Photography Styles Defined: Popular Techniques and Approaches
Finding a photography style is an important aspect of being a good photographer. Without a defined style or approach, a photographer’s work can look inconsistent and haphazard. A defined style also helps photographers communicate a clear message to their viewers, develop standards and workflows for getting to that style, and ultimately refine and distinguish the style over time. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the most popular photography styles and explore the techniques and approaches that define them to help you discover and define your own photography style.
What is a Photography Style?
What exactly is a “style” in photography? Some people, and even some respectable resources on the internet, mistakenly confuse the word “style” with “genre” and refer to genres like “wedding photography” or “landscape photography” as styles. A more accurate method to define a photography style is combining an adjective with a genre. So, for example, “moody wedding photography” or “minimalist landscape photography” are distinct styles of photography. The adjective can refer to their editing style, their overall approach, or any other descriptive words that intuitively categorize the work. So with that in mind, let’s review some of the most popular styles within various genres (or types) of photography.
Common Adjectives (Descriptors) for Styles
The first step in defining a photography style is to find the adjective that best describes the overall look, feel, or approach. Then, we want to pair the adjective with a genre. For example, the adjective might be “minimalistic” and the genre might be “landscape photography” for a combination of “minimalistic landscape photography.”
Here are common ways photographers describe their styles:
- By Editing Style – A photography style can be dictated by the primary photography editing style, such as Vibrant, Light and Airy, Dark and Moody, Black and White, Cinematic, Etc. Example: Light and Airy Family Photography
- By the Technology Used – A photography style can also be dictated by the technology used, such as Filmic, Infared, Macro, Etc. Example: Macro Nature Photography
- By the Approach – A photography style can also be dictated by the overall approach and interaction with the subjects, such as photojournalistic, candid, lifestyle, traditional, minimalistic. Example: Photojournalistic Street Photography
Common Photography Styles by Genre
As mentioned, a photography style combines an adjective with a genre of photography. While this isn’t an exact science, there are common combinations that photographers tend to group themselves in. In this next section, let’s review some of the most common combinations for each genre.
Family Photography Styles
There are different family photography styles that photographers use to capture the unique personalities and relationships of a family.
Traditional family photography
Traditional family photography involves capturing posed, formal shots of the family members.
Lifestyle family photography
Lifestyle family photography is more relaxed and natural, with a focus on capturing the family members in their everyday environment. Read more about Lifestyle vs Traditional Family Photography.
Documentary family photography
Documentary family photography captures the real moments of a family, including their emotions and interactions.
Each style has its unique techniques and approaches, and understanding them is essential for photographers to capture images that will become treasured family memories.
Landscape Photography Styles
Landscape photography styles showcase the unique qualities and features of a landscape in various ways.
Traditional landscape photography
Traditional landscape photography involves capturing wide-angle shots of the landscape in natural light.
Black and white landscape photography
Black and white landscape photography is a classic style that uses shades of gray to create contrast and depth in an image.
Panoramic landscape photography
Panoramic landscape photography involves capturing multiple images of a landscape and stitching them together to create a wide, panoramic view. Each style has its unique techniques and approaches, and understanding them is essential for photographers to capture the perfect images of a landscape.
Minimalistic landscape photography
Minimalistic landscape photography is a style of photography that emphasizes simplicity and minimalism in composition. It typically features landscapes with a limited number of elements and a focus on negative space, creating a sense of tranquility and calmness. The goal of this style is to convey the beauty and serenity of nature through a clean and uncluttered visual language. This often involves the use of a neutral color palette and the careful placement of subjects within the frame to create a balanced and harmonious image.
Astrophotography is a specialized form of photography that involves capturing images of celestial objects, including stars, planets, galaxies, and other astronomical phenomena. This style of photography typically requires specialized equipment, such as a telescope, a camera with long exposure capabilities, and often an equatorial mount to keep the camera pointed at the same area of the sky.
HDR landscape photography
HDR (High Dynamic Range) landscape photography is a technique that involves taking multiple photographs of the same scene at different exposures and blending them together to create an image with a greater range of brightness and detail. This technique is used to capture a wider range of tones and colors that may not be possible with a single exposure, particularly in challenging lighting situations such as when the sky is much brighter than the foreground. The resulting image has a more lifelike appearance with greater detail in both shadows and highlights, creating a more dynamic and visually striking landscape photograph.
Wedding Photography Styles
Wedding photography styles differ in approach, editing style, and more, with the common goal of capturing the couple’s unique personalities and the overall mood of the event.
Traditional wedding photography
Traditional wedding photography captures more posed, formal shots of the couple, their families, and the major events of the day.
Photojournalistic wedding photography
Photojournalistic wedding photography is more candid and captures the events of the day as they unfold with a “fly on the wall” approach.
Fine art wedding photography
Fine art wedding photography is often photographed with film or a hybrid (film + light and airy digital) approach.
Lifestyle wedding photography
Lifestyle wedding photography is more relaxed and natural, with a focus on capturing the couple’s personalities and emotions.
