The best thing about being a beginner and aspiring photographer is that you are free to explore virtually every photography niche there is. Fashion, photojournalism, sports, events—armed with a camera, you can try it all out and improve your skill at the same time.
But as you gain more experience in photography, you’ll find that it’s hard to master a specific style if you don’t stick to it. In fact, it may be the very thing that could be holding you back from being successful in a particular niche.
In this article, we’ll help you understand some of the most popular niches in photography, what they’re like, and how you can excel in each of them.
Most Popular Types of Photography
Instead of being the Jack of all trades, pick a photography niche (or sub-niche) below and slowly work your way up to success.
Portraiture is arguably the most explored niche or genre in photography. Today, virtually anybody with a smartphone practices portrait photography as it’s become natural to hold and aim the camera at a person.
Also known as candid photography, the beauty in portrait photography is in capturing a person’s personality, sometimes with the use of poses. Professional photographers in this niche normally photograph supermodels or famous personalities on red carpets or at magazine shoots, but in some cases, they also do graduation pictures, family portraits, and professional headshots for aspiring models and actors.
For a more compelling portrait, make sure to get close enough to capture the person’s facial expression clearly.
Check out this article for more portrait photography tips for beginners.
Still Life Photography
As the name entails, this popular photography niche mainly involves taking photos of objects. It crosses over to product photography, through which advertising agencies have branded items photographed for catalogs, magazines, and even billboards. You can feature just one main product or several that follow a central theme, just like in the photo above.
One of the secrets in taking amazing still life photos is to have great lighting, whether outdoor or indoor. In product photography, many photographers use a light box, in which they place the item so that it gets illuminated from all angles with diffused light to eliminate harsh shadows.
Those who love to travel have surely taken a lot of landscape photos. Contrary to popular belief, this genre is not limited to horizontal photos, as it may be necessary to shoot vertically when capturing tall trees, mountains, and anything else that you may feel compelled to capture while exploring the great outdoors.
Fortunately, this generation also offers us more creative possibilities by making it so much easier to capture aerial drone shots for a bird’s eye view of landscapes, as opposed to just ground level. But for more dramatic shots, you’ll need to upgrade from your smartphone or compact digital camera, invest in a better camera, and use the right lenses for landscape photography.
If we were writing this article about a decade ago, the food photographyniche would be a lot harder to break into. Fortunately, today’s social media generation has influenced us to keep taking photos of our food, whether for fun or for marketing purposes.
With today’s camera phone specs, it may not even be necessary to use a professional standalone camera as long as you have a pretty decent camera phone and the right lighting for truly mouthwatering food shots.
Just make sure that the correct white balance is set in order to get accurate colors. You can also boost the saturation of your images (especially the reds and yellows) to make your food look even more appealing.
Sports photography is a more professional niche that involves a lot of high-speed shooting. Photographers who shoot sports are normally armed with long and heavy lenses that are capable of zooming into where the action is and shooting at fast shutter speeds, without ending up with underexposed images.
Sports arenas are regularly packed with photographers, but the competition for a slot is still pretty tough. If you want to try your hand at sports photography, crank up your ISO so you can use a fast shutter speed, experiment with angles, and always be prepared to aim and click that shutter.
Another rewarding and well-paying niche is wildlife photography. Due to the obvious challenge of capturing good and clear images of wild animals without intruding in their natural habitats, a job in this niche requires some major upgrade in camera equipment similar to sports photography and a whole lot of safety measures.
Not everybody can be a wildlife photographer, which is why people pay a good amount of money for these types of photos. Wildlife photography typically takes place in challenging conditions, in some of the most dangerous and remote parts of the world.
Those who want to take truly incredible images tend to like macro photography. Capturing objects to make them look much bigger than they really are is relatively easy, as long as you have the right equipment. You can simply equip your smartphone with a clip-on macro lens accessory or, for more ideal high-resolution results, use a macro lens with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
If you’re looking for regular photography work, macro photography may not be the right niche for you. Nonetheless, it’s a great genre for those who want to capture artistic, highly compelling photos.
Event photography is a wide and popular niche that includes many specific kinds of events, such as concerts, birthdays, corporate meetings, and even weddings. It usually involves a mix of different photography techniques as you may be taking pictures of everything from people and their candid moments to the venue and the food.
What makes a good portfolio for this genre is knowing how to tell a story with your pictures, rather than just covering the event itself. It will obviously take a lot of practice, particularly in dealing with people and covering a specific type of event. You’ll also need a variety of lenses to successfully bag each shot in your “shot list” and not miss any important moments.
When people think of a job in photography, many suggest fashion photography. For decades it has remained one of the most lucrative niches, thanks to the demand for it in advertising and marketing.
Fashion photos typically feature supermodels and celebrities in high-fashion clothes, shoes, and accessories. Due to the need to showcase the outfits, this niche usually involves a lot of full body shots. However, it can also involve some portrait shooting, so you may want to practice your portraiture skills if you want to get into fashion photography.
Depending on the clothing style, fashion can take you anywhere from studios with full lighting setups and modeling runways to the great outdoors. If you want to break into fashion photography, you’ll need to equip yourself with a lot of skill in dealing with different kinds of people, in posing, and in both the artistic and technical aspects of the craft.
Newborn, baby, or infant photography is essentially the same as portrait photography, but we’re listing it as its own niche due to the unique challenges that come with it. Aside from newborns being very fragile, their eyes are sensitive to light, so you’ll need to get the right gear and learn how to use your camera to make the most out of the available light. Babies also have difficulty regulating their body temperatures, so your studio will have to be cold or warm enough, depending on your precious subject’s clothing.
Did we mention that their bowel movements can also be very unpredictable? One newborn photography session can be the craziest in your entire career, but it can also be the most rewarding.
For those who bring their camera everywhere and enjoy exploring their artistic freedom, street photography is a particularly appealing niche. It’s a unique genre in photography that documents the human condition and captures unplanned events as they unfold, usually with no central theme or topic. The best part is that you can use different types of cameras for street photography.
Usual subjects include street vendors, street food, children, graffiti artworks, and a lot of concrete, sometimes in black-and-white. They don’t necessarily have to be taken in the streets, as long as they highlight or portray the reality of the outside world.
Fortunately for many street photographers, such photos often get featured on magazines, blogs, and newspapers. However, there isn’t always a guarantee of steady income as street photographers usually shoot wherever they wish and at their own convenience instead of on a per project basis.
Not to be confused with street photography, photojournalism is a vocation that typically covers specific scenes and stories for the news. It uses elements of street photography to take objective photos that are more historic in scope. And because they tend to get published in newspapers, professional photojournalists get paid a good amount of money for their photos, particularly if they are affiliated with newspapers, magazines, book publishers, or certain agencies and organizations.
Photojournalism is another niche where it becomes crucial to capture not necessarily picture-perfect shots, but those candid moments that best tell the story.
Ever heard of war photographers? These brave people of the press are part of the documentary photography niche, along with other photojournalists that cover social and political problems that are a lot more historically significant. Like street photography, they capture raw, candid emotion in real-life situations and significant moments in time but tend to be given more universal captions as they don’t merely cover local rallies or just any other celebrity.
If you aspire to take timeless photos about world issues or of presidents for some of the greatest magazines, documentary photography may be for you.
Stock photography is another growing niche in today’s new generation of professional photographers. Stock photographers supply and sell photos that will be licensed for specific uses. Although it’s been around for centuries, the market for stock photos has increased significantly due to the growing demand for it in blogs, websites, and for digital marketing purposes.
It’s not exactly one of the most popular, but it can be a good source of income. It allows you to work for yourself at your convenience. Plus, you get passive income from repeat sales—that is, if you don’t mind taking a lot of pictures and not being able to really explore your artistic freedom.
