become more popular because of the conservation and environmental movements.

For outstanding photographs of wildlife and nature, see the work of

  • Frans Lanting
  • Hogo Van Lawick

Street Photography

What is it? Street photography is about taking pictures of people in public places, such as parks, city streets, malls, public transit. Street photography provides a snap shot ordinary life.

” More specifically street photography is defined  as “un-posed, un-staged photography which captures, explores or questions contemporary society and the relationships between individuals and their surroundings.”

Many well-known photographers have done street photography. One of the most popular street photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson. To  see his work, click the following link:

Fashion Photography

It involves taking photographs of models wearing different types of fashion, such as casual or formal. Fashion photography is used to market the clothing, style, image, symbolic meaning of the clothing.The photographer requires a model, available clothing, make-up, lighting, and a studio. Sometimes fashion photography is shot on location, such as a sandy beach by the sea.

Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar defined and controlled the way in which fashion photography was developed.

See the work of Richard Avedon, Nick Knight, Edward Steichen, and Annie Leibovitz.

Sports Photography

Sports photography involves taking photos of important sporting events, such as Stanley Cup, World Cup, Olympics. The photographer must capture “action of the sport.”

The photographer often selects a fast shutter speed to “stop motion” or “freeze motion.”

What is important?

1) The decisive moment. For instance, Bobby Orr’s winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup playoffs.

2) Importance of the sporting event. Examples: World Series, Grey Cup, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Olympics.

3) Newsworthiness.

4) Storytelling. A good sports photograph captures a moment and tells a story about the sporting event.

Travel Photography

The best travel photography puts together a narrative of the travel experience. The photographer takes photos of the people, place, and culture. His task is to capture the mood and essence of the travel experience.

One of the most interesting photos of travel is the shots of the moon landing. Yet travel photography doesn’t require such dramatic photographs.

Often travel photographs are taken to market a trip or location for tourists. Or the novice can take pictures of the memories of a trip or vacation.

Capturing a “memorable” or “awe-inspiring” scene is a popular approach.

Fine Art Photography

There are many different forms of fine art photography. For popular photographer Bruce Barnbaum, who wrote The Art of Digital Photography, a photograph is a work of art, providing that it has something that carries it beyond pure documentation, such as the quality of mystery, a heightened sense of drama, grandeur, or calm; or heightened sensitivity to something deeply felt.

The photograph has an additional layer of meaning beyond the elements in the photograph.

For some photographers, the fine art photograph requires a process, and the final print presents the last step in the process of capturing, processing, and printing.

Concept plays a role in fine art photography. What is the underlying idea or concept behind the photograph?

Many fine art photographs are like abstract art.

With the advent of digital photography, image editing with Photoshop or Lightroom plays an important role in creating the fine art photograph.

In recent years, high-definition photography or the HDR photograph has become popular.


  • The Photographer’s Vision: Understanding and Appreciating Great Photography” by Michael Freeman
  • The Photography Bible by Daniel Lezano
  • The New Manual of Photography by John Hedgecoe
  • The Complete Digital Photographer: A Master Class In Every Style and Subject by Tom Ang
  • The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum