Identifying General Fields of Photography
There is a reason it is hard for photographers to find their “field of expertise” in photography, it’s artistry! And what do artists’ do? They push the limits, blur the lines and question the perspective to create something new and unique. Our first two lessons in this 10-lesson series are the easiest. I created a list on the broad fields of photography to read about and our next blog will dig a little deeper into specialties and niches.
Know that this course will get into all the settings and techniques necessary to become a fantastic photographer. The first two lessons have to cover the fields. This helps you focus techniques as you develop your skills. Plus it is just fun to see what types of specialties there are!
Diving into Fields of Photography
Remember, when it comes to photography, there are no hard and fast rules. I personally take a genre and push it to its limits. I regularly utilize multiple niches and styles to create something unique. Photography is about experimentation and building your abilities across many genres to be a more well-rounded photographer.
First off, the big concept that almost any field of photography can really fit into, Fine Art Photography. Fine art typically implies that there is more to an image than meets the eye; a simple picture could say a thousand words. Most photographers could probably call themselves “Fine Art Photographers.” Especially since this title is open to interpretation. So don’t worry so much about the question, “am I making fine art.” What is not fine art to you, may be fine art to a gallery and vice versa. But I will provide examples along the way so you can see a few ways to view each field as “Fine Art.”
Fields of Photography: Portrait Photography
Explained: Nearly everyone has some level of experience with portrait photography. Whether it’s your school headshots for the yearbook, newborn pictures, work pictures, or even taking a few pictures with your iPhone. Portraits are staged photographs where the human
(or furry family members) are center stage. In most cases, portrait photography focuses on the live subject and displays their gestures, emotions, style… etc. But it is safe to say that if you like to stage (place a person or animal in a certain position, expression, etc.), you very well might be a portrait photographer.
Talents and Interests: People person; find beauty in the human form, face and expressions; strong grasp on how to work indoor and outdoor light for desired effects; artistic vision; strong knowledge of camera settings and features; eye for post processing work (Photoshop, Lightroom,etc.)
Fields of Photography: Street Photography
Explained: Some of my most prized photos came from simple street photography. With the development of built-in phone cameras, street photography has taken a life of its own. Why? Because these photos are often about being at the right place at the right time. Typically taken from or of the street, this is a genre that captures life in motion. Candid people having candid conversations, reactions, routines, store fronts, unique urban architecture, you name it. But the key concepts here are that it’s candid and captures life on or around a street setting. It does not require humans or even animals but is more about the photographer discovering and shooting his or her subjects in public or semi-public places with little or no interaction.
Techniques and Talents: If I had to think of the perfect starting point for a photographer, I would tell them to go out and do some street photography. Need motivation, patience, strong grasp of camera settings since most events can happen quickly. It helps to be one of those folks that likes to people watch, and you need an artistic eye since sometimes the best art can come from some of the most common things.
Fields of Photography: Macro Photography
Explained: Macro photography creates a whole new world and perspective for viewers, and you realize there is a universe of the small and tiny around us. This takes specialty “macro” lenses and great lighting to really look down at the insects and flowers and see what the naked eye can’t. I recently did a macro shot of a quarter ($.25) and never knew all the scratches, dings, ribs and detailed images all over such a common object. Macro is about viewing life through a different perspective and wide open for artistic interpretation.
Techniques and Talents: Patience is key. To get quality pictures you must have perfect lighting, a steady hand or tripod, and realize that these critters will not sit still. That doesn’t change with flowers! The slightest breeze sends the whole picture looking like a Van Gogh painting. I am not the biggest fan of bugs, but the photos are very interesting and captivating. And nothing can be more beautiful than a close-up of the inside of a flower. So, if you appreciate this delicate mini world beneath you, you might want to really look at macro photography.
Fields of Photography: Landscape Photography
Explained: Want to be a National Geographic photographer, huh? Finding the perfect time of the day to capture a beautiful view of a sweeping landscape? Or perhaps you want to show the hustle and bustle of city lights at night from far away in a panoramic cityscape. Maybe an early foggy morning along the coast with a single sailboat sleeping in the distance. Well landscapes are for you. But get ready to shell out some cash, good lenses for landscapes are not cheap and you will regret getting cheap glass! But when done correctly, I am sure you know of someone who has a beautiful landscape, seascape or cityscape hanging in their home.
Techniques and Talents: You will need a firm grasp of “the golden hour” and be late to bed and early to rise. The perfect timing for landscapes is right before sunrise and right after sunset, but so worth it. You will also need to have some contentment with hiking, traveling, camping and the outdoors in general. And a firm, I mean very firm, understanding of your camera and lenses.
Fields of Photography: Animal Photography
Explained: If you are an animal lover and could watch our furry and feathery friends for hours with or without a camera, this is your field! In wildlife photography, many professionals come back empty handed and often capture the perfect images only after facing freezing cold temperatures and long days. Wildlife photography can be one of the most challenging fields because you not only have to wait until you get the opportunity to shoot, but then you must be prepared and get the image before the little fella runs away on you. Think of it as a hunter without the need to kill.
But if you prefer to keep your flip flops and tank tops on, try the zoo or Safaris. Even maybe a guided tour. Many animal photographers photograph animals to catalog endangered, captured species. So, although you may not want to hit the woods with your Off spray, you can still create unique images from farms, zoos, and wildlife sanctuaries.
Techniques and Talents: A love for animals and an understanding of their behavior. Also need patience and creative vision, not to mention a good grasp of how to create very clear and well composed pictures. For the best opportunities and enjoyment, you need a love of nature. Because you will be in it, a lot!
Explained: Argue if you want, but event photography can be the most challenging, the most difficult, and the most demanding genre. Why? One word, weddings. This field is not for the faint of heart or the thin skinned. You will see what I mean when you shoot a wedding and realize your camera autofocus was a little off. With big risk comes big reward though, and this can be one of the most lucrative fields of photography. Now weddings aren’t where events start and stop. Sports photography is big business too! How about concerts, fairs, local events, even photojournalism could fall under this category. Many of those are candid photos and if you miss one spectacular event, there may be another right behind it. Some people even commission a photographer for company picnics, birthdays, family reunions. Plenty of opportunities to hone your skill before taking the deep dive with bridezilla.
Techniques and Talents: Good timing and reflexes are key. That slam dunk or the birthday boy blowing out the candles may only happen once, so you must be ready. Also, the ability to change out lenses quickly, know what you need for a shot and have a firm grasp of your camera’s settings and features. But it is so easy to learn photography through events. Just take your camera and take some shots at something you are invited to, see what you did wrong and work on that. There is plenty of time for the big leagues when you have the right equipment and experience.
Explained: Ah, so now you want to see if you can earn money as a photographer. Answer is a big yes. Commercial photographers can work on anything from brochures, menus, real estate, product advertisements, etc.; but it is not an easy field to get into. Try starting by taking some stock photography for companies like Adobe Stock. Here you can take pictures that anyone can use as part of presentations, commercials, ads, etc. and they pay for your picture if they want to use it. Versatility is key in commercial photography and the equipment can really add up over time. You may use drones to take arial pictures of a new resort for their travel website, take macro images of jewelry for a catalog, or even taking pictures in a studio of models showcasing a new fashion piece going on sale.
Techniques and Talents: Versatility is key. You want to have experience taking high quality images with little artistic expression. Clean, crisp, and uncluttered are vital in most jobs. And shining the product in a possible light is obviously essential!
Explained: Painting with a camera, the digital artist must be your calling if you are considering abstract photography. Abstract is less about clarity and more about mood and interpretation. Abstract photographers try to find new and innovative ways to create dynamic images with the features of a camera along with things all around them. This field takes enormous amounts of creativity and although you can accidentally create a work of art, typically these photographers know their camera and lenses inside out and know how to manipulate them to create images you would never imagine came from a camera.
Techniques and Talents: Artistic spirit and the ability to utilize niches and settings to bring your vision to life. This takes patience, creativity, and a very firm understanding of how a camera sensor interprets the affects you are trying to create.
Explained: Less is more, right? Well, that is the concept behind minimalism and, when done correctly, can make stunning images that draw you in and leave you staring at a picture and in the mindset of the photographer. Minimalist principles believe that you only display what is necessary, leaving out all the clutter. These images in black and white, low saturation, and even vibrant colors can be real earning generators for the right crowd.
Techniques and Talents: Understand and embrace the minimalist ideals. You must have an eye to see the beauty in simplicity and the ability to use the camera features and settings to create imaginative complexity using only the essentials. This is a unique skillset and can be learned, but someone who just “gets it” is going to be the most successful at recognizing it in the world around them.
Explained: This is one near and dear to my heart. I personally love lifestyle photography because I am creating something captivating from the everyday. Maybe it’s a husband and wife cooking in the kitchen, or an elderly couple in their front porch rockers. No matter what, lifestyle will be candid; otherwise, you are moving into portraiture territory. Lifestyle should be closer to street photography and often overlap. But either way, you will capture genuine expressions, unique people and a sense of culture of life during that time.
Techniques and Talents: You must be able to see the beauty in the everyday. Any task can be unique and artistic, but you must know the lighting, angles, timing and expressions you want to convey. Timing, vision, and patience are all essential.