Whether you want to take up photography as a career or pursue it as a hobby, there is a lot of scope and diversity available for you to niche down in. The art of photography lures in many and while people love clicking a masterpiece with their camera, they are not always sure which branch of photography they should take up and master as a niche.
Although it is an individual’s choice and preference for a particular branch, most of the times photographers are confused about the scope of a certain branch and even the returns associated with each – which is a viable consideration if you plan to take it up as a career.
Let’s take a look at the different branches of photography and what their main characteristics and requirements are.
Some of the biggest names in the world of Photography are landscape photographers. From Ansel Adams to Marc Adamus, landscape photography entices many. The sprawling lush green fields, the cascading waters, acres of virgin, unchartered lands and stunning city life, if you like to capture the essence of existence and what it would be like without the presence of humans, landscape photography is for you. Although, do note that not all landscape shots should be devoid of people in the frame.
A landscape image cuts across all political and national boundaries, it transcends the constraints of language and culture. — Charlie Waite
Environmentalism is a strong reason for taking up landscape photography, however, not all landscape photographs are centered on the beauty of nature alone. A landscape shot is a photographer’s interpretation of an outdoor image that they want to capture and an attempt to preserve the changing face of Nature. Some landscape photographers think landscapes are forever changing – from rivers drying up, trees being felled, to a change in the city life with buildings coming up, roads being redone, etc. – and landscape photography will help preserve the scene as it once was.
The impact of landscape photography is paramount. It was William Henry Jackson’s landscape photography work that prompted the Congress to set up the Yellowstone Park. Various powerful landscape images have also been at the forefront of revolutionizing environmental-centric movements that led to major changes in favor of conservation of the environment.
Night photography is one of the most difficult branches of photography, but also one that has the best images. Photography, in general, is dependent on lighting immensely, whether it is natural lighting or artificial ones, lighting is integral. The absence of light which during the night make this niche so much more challenging and exciting at the same time.
Image courtesy Priscilla Westra
Having said that, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Most often, photographers end up with something that is entirely different from what they envisioned. And this is because it takes techniques, skills, and practice to master this.
Besides being adept at clicking shots taking into consideration the limitation of natural lighting, you also need to have a strong post-processing game. Whether you shoot city lights flickering off the coast or the nightscape, night photography needs a lot of work but it’s also creatively rewarding.
Do you see stories when you walk down the street? A dilapidated crumbling building speaking of the years gone by? The old man sitting on a stool outside a small shop speaking of life and experiences that only you perceive? Then maybe street photography is the perfect fit for you.
Most people think whipping out their phone camera and shooting a random busy avenue is all that it takes to be a street photographer! Street photography transcends beyond skills, it is perception and timing. From shooting random strangers to documenting everyday life in a glorious, spectacular, yet innate way- that’s challenging but it comes naturally to someone who’s built for it.
However, this isn’t something inbuilt. If you have an interest in it and are intrigued by the works of Robert Capa and Dorothea Lange, then street photography is your thing. One thing a street photographer needs is adaptability and presence of mind. You might want to bring in composition and your best equipment but by then the moment would be gone or you might chance upon a scene that’s worthy of being captured forever and you find yourself with only your camera in tow.
In such situations, a street photographer attempts to make do with whatever he has on hand, and make do in a way that he’s actually proud of that shot. If you see yourself doing this, then you are definitely cut out for street photography.
Are you a people’s person? Do you see a person’s face and instinctively understand who they are when the layers of pretense and their best façade is peeled off? Do you see depth in a face and emotions in expressions? If you do, then you’re definitely in the league of Steve McCurry and Manny Librodo.
Image courtesy leejeffries.500px.com
There’s nothing more powerful than people and photographing them to bring out their story is what portrait photographers attempt to do. You have to be a part of their world to shoot them.
Shooting portrait requires a deep understanding of people besides being adept at the skills and techniques of photography. When you are attempting to show who a person is – even without focusing on the face – whether it is by the position of their hands, a bend of the hip, you should first yourself know who the person is and what it is of theirs that you want to show.
Even though most people wouldn’t admit this but macro photography makes them feel like God. When you are looking at a subject that is tiny and compact and photograph them to look larger than life, there is a thrill associated with it, not to mention beauty.
This is a challenging niche, macro photography is ninety percent done by the eyes of the mind and then the lens of the camera. To get down and attempt to photograph something that is so minuscule that it cannot even be completely seen by the naked eye, and then turn it into a larger-than-life picture is absorbing and exciting. And there’s a lot of techniques involved.
