Through the lens, a world to see, A moment captured eternally, A world in motion, stilled in time, A beauty frozen, forever mine. Photography, a gift of sight, A world of wonder, full of light, A way to see the world anew, A beauty captured, just for you.
Photography is an art form that has been around for nearly two centuries and has evolved in countless ways since its inception. From the earliest camera obscuras to the latest digital technologies, photography has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of photos being taken every day.
However, despite its ubiquity, many people still have questions about what photography is, how it works, and what makes it so compelling.
In this article, I will provide a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about photography, from its history and technology to its creative possibilities and practical applications.
Whether you are a seasoned photographer or simply curious about this fascinating art form, this guide will offer insights and inspiration to deepen your understanding and appreciation of photography.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
Table of Contents
What Is Photography?
Photography is the art of capturing and processing light using a sensor or film. But the essence of photography is to treasure moments and share them with the world. Quite simple, but the action itself is capable of changing people’s perceptions.
A photo can have a deeper meaning and tell thousands of important stories. One of the best examples is photos taken during the war.
There are many eye-opening photos circulated during the war.
Some photos snap the winners’ glorious moments while others show the utter devastation of citizens caught in the crossfire.
But that’s not all, folks; photography also has the nature of having multiple interpretations, especially in modern photography and art.
Everyone has their own “hot take” when it comes to judging an image. Some see the bigger “picture,” while others take it as an analogy to life, transforming it into those “wise” quotes.
As you widen your knowledge about photography, aesthetics, and techniques, you can unveil even more meaning behind a single photograph.
What Is the Purpose of Photography?
The purpose of photography is to capture and preserve moments and memories, communicate ideas and emotions, and document events, people, and places.
Photography can be used for a variety of purposes, including artistic expression, journalism, scientific research, advertising, and commercial use. It can be used to capture the beauty of nature, document social and political issues, tell a story, or convey a message.
It can be used to bring people together and to tear people apart.
Photographs are used for many things.
In the past, photography’s purpose was to supply portraits for people who could not afford paintings.
During War, photographs enable people to grieve and remember their family members who passed away on the battlefield.
Lovers can also use a photograph to soothe the suffocating pain of missing their loved ones on a cold night.
As time goes by, photography serves more diverse purposes. You can see this with all the different niches of photography.
Product photography is based on the sole purpose of selling a product such as food. The photographer should make every item of food and beverage look shinier, mouth-watering, and more delicious than its competitors.
Meanwhile, portrait photography aims to tell a story about an individual’s identity, personality, and story.
This style is divided into several more types, such as lifestyle portraits, street portraits, and many more, each of which has a different purpose.
For hobbyist photographers and regular people, photography is a way to document meaningful moments in life—memories stored indefinitely in a picture, which you can look back at easily anytime.
What Are the Different Types Of Photography?
There are over 60 different types of photography, but we will only describe the most common ones. Here is a brief explanation of the 13 most common photography styles along with their respective resource hub.
We will be adding to this list as we build out our guides.
Be sure to also check out our guide on different photography niches to decide on which one to pick.
1. Portrait Photography
Portrait photography is by far the most popular photography style. We can easily find it on someone’s social media profile pictures or a dull driver’s license photo.
Everyone in any setting can be the subject of portrait photography; from your family at home, friends in school, co-workers in the office, and even yourself. You can shoot your subject either posed, candid or close-ups.
Even though this style looks super simple to do, some photographers struggle to shoot a good one.
The common reason is they cannot make the subject feel comfortable posing in front of the camera. Therefore, the subject looks awkward and unnatural.
When shooting a portrait, keep in mind that your subject is an ordinary human with a set of emotions and thoughts. Try to interact with them in the most relaxed manner to make them feel confident and show their true self.
2. Headshot Photography
Headshot photography focuses on the main subject, starting from their head to shoulders, with their preferred scenery as a backdrop.
Everyone is always in need of a high-quality headshot, whether it be for personal or professional reasons, so if you can master your headshot photography technique, you can make a great living as a photographer.
3. Fashion Photography
Fashion photography photos are the pictures you see in a fashion magazine or online shop.
This photography style has one sole purpose: making every fashion item aesthetically pleasing and appealing to its consumers. Furthermore, lure them into buying those items.
Fashion photographers should master portrait photographer skills, possess tons of creative ideas in the back of their heads, and love to collaborate with stylists, creative directors, models, and other crew members.
4. Food Photography
The main goal of food photography is to promote the products and entice customers to buy them.
No matter how small or large the scale is, every food and beverage business will need this type of photography.
You will need a lot of money to build a career in this industry since professional food photography needs a studio and other special equipment.
It means that this industry is promising, especially in the age of the internet, just like now.
5. Editorial Photography
Editorial photography commonly uses in magazines or newspapers. This style refers to every image that sits alongside text.
The photo makes the reader understand more about the description of events, places, or stories that the writer tries to tell.
If you want to be an editorial photographer, you need a deeper understanding of the subject, composition, and advanced technique.
As a photographer, you should have a high sensitivity to know which angle or subject best represents the story that a writer writes.
6. Architectural Photography
The interior and exterior of buildings are the main subjects for architectural photographers.
This style is particular because it only focuses on capturing architectural beauty, which sometimes is hidden in plain sight.
This style aims to shoot the utmost detail of buildings and promote it to potential buyers. It is like product photography with a different subject.
7. Landscape Photography
Landscape photography is about capturing the beautiful landscape of Mother Nature.
Landscape photographers often use higher-end cameras and tools to acquire the best photos.
A busy city full of working-class people during the day or glamorous urban nightlife can also be a landscape photography subject – it is known as a cityscape.
8. Event Photography
As the name implies, this type of photography focuses on capturing every exciting moment in an event, from a wedding, birthday celebration, family gathering, annual meeting in the office, and many more.
Event photographers’ services are always in high demand. The average fee is around $200-280 but can be vary depending on how long your event held.
But do not worry too much because their rates are adjustable. It depends on your request, the event’s location, and your personal preference that may require the photographer to use additional equipment or staff.
9. Street Photography
A great street photographer is one who can capture emotions and expressions while staying relatively inconspicuous.
There is nothing worse than sticking a camera in a stranger’s face.
10. Sports Photography
As the name implies, sports photography focuses on capturing the live action of a sporting event. Whether it be actionable moments during the sport or the players within the sport.
Sports photography is an exciting genre of photography, especially if you are a fan of the sport you are photographing!
11. Product Photography
Product photography focuses on products as the main subject, capturing the detail of the product and its features.
The products you photograph can vary from eCommerce items to jewelry, to toys.
12. Wildlife Photography
Wildlife photography focuses on capturing images of wildlife. Whether it’s an eagle soaring through the sky, or a lioness and her cubs.
This type of photography can be dangerous, so make sure you come well-prepared!
How can it be dangerous you may ask?
Wildlife photography can be dangerous due to the physical harm that can be caused by animals, such as bears or venomous snakes, or environmental hazards, such as rough terrain or extreme weather conditions.
Additionally, the pursuit of the perfect shot can lead to reckless behavior, such as getting too close to animals or disturbing their natural habitat, which can be harmful to both the photographer and the wildlife. It is important for wildlife photographers to be aware of these risks and take appropriate safety precautions.
13. Lifestyle Photography
Lifestyle photography is like a portrait photo, except it has the particular goal of capturing one’s “lifestyle.” The photographer captures the subject during these moments.
Examples of lifestyle photos can include the subject doing yoga, working at a desk, laughing with friends, working at a coffee shop, etc.
Ever since the prominence of social media people want to showcase their lifestyle to their friends and family.
What Do You Need for Photography?
Camera and Photography Gear
I’d say that you will need a DSLR camera. But as a starter, you can use a smartphone because most of the newest series come with high camera specs.
Renting a DSLR or mirrorless camera from a nearby rental store can be another option to consider.
Nevertheless, before buying any camera or other equipment, you should decide which photography career you want to pursue.
Do you want to target a small niche? Or do you want to invent a brand-new photography style? By answering basic questions, you can decide which gear will support you best in this new career.
For example, buying a tripod and multiple lenses for landscape photography, and investing in additional lighting will help those focusing on portrait photography.
Good Learning Foundation
As a beginner photographer, it is natural to make some mistakes. But do not fall into the same error twice.
Even most tutorial videos, blog posts, books, and other information about photography on the internet are free (such as our guides).
Take your time to learn it all to avoid making silly mistakes.
Last but not least is practice. Try different settings, angles, lighting setups, and everything to understand how things appear on the camera. The more hours you spend practicing, the better you will become.
If you want to step up your game, invest your time to master editing skills using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Post-processing can help you patch up the little mistakes that you made and even make your subject appear more stunning than before.
So, there’s equipment, knowledge, and also practice in both production and post-production.
