For many of us, snapping a photograph has become second nature. With great cameras now built in to smart phones, making an image has become less about about artistry and more about utility. We take pictures of things we want to remember—this could be anything from a wedding or vacation to what we ate for breakfast. This doesn’t mean, however, that creative photography is going the way of the dinosaur—on the contrary. Technology has expanded its visual possibilities, with different apparatuses and lenses making it possible for us to capture different types of photography in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed before.
From eye-opening documentary images to awe-inspiring fairy tale scenes, one thing is clear: the world of photography is incredibly nuanced. There are countless ways to compose and edit a picture, but often, image-makers concentrate their portfolio on one or two types of photography. That way, they can perfect their techniques and refine their visual language to make their pictures even stronger.
Check out some of our favorite types of photography and the contemporary image makers working within these genres.
Ever since photography was invented in 1839, people have been trying to capture the Earth from above. Aerial photography has a long and rich history, which started in 1858 when photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon tethered a camera to a balloon. Since then, it’s only gotten better thanks to the advent of drones. Photographer Andy Yeung tells us, “What I like most about working with drones is that we can see things we normally don't have access to. Plus, drones add a layer between traditional aerial pictures and ground pictures, making the creative process more interesting.” If you’d like to get started with aerial photography, learn how 10 amazing photographers capture the world from above.
Black and White Photography
Modern black and white pictures keep photography's oldest tradition alive. Now, shooting with this limited palette is a stylistic choice rather than a necessity, and image makers use it as a way to add timeless drama to their compositions. When shooting a photograph in black and white, it’s most important to remember contrast; the shadows will look more defined, and your extreme tones will appear crisp and clean. As a result, your image will pop. For more insight on capturing bold and beautiful shadows, check out our helpful guide.
Many types of photography captures exactly what the camera sees, but that isn’t the case with the composite approach. It features dozens, if not hundreds, of photographs in a single image. The individual photos are shot and then digitally patched together into a believable scene. If you’ve got Photoshop, you too can make your own composite image. Learn how in the online class called Compositing in Photoshop From Start to Finish.
Infrared photographs reimagine the world as we know it. Using special photography filters, ordinary places are transformed into otherworldly locales. Trees and grass, for instance, are tinged in shades of oranges pinks, and purples. Even fog can take on a life of its own. In Bradley G. Munkowitz's series depicting Tracy Arm fjord in Alaska, the low-lying clouds look like fields of lava ready to erupt. Photographer Paolo Pettigiani echoes this in his infrared images of Central Park. “What I like about this kind of photography is making visible something invisible.”
Photography offers an ideal way to capture the beauty of dance. The best images are moments frozen in time that showcase the artistry and strength of its subjects. But, photographing these images aren't as effortless as they look. To capture a dancer—especially one in mid air—split-seconds count, so you need to have a fast shutter speed on your camera. Also, you must consider the best angle at which to point your device; dance is more than just body movement, so be sure to photograph a dancer's face to really get the essence of their performance.
One of the biggest trends in social media—still—is taking pictures of your food. Professional chefs and amateurs alike can make our mouths water with one appetizing image. To ensure that the dish will look delicious, there are a few tips to remember: make sure your food is well lit (try photographing in natural light); pay attention to your props; and shoot quickly—food doesn’t last forever before it melts or collapses!
Macro photography makes things that are small appear larger than life. It’s got a broad range of applications, but one of our favorites is in photographing tiny bugs and plants. Exotic insects have their amazing colors and characteristics magnified, and as a result, we see all of the details that we would normally miss. You can take your own macro photos as long as you have a special lens. Tamron makes some of the top lenses for Nikon and Canon. But, if you don’t want to outfit your DSLR, there are plenty of inexpensive macro attachments for your smartphone, too.
Anyone can snap a photo of their home, but great interior photographers create awe-inspiring views of a confined space. Some of the most impressive images are of grandiose settings like opera houses. Photographer David Leventi, for instance, captures the drama and beauty of these spaces—even when there’s nothing on stage. These particular places are designed to be spectacular, but with the right angles and composition, even something as ordinary as stairs can be exciting. Balint Alovits demonstrates that when photographed well, they appear as a spellbinding abstract form.
Fairy Tale Photography
Fairy tales have been around for hundreds of years, and photographers are still trying to recreate them in their images today. While many creatives pay homage to stories like Little Red Riding Hood, others produce striking pictures with a fairy tale magic in mind. These type of photos lend themselves well to elaborate stages and costumes. But, you don’t need a complex setup to make your own fantastical images. Daniela Majic creates them in her tiny attic!
Natural Landscape Photography
When photography was first invented, some of the earliest images were of the outdoors. So, it’s no surprise that natural landscapes remain a popular type of photography—there’s so much beauty out there! One subject that image makers are continually drawn to are mountains. You too can capture their majesty. We’ve outlined some tips, including: scope out an original location; plan your lighting; and as always, consider your composition.
Arguably, one of photography’s greatest strengths is revealing what’s normally unseen or goes unnoticed; documentary images provide a better understanding of the world at large. Sometimes, these people or places are hiding in plain sight. When photographer and law student Diana Kim was taking pictures of homeless people on the streets of Honolulu, she discovered that her father was among them.
Every year, countless couples have their nuptials photographed. Many of these images are straightforward portraits. Some photographers, however, go to the extreme to capture these celebrations in unconventional ways. From shooting underwater to hiking to the top of a mountain, a band of galloping horses can’t stop some wedding photographers from getting the perfect shot. The results transcend the image into a work of art that just happens to include a white dress and a suit.