Image by Lynne Scott Constantine
A complementary requirement for macro photography is being well-versed in the processing part. Since a major chunk of the work is done digitally, you have to have good knowledge of or be ready to invest time in learning the post-processing requirements.
Although macro photography a lot of times involve shooting flowers up close, wildflower photography is a great option for those who are passionate about both photography and horticulture. If you are reading this, then you are one of those who can spend hours admiring and appreciating the beauty of wildflowers. And have forever wanted to capture it too.
Wildflower photography is for a closed niche of people, someone who understands, loves, and wants to capture wildflowers in all their ethereal beauty.
This is a highly blingy branch of photography and a great paying one too. With the fashion industry expanding leaps and bounds, a lot of photographers are testing waters by diving right into fashion photography. This is best suited for someone who understands fashion, and what the requirements of a fashion photoshoot are.
Image courtesy Terry Richardson
Yes, you should and must be good at your work, you should know how to work the camera, which and how the lights should be placed, but you also need to know the fashion side of it. This is particularly important because you cannot shoot something you don’t understand. Is it a shoot for a high-end brand that exudes luxury and opulence, or do you need it for a brand that speaks more about fitness and working out?
Every fashion shoot will be different, sometimes you’d be shooting tiaras and gowns in the studio, sometimes you’d be shooting models in bikinis on the beach or sometimes the entire shoot would be underwater. But each time the element of fashion needs to come out, and how can a photographer do that without knowledge of what fashion is?
Having said that, if you do not have prior knowledge of fashion but are interested in this niche of photography then there’s always scope for learning about it. Reading magazines, the internet is your best friend, but what would help the most is assisting or working with an established fashion photographer. Getting hands-on experience is the best teacher.
A step ahead of fashion photography is glamour photography. While it emerges from the same concept of fashion photography, it’s a little more glitz and glamour. Glamour photography could be for a magazine, a print or online avenue or for the screen.
One major requirement of glamour photography is creativity. You have to be able to come up with ideas to use props to make the shoot creative and glamorous. Some photographers can create magic with just nylon and lights, some need an entire array of props, but whatever genre you belong to, make sure you come up with a creative twist to it.
Here is a free guide on Glamour photography It’s is a fun niche and you will love it if you like all things glamour and bling!
One of the most challenging and creatively satisfying branches of photography would be fine arts. This niche brings together the artist and photographer in you. For those who have had a major influence of art in their life or appreciate, value, and attempt to create art through their pictures, fine art photography is a perfect choice. Here is an awesome free guide on Fine Art.
Image by Michelle Engberg
Although most photos are an expression of the photographer’s vision, a fine art photograph is an interpretation of their artistic vision. What does he see that no one else does and how does he bring that out is a challenge in itself, and one that you will love to take up if you are an artist and photographer both residing in one mind and body.
Creativity again comes to play here. However, more than creativity, perhaps you have to have an innate knowledge of what art is and particularly what art is for you. Fine art is an extremely personal branch of photography – perhaps the most personal of all the other branches – and ideally, the audience is first the photographer himself than anyone else.
This isn’t a branch of photography but an essential requirement for every branch of photography. Even a stunning shot needs some working on. You might want to bring out the colors better or erase certain flaws, or you might want to go hard and completely change the face of the image. In each case, you do need the help of post-processing to help you make a good shot even better.
Every photographer should have good solid knowledge of Photoshop. You should be able to work your way through it. If you don’t already have a good understanding of how Photoshop can help you make your photos even better, there are tons of tutorial online that will give you in-depth knowledge.
However, do not think you will start shooting when you have acquired knowledge of Photoshop. Instead, start now. Start shooting pictures, you need all the practice you can get, meanwhile you can check out some automated tools like Photoshop Actions and Lightroom presets that help to enhance an image without a lot of input from your side. These are a series of pre-recorded steps that mean that once you apply this, your photo will be transformed from subtly to drastically. You might just need this for changing the colors, increasing sharpness or you might use this to dramatically alter an image, these are every photographer’s handy tool. Make sure you use these abundantly till you become a Photoshop pro yourself.
Besides being a great career opportunity, Photography is cathartic. It is an opportunity to express your emotions and highlights what your perception is. It’s better to master one key area of photography rather than trying to be a jack of all trades. Focus will bring clarity at the end of the day.
Now go out and shoot!
Featured Image by Nirzar Pangarkar