Love taking photos but not sure what types of photography can earn you a living? Follow along below!
Whether you want to start your own small business or just enjoy photography as a hobby, here are 10 types of photography to keep you busy all year-round.
Types of photography vs. styles of photography
To start off, I’m defining types of photography based largely on the subject of the image. These different slightly from what I call styles of photography, meaning what specific techniques did the photographer use when shooting and editing the image. I would consider portrait a type of photography then, where black and white is a style. I admit to having some crossover between the two, but for this article, I’m going to focus on types of photography, i.e. what avenues can you pursue if you want to earn money for your photography.
#1. Portrait Photography
Portrait photography focuses on taking pictures of people. A portrait photographer usually aims to not only capture the subject’s likeness, but also to convey emotion, personality and even context in the image. The term portrait might immediately conjure up the idea of posed, formal images, like a presidential portrait. But today’s portraits include both formal and informal images.
Portrait photography is incredibly varied itself. Portraits can include family, school or newborn photos, as well as milestone sessions such as cake smashes or birthday photos. Your portrait photography business could also include senior photography sessions, headshots or even budoir photos!
Each of these specialties has its own benefits, challenges and customers. But as people are the main focus, they are really all just different forms of portrait photography.
Pet portraits is another growing market in photography. You aren’t taking photos of people, but you are still taking portraits in a general sense. So the same concepts apply.
#2. Event photography
If portrait photography focuses on the who, event photography focuses on the what…what happened at an event. An event photographer aims to capture all the elements of an event, from small details like decorations to key moments like awards and presentations and everything in between. Event photographers often get asked to photograph birthday parties, fairs, festivals, fundraising dinners, balls, conferences, dances or religious ceremonies. Some events also include photo booths or “step and repeat” portraits, which is basically photos of attendees taken in front of a common backdrop.
#3. Wedding photography
Wedding photography is part portrait and part event photography. A wedding photographer captures detail shots of things like the rings, the flowers and the food. And a wedding photographer photographs the big moments of the wedding like exchanging vows and the first kiss as well as formal portraits of the bride, groom, wedding party and family. But weddings are a more intense version of portrait and event photography. There is more pressure, higher expectations and a different level of intensity involved with shooting a wedding. These higher stakes are generally reflected in the increased price of wedding photography, making it a lucrative, if stressful, market.
#4. Real Estate photography
A real estate photographer takes pictures of properties – houses, barns, offices, farms, ranches, factories, etc. Real estate photography is often requested when preparing to sell a property. But other customers might need a good real estate photographer, such as for a magazine article, to promote design or home related goods and services or for other commercial purposes.
#5. Landscape photography
Simply put, landscape photography is photographing a large-scale scene. Most landscape photos feature nature, but cityscapes and other man-made features can also be considered landscape photography. This differs from real-estate and other types of photography in that it is the land and scene itself that is the star of the show. Mountains, deserts, city skylines, shorelines and all the different ecosystems and climes you can think of make great subjects for landscape photography.
#6. Wildlife photography
Wildlife photography involves wildlife, usually in their natural environment. If you love wildlife and enjoy being outside in the great wide world, wildlife photography may be your next great love. With more than 8.7 million species of animals on our planet (give or take 1.3 million), you shouldn’t ever run out of subjects. Professional wildlife photographers often sell their work to magazines, websites or other businesses for commercial use or sell prints to private customers. But some wildlife photographers do it simply for the joy and adventure.
#7. Drone photography
Unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, are gaining in popularity with photographers. These handy machines and their cameras allow photographers to take to the skies to capture new and dramatic perspectives. Drone photography is another type of photography that combines elements of different genres. Drones can be used to shoot events, landscapes, real estate and weddings. Because there is a pretty specific set of equipment and skills needed, along with legal and insurance considerations, it is rapidly becoming its own niche market.
#8. Sports photography
Sports photography is all about capturing the action and intensity of the big game. There are successful sports photographers at all levels, from little league to the major leagues. Shooting sports requires a knowledge of photography and the sport itself. If you know the rules and flow of the game, you’ll be better able to anticipate where and when the action might take place.
Sports photographers may be hired by a college or professional team or league. Some get press credentials and shoot on spec. That means shooting images on a freelance basis with the hopes of selling them in the future. Sports photographers also earn money by shooting individual and team photos that are sold to the athlete or her family.
If you’re considering branching out into sports photography, try to think beyond just football, basketball and soccer. This type of photography can include LOTS of different action. Think track and field, marathons, rodeo, horse shows, competitive Frisbee and even dog agility! There may be many under-served clubs and organizations in your area needing a highly skilled sports photographer!
#9. Macro photography
Macro photography should perhaps be known as micro photography because you are shooting very small things. This type of photography involves shooting extreme close ups of images in which the size of the subject in the photo is magnified to greater than life size. Insects, small animals or flowers are common subjects. But other macro photoshoot ideas include jewelry (think those beautiful wedding ring shots), feathers, snowflakes, water droplets, leaves, rocks or small foodstuffs.
#10. Product photography
Product photographers earn money by taking photos of goods or services for sale. Images you see detailing a good in a catalog, advertisement or even on Amazon is the work of a product photographer. The products may be tangible goods like clothes, jewelry or crafts. Product photography can also involve creating content that helps sell services. Your hair stylist, mechanic, plumber or lawn maintenance professional may all have a need for product, or commercial photography.
What is the most popular type of photography?
Portrait photography is the most popular type of photography. Beyond the number of selfies taken in this world on a daily basis, there is a constant need for portrait photographers. We all want photos of ourselves, friends and families. We all have different reasons for wanting those images. Maybe we are sentimental. Maybe we’re vain. Or we may be trying to share our lives with loved ones far away. But portrait photographers continue to be in demand more so than any other type of photographer.
What kinds of photography jobs are there?
Photographers come in two different kinds of paid flavors – staff photographers and freelance photographers. Staff photographers work for an organization or company. They are paid a salary to take photos that the company needs, when the company needs them, as the company directs. There are hundreds of different kinds of staff photography positions out there, from photojournalists working for a newspaper to wildlife photographers on staff for conservation organizations. Photography companies themselves might hire photogs as staff as well, such as school portrait companies like Life Touch or retailers like JC Penny or Walmart. Disney World and entertainment conglomerates have staff photographers, too.
The benefits of being a staff photographer may include a salary, commissions on sales, health or life insurance benefits and the use of company gear. However, your work and sometimes even your style, are dictated by the company. Other drawbacks include limited creativity and non-compete clauses. A non-compete clause means you are not allowed to take on clients of your own as a freelancer photographer. Some companies also retain the copyrights to any images you shoot, meaning you can’t include those in your portfolio.
Other photographers start their own business as freelance photographers. A freelance photographer is her own boss. She decides what type of photography to offer, when to shoot and how much to charge. She contracts with clients on a short-term basis, but isn’t an employee. A freelance photographer has a much larger degree of creative control and latitude, but is on the hook for her own expenses, travel, gear, insurance, etc.
There are benefits and drawbacks to being both a staff and a freelance photographer. Some photos manage to do both at the same time with great success. It depends on your personality, tolerance for risk and personal circumstances as to which is the better choice. Just know that both are an option if you want to pursue photography professionally.
The good news is there is a type of photography out there for every shutterbug. The bad news is there are so many different types of photography, you might have a hard time deciding which one should be your specialty. Take your time exploring the different types of photography as well as different styles until you find one that really resonates with you. You might come to realize that the type you first believed would be your focus is no longer your favorite. It’s easy to keep exploring, keep enjoying and keep growing as a photographer. That’s what makes this gig so amazing!