Free Photography Class #2: All About Photography Niches and Specialties

women looking at photos on camera and smiling
Types of Photography Specialties and Niches

Free Photography Class #2: All About Photography Niches and Specialties

So, you may be asking, “I know there are more fields of photography than your last post. What’s the deal, guy?” Well, you won’t find a website that lists all fields or photography specialties because new ones are being created, constantly. Many hope that they will create something new, unique and exciting. The last discussion was regarding my take on General Fields of Photography. Now we are going to dive into some of the best-known photography niches. But remember, the list won’t stop here! But this will give you a great idea of what is out there and perhaps even start refining your search to match your artistic interests and talents.

Many photographers, like myself, cross many of these lines, sometimes in the same shoot. Many of my examples are even available in our Seven11 gallery. So, the best thing when starting out is to be well rounded. I use my experience in wildlife photography to capture great street photography. Same can be said for any of these specialties, so the key is to get out and start learning your camera, experimenting, and work toward your first 10,000 well composed images. Let’s go!

Photography Niches: Portrait Specialties

Photography Niches and Specialties: headshots

Headshots

Photography from the torso up, sometimes only the face. It can have artistic freedom, show someone’s personality, used for a company’s organizational charts or web pages, and we all know those random models who are more than happy to provide a quality headshot to an agency.  This is an area where you can really focus on one group of individuals and become known for the photographer that provides “headshots to the stars,” or you can take the artistic freedom for gallery work, displaying faces from around the world with stunning lighting and details that almost looks 3D.  You can work out of a studio or even offer on-site services. These photography niches are wide open. We will talk about the kind of lenses you will want to consider in the next discussion!

Photography niches and specialties- newborn

Maternity, Newborn, Engagements, Senior/Graduate, Family, Child

You get six in one on this group of photography niches! That’s because the skillsets are very similar. Obviously, you are going to have a very special eye for newborn photography since you physically have to stage the child yourself, but all of them come down to “hang on the wall” artistry.  Any of these can involve one individual or the whole family might be involved. You may cross from portrait to candid lifestyle. Many photographers only do studio work so they can control the light and backgrounds, some prefer to only do outdoors so they can make every picture special to each client.  But it all comes down to capturing your client’s personality and uniqueness with the aesthetics they will want to display in their home.  We will talk about the kind of lenses you will want to consider in the next discussion!

Photography niches and specialties- pets

Pet Photography

I am going to separate this one because it comes with a whole new set of challenges. Just like the advice they give someone considering veterinary school, remember that not all pets have fur! Be prepared to get the “would you take pictures of my pet, Tiny, he is an 11ft python” questions. Of course, you can always refuse, but when you choose this specialty, you may get more than you bargained for.  And you are always in competition with the phone cameras! So, you really have to bring your “A” game to make captivating and memorable pictures that someone will cherish. The photographers that offer Halloween specials are some of my favorites! No one hates a Pug in a bumble bee costume! We will talk about the kind of lenses you will want to consider in the next discussion!

Photography Niches- Boudoir

Boudoir

French for a woman’s private dressing room, bedroom etc.  These are images that merge artistry with sensuality, but rarely should involve nudity (even though many will go that direction). Boudoir is about suggestion, so a model may be holding up a blanket looking out the bedroom window and appear nude, but artistic nudity is a class of its own.  Typically, you are going to get models looking to expand their portfolio to show potential agencies their saucier side, but you will also see the average person just wanting to do something special for an anniversary or engagement. 

Whether it is dealing with models or mommas, remember to handle with dignity, no touching, professional language only, and always discusses exactly what they are looking for ahead of time. Typically, most clients are going to just want to show a little suggestive skin in a favorite lingerie or click a few arousing pictures for their hubby in a tempting nightie.  But you want to always discuss limits, your suggestions, and always, always, always, discuss confidentiality.  You have no right to share intimate pictures of someone (especially without written consent) just because you took the images, even if you have a legal right, you are dealing with a human being who has a family and feelings.  If you don’t care about that, you are in the wrong profession.

Photography Niches- fashion

Fashion and Glamour

Now you are getting into the expert territory of portrait photography here, only because the clientele are typically professional models and celebrities. All of these are extremely challenging specialties, I only say that regarding fashion and glamour because you normally aren’t going to have a local studio advertising that they only do fashion and glamour shoots for walk-ins. You will, however, gain a great deal of experience and necessary skills from each of the previous specialties and niches. Here, at this level, you are typically commissioned by anyone from a mom & pop clothing and accessories store to corporate conglomerates and magazines. 

But the hard and fast rule is that fashion will focus on the apparel and accessories being sold and will showcase the model in a way that supports that company’s image, glamour is going to lean a little toward the boudoir category, using the appearance of wealth, prosperity and sensuality to support an advertisement, ideology, etc.  A difficult field to break into and you typically know your way around the landscape by the time you do. We will talk about the kind of lenses you will want to consider in the next discussion!