Being Technical, Creative, and Business Savvy in Photography
Technical skill and creativity work together like clockwork: without one another, your images would end up dull, unattractive, and senseless.
To be a good photographer, you need to be technical, creative, and business savvy.
Let’s cover what each of these means.
Basics of Camera Technology
The first thing you’ll need to understand when it comes to photography is how to use your camera!
With that being said let’s cover the basics of camera technology.
Types of Cameras
When it comes to cameras in photography, there are a good amount of choices. Let’s cover the most popular camera options:
Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs and budget.
Types of Lenses
The type of lens you choose depends on what your niche is and what subject you are trying to photograph.
For example, I believe the best lenses for portraits are 50mm and 85mm lenses. The best lenses for street photography are 35mm and 50mm lenses. The best lenses for sports photography or wildlife photography are 85mm and longer. The best lenses for wedding and event photography are 35mm, 85mm, and 50mm lenses.
The most important thing to know about lenses is that they come in a wide range of focal lengths and aperture sizes.
To find the best lens for yourself, it’s important you first know what camera and brand you will be using, then research the best lenses for that camera based on your niche.
The camera sensor is the part of the camera that captures the image.
There are two main types of sensors: CCD (charge-coupled device) and CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor). CMOS sensors are now more commonly used in modern cameras, as they are more energy-efficient and produce less noise in low-light conditions.
Image stabilization is a feature that is sometimes built into cameras and lenses.
What image stabilization does is helps reduce the effects of camera shake and helps produce sharper-looking images.
This can be especially useful in low-light or long-exposure situations.
Most cameras that are modern have an autofocus system. This system combines sensors and algorithms within its processor to determine the optimal focal point for a given scene. Pretty cool stuff!
Some cameras have more advanced autofocus systems than others, which can be useful for fast-moving subjects or challenging lighting conditions.
Once you know the basics of camera technology, then it’s good to know the basics of photography composition.
Photography Composition Techniques
Photography composition techniques are used to create an image that looks balanced and visually appealing. Some of the most popular composition techniques include the rule of thirds, framing, and leading lines.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most basic principles of composition.
Accomplishing the rule of thirds involves dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, creating a grid of nine equal parts.
You then place your main subject or focal point along one of the lines at an intersection point.
Framing involves using elements found within a scene to create a “frame” around your subject.
Framing elements can include things such as doorways, windows, trees, arches, etc.
Leading lines are lines within a scene that lead the viewer’s eyes toward your main subject or focal point.
Examples of leading lines include roads, rivers, railway tracks, or fences.
Once you understand the basics of composition, it’s important to know the basics of lighting and exposure
Photography Lighting and Exposure
In order to understand lighting and exposure in photography, it’s about knowing both the technical aspects of your camera, how to read a scene, and how to position your subject.
- The aperture controls the focus of the image while controlling the amount of light received.
- Shutter Speed helps you capture fast-moving subjects, and It also affects exposure.
- ISO is a sensitivity that allows you to take pictures in various types of lighting.
We have a guide on each of these subjects and these three factors create the exposure triangle:
Natural Lighting and Artificial Lighting in Photography
The two primary types of lighting in photography include natural and artificial lighting.
Natural lighting is the light that comes from the sun, moon, or stars. It changes throughout the day, depending on the time and weather conditions, and can create different moods and effects within an image.
Artificial lighting is any light source that is created by humans, such as lamps, light fixtures, or strobes. This type of lighting can be controlled and manipulated to achieve a specific effect or mood within an image and is often used for studio photography.
For example, a photographer can use a softbox or diffuser to create a soft and flattering light on their subject or use a spotlight to create a more dramatic effect.
Playing with the Exposure Triangle
Once you have an understanding of lighting and the exposure triangle, you can play around with it to create special photography techniques such as bokeh.
Some lenses are specially designed to produce specific effects better. For example, if you want the perfect bokeh effect, you can choose Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART Lens and the Minolta/Sony STF 135mm f/2.8 [T4.5].
But recently, some smartphones can imitate that bokeh effect almost perfectly such as the newer Samsung and Apple phones.
Keep in mind to use all of your equipment to the fullest. Where is the best spot to put your lighting? When is the right time to change your lens? And many more. Your skill in operating your equipment will affect the result significantly.
Once you understand the basics of lighting, it’s good to know how to edit your photos
Basics of Photography Editing
Post-processing and editing are important aspects of modern photography, and they involve using software and techniques to enhance and manipulate images after they have been captured.
