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What is Photography?

Just what is photography, and what are the different styles?

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What is Photography?

1,087 words, estimated reading time 5 minutes.

What is Photography? Every day we are exposed to photography and visual imagery, whether it's an advertising campaign or simply looking at pictures of friends and family on a social networking site.
Introduction to Photography Series
  1. What is Photography?
  2. Focal Length and Lenses
  3. A Guide to Camera Shooting Modes
  4. Understanding Shutter Speeds
  5. What is Depth of Field
  6. Exposure Triangle: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO
  7. Composition in Photography
  8. White Balance Explained
  9. Flash Photography
  10. How To Use a Tripod

Photography is an art form which allows us to convey a message, tell a story, sell a product, or to simply illustrate how beautiful a certain place you visited is.

To some, photography is a hobby, a passion, something to be enjoyed both in the taking of the photo and also sharing the results with others. To others photography is a job, a means to make money. To a select few they make their living doing what they are passionate about.

There are many different styles of photography, each having its own preferred equipment toolkit and techniques. The way we shoot and what we capture determines what the photograph communicates. Understanding the different styles will help identify subjects you like to shoot and enhance your own style.

Different Styles

Here is a quick rundown on the most popular photography styles. This is not an exhaustive list, there are many more styles, and most styles cross over and blend into others.

Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is one of the most popular styles and captures spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape Photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on man-made features or disturbances of landscapes.

Pen y Fan Climb 2011

Architectural Photography

Architectural photography is the photography of buildings and structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and accurate representations of their subjects. Architectural photography places an emphasis on creating accurate representations, and geometric symmetry in the photo. While architectural photography may seem simple there are lots of things to watch out for, and sometimes special equipment may be required. Most lenses will "fish eye" when capturing a whole building, and the walls will be distorted and appear to bow outwards. Special perspective control equipment is used to correct this and produce photographs of buildings with straight walls.

Glasgow Architecture
Glasgow Architecture

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography or portraiture is photography of a person or group of people that displays the expression, personality, and mood of the subject. The focus of the photograph is usually the person's face, although the entire body and the background or context may be included.

Nina 2

Fashion Photography

Fashion photography is similar to portrait photography, except that rather than focusing on the face, the emphasis is on the lifestyle. It also aims to capture the details of the clothing and other fashion items. Fashion photography is most often conducted for advertisements or fashion magazines

Nina 10

Macro Photography

Macro Photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. Macro photography is great for really bringing out the detail of your subject, but can be tricky especially for insects and animals as you need to get close to the subject.

Fly on a Leaf

Black and White Photography

Black and white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is more accurately monochrome since it captures shades of grey. The focus isn't on the colours but instead shapes, tones and textures. Shadows and highlights become much more important.

Black and White Photography
Black and White Photography

Documentary Photography

Documentary photography is used mainly for reporting and journalism and can also be used for events and significant historical or political reporting. The aim is very much to capture the feelings and emotions of the time, often in groups, but sometimes the individual.

Example of documentary photography
Example of documentary photography

Urban Photography

Urban Landscape photography is a little tricky to define as it sits between a number of other genres. It is similar to architectural photography, but there is far less emphasis on the symmetry and while architectural photographers may target modern designs and glass fronts, urban photographers mainly focus on older building, textures and decay.

Exploring Bristol
Hidden Bristol

Time-lapse Photography

Time-lapse Photography uses very long exposure and is used to illustrate something happening over time. A popular example is a street at night with car lights blurred into long lines.

Time-lapse photography experiment on smartphone
Time-lapse photography experiment on smartphone

Aerial Photography

Photography took from a different perspective, usually landscapes, from above. Examples would include photos taken from aeroplanes or balloons, drones or from a height.

Aerial photo over Bristol
Aerial photo over Bristol


Astrophotography is a specialised type of photography for recording images of astronomical objects and large areas of the night sky. This typically uses specialised equipment and very long shutter speeds to capture everything from stars and constellations to planets and even distant galaxies.

The Sky at Night
The Sky at Night

Types of camera

As with the photography styles, there are a number of different camera types available on the market to choose from. This short guide will help you with purchasing a camera best tailored for your needs, making shooting in various conditions and situations easier and more enjoyable.

Compact Camera

Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR Digital Camera Review
Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR Digital Camera Review

Compact cameras are often pocket size point and shoot cameras, traditionally with little in the way of functionality or zoom, however developments over the past few years have brought the compact camera into the high tech range. While they lack the large sensor size of the larger cameras, the range of features is comparable with low-end bridge and SLR cameras. Some compacts offer an impressive telephoto range, sometimes even up to 10x zoom.

Bridge Camera

Fuji S602 Zoom
Fuji S602 Zoom

Bridge cameras are a step up from the compact camera but not as high as an SLR camera. They have larger, higher quality lens and offer more in the way of features and settings than a compact, sometimes even comparative with an SLR.

Hybrid Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (left) and Canon PowerShot G11 (right)
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (left) and Canon PowerShot G11 (right)

Hybrid cameras are a newish type of camera that offers the function and features of a bridge camera, with interchangeable lenses of an SLR. Like compact cameras, the they do not have optical view finders, nor the features of an SLR, but they do offer a range of interchangeable lenses and a larger format sensor.

Digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR)

Canon EOS550d Digital SLR
Canon EOS550d Digital SLR

dSLR cameras are pretty much the same as a traditional 35mm SLR cameras, with the exception that a sensor takes the place of the film. The range of features, sensor and lens quality is far superior to that of any other type of camera, however the price reflects this.


Sony Ericsson Xperia ARC
Sony Ericsson Xperia ARC

As with compact cameras, smartphone cameras have come on a long way over the past few years and offer an impressive range of features. Some even have optical image stabilisation, IR laser auto focus, xenon flash and fully manual modes.

Last updated on: Sunday 18th June 2017

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