Photography Niches-artistic nudity

Artistic Nudity

This field is as old as photography itself. We can see its “painting predecessor’s” work in galleries, cathedrals, and art collections the world over.  When done correctly, these works can be amazingly beautiful and capture the true essence of the human form; however, that question about intent is always going to be in the back of your mind.  There is a very blurred line regarding this field because, like boudoir, it can start hinting toward erotic.  Are you capturing art, sensuality, or sexuality? I would throw “parts” photography (photography of an isolated part of the body) in here too.

If you ever question if this is for you, say no. Nudity comes with it a whole new set of trust issues, morality, and drama; I cannot even explain it all since every session is different.  But a ballet leotard or long flowing dress can often portray the same art as nudity. Often times without drawing that insecurity out of a person. Models are often not even aware of the potential consequences of this art form. At least not until much later when it comes back to haunt them. 

Just to Note:

As a Christian Photography company, we choose to not offer this art form, but that is up to each individual.  We have yet to hit any roadblocks that have stunted our success by making this decision.  Always disclose how the pictures are going to be used, who will see them, and offer alternatives.  Also, if you are working with a first-time model, always share the images first, even with a signed waiver. If they prefer that you throw something out, throw it out.  Wait a couple weeks and then notify them you are ready to publish and see if they have any concerns.  Be that photographer with the reputation that cares about the individual over everything else, it will never lead you wrong.

Many of the lenses are the same as other forms of portrait photography which we will discuss in our discussion on lenses, next.

Photography Niches: Street Photography

Photography Niches- urbanex

Urban Exploration

Suit up, because you are going to need your pack and potentially your running shoes for this one. This is a massively popular field, especially for the young photographers out there who have the agility to climb into open windows, jump fences and outrun the police.  In all seriousness, some of the work I have seen from urban explorers is stunning.  They are typically finding homes, hospitals, mills, factories, etc. that are abandoned and utilize a wide array of genres to capture landscapes, architecture, macros, portraits, still life, anything you can think of. 

This is a great way to practice a huge variety of photography, lighting conditions, and often forgotten-rarely photographed sites.  The catch?  Most are either privately owned or owned by a bank, government, etc. and that means…. That’s right… without consent, you are trespassing.  Given the legal nature of this field, without consent, Seven11 Photography will not engage in this form of photography; and we highly recommend that you don’t look to breaking laws just to get some pictures.  Do the research, ask for permission, and save your camera equipment from getting confiscated.

Photography Specialties- architecture

Architecture

Obviously, you walk a fine line between many genres when you focus on architecture, but I feel it is a good fit to fall under street photography. Typically, you don’t own the building you are capturing, so it’s hard to stage too much, and you often can’t help if people are in your shot a lot of the time. So, you have to choose your timing, be patient until the frame is perfect, and capture that beautiful human marvel.  Geometrics definitely play heavily in architecture, so you will also see many images that lean into the abstract category.  If you are capturing a few people candidly working, now you have a full-blown street photography image. But the possibilities are endless, inside and out of buildings, bridges, homes, offices… the list could go on forever.

Photography Specialties: Commercial

Photography Specialties- advertising

Advertising/product

We all have seen a smiling lady holding a cool bottle of Coke or know what a child is willing to do for a Klondike bar, so I am sure we have a pretty firm grasp of what is expected with advertising. As a photographer, you are capturing the company’s image in a way that promotes sales and taps the advertiser’s vision.  You will need every photographic tool at your disposal, because you will use it eventually!

Photography Specialties- stock photography

Stock

Stock is an open genre that allows photographers to hone their skills while receiving a little side money and potentially residual income for years to come. You take clear, crisp, concise images of people, places and things and upload them for individuals or companies to use on their blogs, websites, advertisements, presentations… whatever they want to use it for, they bought it, right?  However, stock photography companies are very, very selective and even if you get through their guidelines, you will still have to make sales.  That means keeping images simple and obvious. 

If you have models, you will need signed releases for all of them, they won’t be accepted without it.  But one good picture could earn you around $1.00 each time it’s used.  That can really add up when you have 10,000 or so really good pictures. Be careful with the future of this industry too. More and more demand for videos is greatly reducing the need for photos and there are still plenty of pictures out there from very experienced photographers. It’s competitive.

Photography Specialties- travel

Travel

Love to travel and want some major perks?  Ever considered using a drone and maybe incorporating some videos?  Travel photography is very competitive, but it’s pretty obvious to see why! Unless you are going to travel to these locations on your own dime, you are going to have to offer a lot of incentives to get a resort to foot the bill.  But if you like to grab life by the horns and photograph your adventure, this could be the place for you.

Lots of interior resort shots, bold and clear landscapes, maybe a few artistic still life images, and definitely some adventure photography to showcase all there is to do and see will be your norm in this field. Remember that since these may be used for advertising, you will need waivers from anyone captured in your images, to be on the safe side.  That rule doesn’t apply if you have 5000 people in your picture all captured on a public beach, shew!  Always check local laws though, especially in foreign countries.

Photography Specialties- Real estate

Real Estate

It’s not for everyone, but the folks who fall into this field seem to really have a passion for it.  It can be challenging, especially when you end up having to stage a home that the homeowner didn’t clean before you arrived!  But if you enjoy walking into homes, capturing wide angle images of each room, showcasing features, and earning a great income, real estate is not a bad gig.  Many photographers even do this on the side of their more artistic work and can offer drone services to do everything from roof and neighborhood views to virtual video walkthroughs. Finally, a way to put those hours of video game playing to use!