The main terms to know when it comes to editing include different photography software, photo enhancements, photo retouching, photo manipulation, and an editing workflow.
Photography Editing Software
There are many different software programs available for post-processing and editing, ranging from basic tools like Apple Photos and Google Photos to more advanced options like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
The most popular options are the latter — Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
Photo enhancements are what they sound like — enhancements made to your photos.
Examples of photo enhancements include adjusting the color, contrast, exposure, and crop to an image to make it more visually appealing or to help better tell the story you are trying to convey through your image.
You make these enhancements within the photography editing software that you choose.
Photo retouching is a technique often implemented by portrait and headshot photographers as it involves removing blemishes, and scars, adjusting skin tone, and other cosmetic adjustments to improve your subject’s appearance.
Photo manipulation involves more advanced techniques like compositing or double exposure images, where multiple images are combined to create a new image, or adding special effects like text or borders.
Photo Editing Workflow
When it comes to editing photos, it can get pretty hectic real quick, that’s why a photographer’s editing workflow is important.
An editing workflow is a process of organizing and managing your images, the order and process you use to take the photos out of your camera into your editing software, and the way you ensure that they are properly backed up and stored and that you can easily find and access them later.
Finally, if you decide to make some money with your photography, then it’s important that you understand the business side of things.
Starting a Photography Business
Once you have studied photography tips, and composition, and have experience in the field you will also need to know how to start making money!
That requires business and marketing tips.
To learn more, check out the resources on our Photography Marketing and Business:
- Photography Pricing
- Making Money With Photography
- Photography Keywords
- Photography Advertising
- Photography Niches
- Photography Content Marketing
- Photography Business Plan
- Photography Business Names
- Starting Photography Business
- Creating Photography Website
- Photography SEO
- Build Photography Brand
- Selling Photography Prints
- Photographer Instagram Bio
- Getting Photography Clients
- Photography Style
- Photography Marketing
Photography Glossary and Terms
As you are on your photography journey, you will encounter a lot of terminology and slang.
It can be hard to keep track of so you can check out the most common photography terminology in our photography glossary.
To learn more, check out the terms in our Photography Glossary:
When Was Photography Invented?
The first permanent image was captured around 1830 in France in the hands of Joseph Nicephore Niepce.
This breakthrough created a ripple effect, and the rest is history.
Joseph Nicole then collaborated with Louis Daguerre to create the daguerreotype. It was the first commercial camera that “prints” images on silver-plated copper.
But the names who popularized photography were talented figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and many more.
Alfred believed that everyone could use photography to express emotion and meaning, just like music and paintings. He also dissuaded landscape painters and made them go “spiral.”
By introducing the photography industry, Alfred influenced painters to pursue and develop abstract painting styles.
To further explore the invention and history of photography, check out this in-depth video:
Why Is Photography Important?
Well, how important are your childhood memories for you? I have a soft spot for those old memories, and every photo of them induces a nostalgic feeling.
Photography has the power to “freeze” time, preserving the memory until the paper deteriorates.
Without photography, it will be hard to understand our history. We will not see the historical sites that once existed, old cultures, inventions, and other precious events that happened in the past.
A journalist uses photography to spread a message to the whole world, giving a chance to the minority to be seen and attracting people’s attention to the neglected problems around them.
Photography has also become a new trending source of income for many. Their annual pay is undoubtedly affected by their portfolio, amount of experience, and reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I start photography?
Once you have a camera, start practicing taking pictures and learning about the basics of composition and lighting. You can also take photography courses, read photography books, and watch online tutorials to improve your skills. As you gain experience, experiment with different subjects and styles, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.
Can photography be self-taught?
Yes, photography can be self-taught, and many successful photographers have honed their skills through self-study and practice. With the advent of digital cameras and online resources, it’s easier than ever to learn the technical and creative aspects of photography on your own.
Can a shy person be a photographer?
Yes, a shy person can certainly be a photographer. In fact, photography can be a great way for shy people to express themselves and communicate with others. Through photography, you can capture the world around you and tell stories without necessarily having to be the center of attention.
Photography means everything and anything to every person. The purpose is never fixed and continuously changes.
There are many types of photography out there, each constructed from the understanding of the basics.
If you want to start learning photography, do not think to buy an expensive camera first because your smartphone camera is enough. Sharpening your skill should be your primary goal.
The best photography tips I can give are to keep your discipline and enthusiasm high. Make sure that you learn and practice every single day. Then, you will see the results sooner than you think.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.