Weather photography is basically outdoor photography that mainly showcases different—usually harsh and extreme—weather conditions, such as hurricanes, snow storms, sandstorms, hailstorms, and even thunderstorms. Many photographers around the world chase life-threatening storms to capture the beauty of what we are usually quick to hide and run away from.
When given the chance, this niche will pay you well and reward you with possibly award-winning images, but whether it’s worth the effort to shoot and risk your life will be up to you.
If you’re looking for a niche that offers a constant stream of projects, you may want to look into architecture photography.
Photos of the exteriors and interiors of buildings and other structures can be of great use to designers, architects, leasing companies, and potential investors. It’s a mix of artistic and technical skill and may involve some serious knowledge in the elements of art and proper composition. This niche can sometimes be confused with real estate photography, which also involves photographing structures (mainly houses, apartments, or condominiums) and their interiors. You can technically switch between the two, as they both use the same equipment and involve a lot of the same skills.
If you want to become an architectural photographer, you’ll likely need to invest in some additional gear, such as a tilt-shift lens, a high-quality tripod, a panorama head, and a bubble level.
Long Exposure Photography
Long exposure photography involves making use of your camera’s technical abilities to hold the shutter open for longer periods of time—which allows you to capture surreal images that we won’t ever get to see with the naked eye. This genre crosses over to night photographyand astrophotography, which can result in incredible light streaks, starbursts, and stunning gradients (at the very least) in what appears to be a dull black sky in real life. It also includes the use of an ND filterduring daytime to capture velvety smooth lakes and frothy rivers.
Given that long exposure photography requires the use of long shutter speeds, you’ll definitely need to upgrade your gear with a tripod, a remote shutter release, a camera with good low-light performance, and real skill in manual photography.
Which Niche is Right for Me?
If you’ve been practicing photography for a while now, you might realize that you’ve tried experimenting with at least three of these photography genres. It’s perfectly natural to try different types of photography when you’re starting out, but if you want to really excel in one, make it a career, and effectively market yourself as a specific type of photographer, you’ll eventually have to choose just one.
Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself when choosing a niche for you:
What do you enjoy doing?
By now, even if you happen to be a complete beginner, you’ve probably read about one or two niches that may sound fascinating and exciting to you. And if you’re an aspiring, practicing, or semi-professional photographer, you’ve probably already found a niche that you love.
If you enjoy exploring a particular photography niche, it’s a good sign that you may have found the right one for you. After all, why would you keep doing something that doesn’t interest you or suit your personality?
What are you actually good at?
What you love doing is not always going to be what you’re good at. There can only be two solutions to this—either you do your best to improve in the category that you love until you become highly skilled in it or you learn how to love what you have a natural talent in. This has proven to be impossible for many of today’s successful photographers, so it may be best to let go of what’s not right for you.
Will you be needing additional equipment?
Some niches require you to upgrade your gear with additional, more expensive lenses, extra camera bodies, and a whole set of other accessories that can really add up to the bulk and expenses. And if you’re not ready to make the investment, you’d be better off with other niches that you can afford to explore with your current set of gear.
Does it suit your personality and lifestyle?
Many of these niches will require you to go out of your comfort zone, put you under intense pressure, and maybe even put your life at risk. You are free to push your own limits, but know that it will present even more challenges and hardships that may or may not be worth the effort and money.
What’s the competition like?
Popular niches like fashion photography and portrait photography have a huge market and therefore pay well, which makes it very difficult to break into them. If you’re confident enough about your vision and skill, you can try pursuing them, or you can break into a more specific niche within a niche—like food, toys, jewelry, or cosmetics under product and still life photography.
How much does it pay?
Some niches pay more and offer more steady work than the rest, so make sure to do your research about the specific pay scale of your desired niche so you know what to expect. But if you don’t mind doing it for service or even for artistic self-fulfillment, then you can pretty much try your hand at any of the niches mentioned above.
Does it allow you to work locally?
Many photographers are often obligated to fly off to different parts of the world for each project. However, if you’re not into that kind of jet-set lifestyle, then you may want to look into a different niche that will allow you to stay within your area.
So which niche do you see yourself being successful in?