[Editing Style] + Wedding Photography
One of the most common ways to categorize wedding photographers define their styles is by editing style. Here are some common wedding photography styles that follow this taxonomy:
- Dark and Moody Wedding Photography
- Light and Airy Wedding Photography
- Vibrant Wedding Photography
Fashion and Commercial Photography Styles
There are different fashion and commercial photography styles that photographers use to showcase products and fashion, with a focus on capturing images that are visually appealing and sellable.
Traditional fashion and commercial photography
Traditional fashion and commercial photography involve capturing well-lit, high-quality images of products, models, or celebrities.
Lifestyle fashion and commercial photography
Lifestyle fashion and commercial photography is more relaxed and natural, with a focus on capturing products and models in everyday situations.
High-fashion and editorial photography
High-fashion and editorial photography is more creative and experimental, with a focus on creating a unique and eye-catching image that will stand out in the market. This style is commonly used on Magazine covers.
Real Estate Photography Styles
Real estate photography is a specialized genre of photography that focuses on capturing images of properties, including homes, commercial buildings, and landscapes. There are different real estate photography styles that photographers use to showcase the unique features and qualities of a property.
Traditional real estate photography
Traditional real estate photography is the most common style and involves capturing well-lit, wide-angle shots of the property’s interior and exterior.
Architectural real estate photography
Architectural real estate photography is more creative and artistic, with a focus on capturing the unique design and features of a property.
Aerial real estate photography
Aerial real estate photography involves capturing images of a property from above using drones or helicopters. 360-degree virtual tours provide an immersive experience for prospective buyers, allowing them to explore a property’s features and layout from the comfort of their own home.
Street Photography Styles
Street photography is a genre of photography that captures candid moments of people and objects in public spaces, such as streets, parks, and plazas. There are different street photography styles that photographers use to showcase the unique characteristics of a location or a culture.
Urban street photography
Urban street photography involves capturing images of the built environment and its relationship with people.
Documentary street photography
Documentary street photography is a genre of photography that aims to capture candid and unposed images of people and their environment, with the intention of documenting a particular time, place, or social issue. This style often involves capturing real-life situations and moments, as they unfold, without any manipulation or intervention by the photographer. The images are typically black and white and often have a gritty, raw aesthetic that reflects the reality of the subject matter. The aim of documentary street photography is to provide an authentic representation of the world around us and to offer a unique perspective on the social and cultural aspects of our lives.
Travel Photography Styles
Travel photography is a genre of photography that captures the beauty and essence of a particular destination, including its landscapes, people, and culture. There are different travel photography styles that photographers use to showcase the unique qualities and characteristics of a location.
Traditional travel photography
Traditional travel photography involves capturing images of famous landmarks and tourist attractions.
Documentary travel photography
Documentary travel photography aims to capture the reality and lifestyle of a particular destination or culture.
Environmental travel photography
Environmental travel photography focuses on the relationship between people and their natural surroundings.
Headshot Photography Styles
There are different headshot photography styles that photographers use to capture an individual’s personality and character. Learn about this genre in our Headshot Photography 101 workshop.
Traditional headshots are typically shot in a studio with a simple background and lighting setup.
Environmental headshots are captured on location with the subject surrounded by their natural environment.
Lifestyle headshots are a style of portrait photography that aims to capture the essence of an individual’s personality and lifestyle. Unlike traditional headshots that are often posed and formal, lifestyle headshots are more relaxed and natural, with the subject engaging in activities or poses that reflect their personality and interests. The goal of lifestyle headshots is to create a more dynamic and engaging image that conveys the subject’s personality and story.
Commercial headshots are a style of portrait photography that is primarily used for commercial and professional purposes. These images are typically more formal and posed than lifestyle headshots, with the focus being on presenting the subject in a professional and polished manner. Commercial headshots are often used for corporate websites, marketing materials, and professional directories, and are designed to convey a sense of credibility and competence.
Nature and Wildlife Photography Styles
Nature and wildlife photography is a genre of photography that captures the beauty and majesty of the natural world, including animals, plants, and landscapes. There are different nature and wildlife photography styles that photographers use to showcase the unique qualities and characteristics of the natural world.
Traditional nature and wildlife photography
Traditional nature and wildlife photography involve capturing well-lit, high-quality images of animals and landscapes in their natural habitats.
Macro nature photography
Macro photography involves capturing detailed images of the small wonders of nature, such as insects and plants.
Conservation photography is a type of photography that aims to use images to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote conservation efforts. This style of photography focuses on capturing images of threatened species, habitats, and ecosystems, as well as the people and cultures that depend on them. The goal of conservation photography is to inspire action by communicating the beauty, complexity, and fragility of the natural world, and by showing the impact of human activities on the environment.
Other Creative Photography Styles
Other creative photography styles include styles and concepts such abstract, surreal, and experimental photography. Abstract photography involves capturing images that do not have an identifiable subject. Instead, the focus is on color, texture, and composition. Surreal photography, on the other hand, involves creating images that are dream-like and often include elements that are not normally found in reality. Experimental photography, on the other hand, involves the use of techniques like double exposure, motion blur, and selective focus to create images that are unique and visually striking.
Understanding the different photography styles is essential to improve your photography skills. Photographers don’t need to be contained by a single style. By exploring the techniques and approaches that define each style, you can develop your own unique style and approach to photography. So get out there and start experimenting! Who knows, you may just discover a new photography style that defines your work.