Photography Specialties- still life

Still Life

I’m sure you have seen plenty of pictures of a bowl of fruit hanging in a dining room somewhere. Well, that is still life art, plain and simple.  Still life is the photography of inanimate objects, staged or otherwise.  This is a great place to start for many photographers because you take out the variable of movement and only key in on light, your appropriate camera settings, and your creativity

Still life photography can range from bland to brilliant depending on the photographer’s vision and execution. Start by finding random interesting things around your house, place them in a well-lit spot and start taking images from different angles, different distances, just play around with it and see how your interaction with the camera changes everything about the image!  Since inanimate objects come in big and small, the lens choices range wildly. But we will cover a few great choices in our next section on lenses.

Lifestyle Specialties

Adventure

This field can literally get your pulse racing just looking at the subject barely hanging on to a rock face or taking a spill riding a massive wave.  Adventure photography incorporates landscapes, action, portraits, travel, just so many genres… It’s unique and exciting. If you are a thrill seeker who could capture your cave repelling expeditions or a fan of scuba diving with the sharks, you can really make some amazing work that are going to be on the rare side; I mean I’m not jumping out of an airplane with a camera…. Or at all!

Fitness

It’s not just for the guy who can bench press an SUV, fitness includes yoga, HIIT training, weightlifting, running, biking, you name it.  Often, it will entail posing with an athlete’s body well exposed, in positions that display the level of muscle development and curvature.  You could really place this in with glamour, fashion, or portraiture, but there are moments of candid shooting during workouts or competitions, so we threw it down under lifestyle. I mean, to be worth photographing, it kind of has to be a lifestyle, right?

Events Specialties

Weddings

Kill me now, but this is the end goal for many very gifted photographers world-wide. And a good wedding photographer can be worth their weight in gold, especially when working as a team to ensure multiple angles and people are captured simultaneously.  As I have said before, this is very competitive and very high risk. I mean, if the bride wanted a picture of their first kiss and you are off in the bathroom… you better believe you just potentially lost a client.  No wedding is perfect, but everyone expects the pictures to be. Keep this field in your back pocket and start with family, newborn, engagement photos etc. The best wedding photographers were typically introduced by working on a team of an experienced photographer for a few weddings before going off and doing it solo.

Sports

Sports takes some skill and really, really expensive equipment.  But we have all seen that perfect dunk shot or the picture of a dusk cloud coming from a catcher’s glove as he catches a strike.  To enjoy sports photography, you really need to have a passion for it. Be excited and anticipate what is coming, always ready with camera in hand.  But you can walk away with a one-of-a-kind image of that one play that everyone talks about for years to come. I would say that is as good as catching the homerun ball.

Photojournalism

Photojournalists “freeze” memorable events in time for future generations to see with their own eyes. These guys are the historians of the photography world and it’s amazing the events they have captured.  Just think about sitting in history class and talking about the civil war and how many men died. But then you see an early photo with bodies of soldiers covering every blade of grass.  The downside to keep in mind is that you may leave empty handed many times and could be in some danger when things turn sour. But great risk comes great reward, or so I am told.

Landscape specialty

Astrophotography

It’s bigger than you think, and these folks are very skilled photographers. No question.  Basically, you are opening your shutter as wide as it will open to gather as much light from the night sky as possible. This is to clearly view stars and planets, the moon, and the milky way.  They often include foreground objects like old cars, mountains, and houses to really set the mood. When done correctly they are amazing images.  And just like landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes, they will often drag the shutter to give the solar system motion.  If you have ever seen star streams, you will want to at least try it once.

Outside the Norm

Mobile Photography

This has become the biggest movement in photography since the digital camera. Instead of lugging around that DSLR, folks are opting to whip out their cell phone.  Easy to use and even easier to manipulate. As the cameras on these phones advance, the images are only getting clearer and more available for larger scale prints.  There are many reasons that a DSLR or mirrorless camera is more capable than an iPhone, but convenience isn’t one of them.  For web images that don’t require large file sizes, the market is really seeing a flood from these easy-to-use devices. Next time you look at Facebook or Instagram, try to figure out if the person used a camera or phone. At that scale, many can’t tell the difference!

Written by Jon Frederick also see “the 7 Basic Photography Mistakes made by Photographers

Jon Frederick

I am an internationally exhibited fine arts photographer, blog contributor, and published Christian author. Along with my wife, Kathleen, we are the founders of Seven11 Photography and co-authors of “Immersion: An Inspirational Christian Photography Collection”. “Immersion” is the first devotional of its kind to combine “faith-inspired” photography with individual messages of Christian encouragement, creating a more immersive study you can read, see, and spiritually feel. Our goal is to help fellow Christians deepen their relationship with God by creating studies that go beyond written words. If a picture says a thousand words, our unique approach reaches deep into your thoughts, memories, and emotions, through visual engagement, to deepen your study and actively strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ.