astrophotography Photography Articles

How to Photograph the Moon

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The moon is 238,900 miles from earth.

In the vast majority of moon photos taken by amateurs, the moon looks like it’s that far away!

There’s plenty of obstacles to creating a beautiful image of the moon - you need an understanding of the moon’s phases and the right gear, like a telephoto lens, to get up close.

You also need to have an understanding of compositional choices that will make your photo shine. Getting the exposure just right is another challenge too.

And though that might seem like a lot to keep in mind, with a few tips, you can master these topics and create images of the moon like the one above.

I've put together a quick video tutorial on photographing the moon. Give it a watch above!

For more details, check out the article below.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

How to Photograph the Moon: Get Familiar With the Moon’s Behavior

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The first step in moon photography is to develop an understanding of the behavior of the moon. Naturally, this means understanding the moon’s phases so you know when the moon will be out from the earth’s shadow.

Because the earth has a counter-clockwise rotation, it’s shadow travels across the moon from right to left. That means that the best time to get photos of the moon is during its waxing stage, when the earth’s shadow is moving ever farther to the left, revealing more of the moon’s pockmarked surface.

To get a detailed understanding of the phases of the moon, watch the video below with Phil from CrashCourse:

There are plenty of apps that help you track the moon’s behavior as well. MOON - Current Moon Phase (shown below) is available on iTunes and gets very high marks from users. The app works offline, so you can be out in the wilderness without service and still know what the moon is doing and will do in the future.

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This app also tells you the lunar illumination so you’re sure to capitalize on nights when it’s brightest. What’s more, the app also sends out notifications before new moons, full moons, and other lunar events, that way you can plan ahead. You can even view what the moon will look like on any day of the year by entering your desired date!

Other apps and websites you should check out are Photopills (which, among many other things, tells you the rise and set times of the moon) and Dark Site Finder, which helps you locate areas where you can photograph the moon without light pollution getting in the way.

 

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How to Photograph the Moon: Get the Appropriate Gear

Like any other photo, getting a pleasing image of the moon requires that you have the necessary gear. Here’s a quick list of essentials you’ll need to get the best photos:

Camera

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You can take photos of the moon with any camera, even your smartphone. The caveat is that for improved photos of the moon you’ll need a camera with certain features. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is typically the most advantageous because they have manual exposure controls.

What’s more, it’s best to have a camera with RAW shooting capabilities, simply because RAW files retain all the data collected by the sensor. That means that in post-processing you have more information to work with, which aids your ability to create the best-looking shot.

Lens

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If you’ve ever taken a photo of the moon with your smartphone or a point-and-shoot or even a DSLR with a wide-angle lens, you know the disappointment of the moon appearing to be a small, white blob in the sky.

That’s a result of a focal length that’s too short - a wide-angle lens, for example, doesn’t get you close enough to the moon to make it appear of any significant size, nor does it allow you to capture the detail of its surface. Since wide-angle lenses make distant objects seem smaller, the moon thereby looks quite small.

This isn't to say that you can't get a nice shot of the moon with a wide-angle lens - just know that the moon will be a secondary feature in the image.

To get up close and personal with the moon as seen below, you’ll need a telephoto lens. Typically, moon photographers recommend at least 200mm. The longer the lens, the greater the magnification and the more pronounced the compression.

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Where other types of astrophotography, like photographing the Milky Way, benefit from a fast lens, speed for moon photography isn’t as much of an issue.

For starters, the moon will be very bright and provide enough illumination on its own. Secondly, you’ll have your camera on a tripod, so you can utilize a longer shutter speed to compensate for the darkness of your surroundings.

So, when looking for a lens, worry less about the largest aperture available and focus on focal length. Solid options include the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Zoom Lens. This lens is not cheap, but to get photos in which it seems the moon is very close (and large), a long lens is required, or at the very least, a teleconverter.

Tripod

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Naturally, with a long lens and long shutter speeds, a sturdy tripod that will give your camera a stable base is of the utmost importance. It won’t matter how beautiful the composition is if the shot is blurry due to camera movement!

There is a mountain of tripods available with a wide array of features that can make your head spin. But the most important thing to look for is stability, quality construction, good feet that provide a stable base, and a center column hook that allows you to add weight to improve stability. Check out our camera tripod buying guide for some guidance on buying the right tripod for you.

Mount

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If you really want to take your lunar photography to another level, using a dedicated mount is certainly the way to go.

The Star Adventurer Mount from Sky-Watcher USA is an ideal tool for taking photos of the moon because it tracks celestial bodies. Keep the moon (or the sun or stars) in full view by using the mount to track it across the sky. With built-in shutter release control, the Star Adventurer also gives you the power of firing your shutter remotely, thereby helping to reduce the possibility of blurriness due to camera shake.

What’s more, if you want to create a beautiful timelapse video of the moon moving across the sky, you can! The Star Adventurer has preprogrammed parameters for creating timelapses both quickly and easily.

The setup shown above is Sky-Watcher’s special photo package, which comes bundled with the Star Adventurer mount, a polar scope illuminator, and a ball head adapter.

That means that right out of the box, you’re ready to head out, get set up, and take some stunning photos of the moon! Get to know the Star Adventurer Mount in more detail by checking out the video above from Sky-Watcher USA.

Here’s what you need to get this set up:

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  1. Camera (Nikon D810 shown)
  2. SkyWatcher Adventurer
  3. Sturdy tripod (Sirui W-2204 shown)
  4. Strong ball head (Acratech GP shown)
  5. Shutter Remote (RFN-4 Wireless shown)

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How to Photograph the Moon: Consider the Composition

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As beautiful as the moon is, and as awe-inspiring as it can be, photos of the moon can easily be boring. This is especially true if you take a wide-angle shot in which the moon is relatively small in the frame.

In those instances, it’s necessary to pair the moon with interesting foreground elements, just as you would with any other type of landscape shot.

There are a myriad of possibilities here. If you live in a city, incorporate a structure of some sort into the frame - a building, a bridge, or the like, that adds some scale to the shot as well as provides visual interest that makes the image more complex.

If you can head out to less populated areas, pair the moon with natural elements like mountains, trees, or even reflect the moon in a still lake or pond to make the photo more visually appealing.

You might even find that photographing the moon at sunrise or sunset is advantageous because you can incorporate Golden Hour or Blue Hour lighting into the scene, which elevates the interest of the image with the addition of the warm, bright colors of the sky.

In the video above, Bryan Peterson with Adorama TV explains why shooting near sunrise and sunset is so advantageous, and also offers some tips on how to expose the image at this time of day.

You might even find that photographing the moon at sunrise or sunset is advantageous because you can incorporate Golden Hour or Blue Hour lighting into the scene, which elevates the interest of the image with the addition of the warm, bright colors of the sky.

In the video above, Bryan Peterson with Adorama TV explains why shooting near sunrise and sunset is so advantageous, and also offers some tips on how to expose the image at this time of day.

Another option is to create a composite image in which you take a wide-angle shot of the landscape, a telephoto shot of the moon, and combine them together.

This method is used quite often to create images that have the best of both worlds - a gorgeous setting and a nice view of the moon.

Learn how to create a composite image of the moon in the video above by Brendan Williams.

From planning your outing to composing the shot to processing the images, you now have a better idea of what it takes to create gorgeous photos of the moon.

Though it’s a lot to take in, just remember that all it takes is a little bit of practice. Set aside some time to work on the tips and techniques outlined in this article, and you’re sure to develop the skills needed to capture some truly stunning lunar photos.



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Northern Lights: Best Places to See Them

Northern Lights Best Places to See Them

photo bytawatchaiprakobkit via iStock

One of the most beautiful phenomena you can witness in the northern hemisphere is the northern lights, or the Aurora borealis. 

The dancing lights are certainly a wonder on their own, but when they’re paired with some truly beautiful landscapes, you have the makings of absolutely breathtaking photos.

That begs the question, where can you see the northern lights?

Let this guide direct you to some of the best vantage points for viewing and photographing the Aurora.

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What are the Northern Lights?

What are the Northern Light

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Before we dive into where to see them, it’s worth it to explore what they are in the first place and what causes the northern lights.

The Aurora borealis (known as the Aurora australis in the southern hemisphere) is perhaps best known for pale green waves of color that appear to be dancing in the sky.

However, green is just one color that might be present - colors can actually range from yellow to violet and blue to red. Likewise, the dancing waves are just one form they might take. A simple glow in the sky is common, as are arcs of light, beams or rays of light, and streams of light in the night sky.

What Causes the Northern Lights?

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What causes the northern lights is the collision between particles from the sun that hit the Earth’s atmosphere.

More specifically, the electrically-charged particles released from the atmosphere of the sun collide with the gaseous particles in Earth’s atmosphere.

The type of particles involved influences the color of the northern lights. 

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For example, the most common color of the Aurora is a pale green with yellow undertones. This color is created by oxygen molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, typically at an altitude of 60 miles, but up to 150 miles as well.

Nitrogen molecules are associated with blue and purple Auroras, while red Auroras - the rarest kind - are the result of oxygen molecules at extremely high altitudes of around 200 miles above the surface of the Earth

Get a deeper explanation of what causes the northern lights, and what ancient peoples believed them to be, in the video above by BrainStuff - HowStuffWorks.

Learn More:

When Can You See the Northern Lights? 

When Can You See the Northern Lights

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Apart from the obvious necessity of being nighttime, the best time to see the northern lights is in the winter. 

Not only are the nights longer in the winter, but clear nights are also in greater abundance, giving you an unobstructed view of the night sky. 

The prime time is around midnight local time, as that seems to be the peak of activity for the Aurora. Likewise, Aurora displays are cyclical in nature, and peak with heightened activity roughly every 11 years. This would mean the next “super Aurora” should occur in 2024.

Where to See the Northern Lights

Where are the northern lights? Fortunately, they’re all over the place in the Northern Hemisphere from Canada to Scandinavia, Russia to the continental United States.

But if you want the very best locations to see and photograph them, book a flight to one of the following locations.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Alaska

Where to See the Northern Lights Alaska

photo by Elizabeth M. Ruggiero via iStock 

Fairbanks, Alaska’s second-largest city, is situated directly beneath an active band of northern lights activity that runs from August through April, which makes it a prime location for viewing the Aurora.

Typically most active between 11:30 pm and 3:30 am, there’s a significant window during which to take in the beauty of the lights, which range from green to yellow to purple.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Pennsylvania

Yes, that Pennsylvania…

More specifically, Cherry Springs State Park offers uber-dark skies far away from the hustle and bustle of cities like Philadelphia. 

In fact, the park utilizes special lights that have zero effect on visibility and there are strict regulations about using headlamps, flashlights, and other light sources. For these reasons, the International Dark-Sky Association has designated the park as a Gold Level International Dark Sky Park, the highest possible ranking.

See the northern lights in action at Cherry Springs State Park in the video above by Gary Honis.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Canada

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Head to the Yukon between August and the middle of April, and you’ll get to see spectacular shows of northern lights that swirl around the sky.

The lights are usually yellow or green (or a combination thereof), though other colors are present less frequently.

The Yukon is also home to the Northern Lights Centre, where you can learn about the scientific processes that cause the lights as well as the legends that peoples of the past developed to explain what the northern lights meant. 

Where to See the Northern Lights Canada 2

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Another Canadian hot-spot for the northern lights is Churchill, a town in Manitoba that’s equally as well-known for its polar bear population.

With up to 300 nights of Aurora activity a year, it’s one of the best locations to get a glimpse of the lights.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Iceland

Where to See the Northern Lights Iceland

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North, south, east, or west, Iceland offers epic locations for viewing and photographing the northern lights.

With shades of purple, pink, and green jetting across the sky, the combination of optimal nighttime viewing conditions and the rugged and beautiful landscape make this island country a top destination for northern lights photography.

If you’re wondering when you can see the northern lights in Iceland, the answer is about three-fourths of the year - from August to the first part of May.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Norway

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Though you can view the northern lights from virtually anywhere in Norway, one of the prime viewing locations is Svalbard, a small group of islands roughly halfway between Norway’s northern coast and Greenland. 

During the winter, Svalbard is in perpetual darkness because of its extreme northern location. That means you can view the northern lights day or night!

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Another spot to check out in Norway is the city of Tromsø, which is right underneath an oval of lights in Northern Norway. Surrounded by fjords and mountains, it’s a breathtaking setting by itself, but under the glow of the northern lights, it’s even more spectacular.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Finland

Where to See the Northern Lights Finland

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Like Norway, Finland offers excellent viewing of the northern lights from virtually every corner of the country.

In fact, Finland experiences about 200 nights of the Aurora per year, so there’s no lack of time to grab your gear and snap some photos of the lights. The rural nature of much of Finland also means there’s an abundance of areas with little to no light pollution.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Sweden

Where to See the Northern Lights Sweden

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Of course, Sweden, like the other Scandanavian countries on this list, offers excellent Aurora viewing.

Of particular interest should be the Aurora Sky Station, location in Abisko. With very little light pollution and clear, crisp skies, you can get epic views of the lights all night long from October through March.

Where to See the Northern Lights: Greenland

Where to See the Northern Lights Greenland

photo by RubyRascal via iStock 

Greenland is an ideal location for photographing the northern lights because of its minimal light pollution. Likewise, visibility is often crystal clear for perfect views of the sky.

If you visit between September and April, you’re all but guaranteed to see the lights along with the Milky Way for a double-dip of celestial awesomeness!

Where to See the Northern Lights: Scotland

Where to See the Northern Lights Scotland

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Though Scotland likely didn’t come to mind when you were searching for “where are the northern lights,” it’s a fantastic viewing spot, particularly in the far north, light the Shetland Islands.

Here, the northern lights are called Mirrie Dancers, and can be seen throughout the fall and winter months.

With that, you have some of the best places on earth to see the northern lights. Make plans to travel to one of these excellent locations this winter!

 



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Types of Photography: 19 Popular Photography Genres You Can Try

types of photographyPhoto by Christian Holzinger on Unsplash

When you're just starting out in photography, there can be many things that might overwhelm you.

Learning to use your camera is certainly one of them. Developing your creative eye is another. But with practice, these things become second-nature.

A different type of struggle that some photographers experience is simply trying to figure out what kind of photographer they want to be.

Is landscape photography the best type of photography? Or is it portraits? What about macro or street photography?

The answer is that there is no "best" genre of photography. Instead, you have to figure out which popular photography genre is the best fit for you.

Below, I've outlined 19 different types of photography to help you quickly explore which of these genres might be most appealing.

Table of Contents

Landscape Photography

One of the most popular types of photography styles, landscape photography is all about capturing the beauty of nature.

Though many landscape photos are wide-angle, sweeping shots of a landscape, there are plenty of opportunities for vertical landscape photography and even photos of very small vignettes in a larger landscape that highlight the details of the natural environment.

Landscape photography is also perhaps the most accessible as well. All you have to do to find a subject is head outside!

Explore our collection of landscape photography tips.

Recommended Landscape Photography Books:

Weather Photography

I like to think of weather photography as landscape photography on steroids.

Instead of focusing on the serenity of nature, weather photography puts extreme weather events front and center.

Though most people think of tornadoes and thunderstorms when they think of this type of photography, it also includes blizzards, sandstorms, rainbows, and hurricanes, just to name a few.

Needless to say, photographing weather can be very dangerous, but if you play your cards right, you can get spectacular photos and keep yourself safe at the same time.

Astrophotography

The misconception about astrophotography is that you have to have a mountain of expensive gear to get high-quality shots. That's just not the case!

Instead, you can take epic photos of the night sky with essential astrophotography gear, like a DSLR or mirrorless camera, a fast lens, a tripod, and a remote shutter release.

Common problems with this type of photography include getting stars nice and sharp and understanding how to compose astro photos in a way that's compelling. It helps to have mad post-processing skills too.

But, as you can see above, when it all comes together, there are opportunities to create truly incredible photos.

Use these astrophotography tutorials to get started!

Underwater Photography

Of course, not all landscapes involve mountains, rivers, foul weather, or stars - there's a whole other world to explore with your camera underwater.

Granted, you'll need some additional gear to make underwater photography a possibility, but the reward waiting for you beneath the surface of the water can be epic.

So, grab a GoPro and a snorkel and see what you can find just under the water's surface!

Wildlife Photography

If you ask me, wildlife photography is one of the most difficult photography types to master.

That's because more than just about any other kind of photography, photographing wildlife requires an abundance of patience, and that is not something I have.

Though you might have to wait for hours and hours in a blind for that perfect moment, the payoff can be truly magical and breathtaking photos of animals.

Fortunately, to get started in wildlife photography, you don't have to trek to some distant mountaintop. Start practicing in your backyard with your dog or the local park with birds to develop your skills.

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Aerial Photography

It seems like not that long ago, the types of photography shots that were available to most of us were those found while standing on the ground (unless you had a plane or helicopter handy).

But, with the development of drones in recent years, now any of us can take to the skies and get started in aerial photography.

For me, this type of photography involves photographing landscapes from a much different perspective than I normally do.

But aerial photography isn't limited to landscapes. Instead, you can use drones to take killer photos of anything from wildlife to weddings, real estate to sports.

Travel Photography

One look at Instagram and you'll quickly realize that one of the most popular photography types is travel photography.

Travel photography encompasses all sorts of other types of photography - landscapes, portraits, wildlife, and street photography among them - and as such, it has broad appeal.

The beauty of this kind of photography is that it helps showcase different places and peoples and helps us all feel a little more connected to one another in this big, beautiful world. It's not all that difficult to get started in travel photography, either.

Besides, who wouldn't like to travel the world taking photos? Talk about one of the most ideal photography careers!

Architecture Photography

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I like to think of architecture photography as urban landscape photography. By that, I mean that instead of photographing natural elements, you're capturing the beauty of manmade structures and exploring how they've changed the urban landscape.

Though I enjoy a good shot of a city's skyline, there's something even more compelling about the detail-oriented shots of buildings.

Whether it's a beautiful arch or a gargoyle perched on high, there are plenty of opportunities to accentuate the beauty of humankind's architectural wonders.

Real Estate Photography

There are many types of photography jobs that one can pursue, including real estate photography.

Obviously, the purpose of real estate photography is to make residential and commercial properties as appealing as possible.

This involves everything from perfecting the staging of the property to finding the right angles to highlight interesting features or architecture.

Fortunately, there isn't an excessive amount of gear required for photographing real estate - in some instances, you might just need your smartphone!

Get all the real estate photography tips you need to kickstart your career photographing properties!

Recommended Real Estate Photography Books:

Street Photography

Much like I think of architecture photography as urban landscape photography, I think of street photography as being urban portrait photography.

The whole point of street photography is to portray what life is like in the city. Often, it's done with quick snapshots without the subject knowing that they've been photographed.

The challenge with street photography is to turn simple, everyday scenes into something meaningful and beautiful. That is, you have to concentrate on how the composition, framing, lighting and so forth help you tell a compelling story about the people in your photos.

Portrait Photography

Even taking selfies out of the equation, portraiture is likely the most popular photography niche in the world.

But portrait photography is much more than simply pointing your camera at someone and taking a photo.

Instead, portraiture is all about telling the story of the person being photographed and highlighting what makes them unique.

But there are many more types of portrait photography than solo portraits, including family portraiture, fashion photography, professional headshots, graduation photos, and even sports photography as well.

Regardless of the type, for the best portraits, you have to master the camera settings for portrait photography in addition to learning the types of lighting in portrait photography.

Discover more ways to improve your portraits with our collection of portrait photography tips.

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Wedding Photography

Getting married is a big deal, and so is being hired to photograph that event. Needless to say, no matter the type of wedding photography, wedding photographers have an immense responsibility, and that makes this kind of photography among the most stressful.

But being a wedding photographer isn't just about having the right skill set behind the camera. Instead, wedding photographers must be storytellers, problem solvers, and have tremendous people skills.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of wedding photography is finding ways to get practice so you can minimize your wedding photography mistakes. Working as a second shooter is a prime option for learning the ropes as it takes some of the pressure off of you while giving you an opportunity to learn from a more seasoned wedding photographer.

Event Photography

types of photography event photography

From concerts to birthday parties, corporate events to the county fair, event photography encompasses a huge range of subjects.

This might include portraits of the people at the event, the food they're eating, the event space in which they're gathered, and so on.

In other words, event photography is a fast-paced and challenging genre of photography that is not for the faint of heart. You have to be ready for anything and have an array of gear (especially a range of lenses with different focal lengths) if you're to be a successful event photographer.

Ultimately, though, event photography is all about helping the people in attendance relive the event years and years down the road through the photos you create.

Fashion Photography

types of photography fashion photography

Fashion photography primarily exists for branding and advertisements, though as photography has become more accessible and social media has risen to prominence, fashion photography is becoming more broad-based.

Whether the purpose of the photo shoot is to create photos for a magazine or to post on Instagram, the point of fashion photography is to highlight clothing, makeup, and other fashion accessories in a way that makes them highly desirable for consumers.

Because of the need to showcase these items, a lot of fashion photos are full-body shots. What's more, fashion photographers must be experts in types of lighting in photography and have excellent portrait posing skills too.

Newborn Photography

Whether you know it as newborn, infant, or baby photography, this genre is perhaps the most rewarding.

Capturing what a newborn is like in the first days after their birth is a huge honor - and a big challenge.

Babies are unpredictable, so photographing them while they sleep is one of the top newborn photography tips to follow.

You'll find that they are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, sensitive to light, and might have accidents that require a diaper and a wardrobe change.

Being prepared for these eventualities is a must, and despite those challenges, the reward at the end of the shoot is well worth the time and effort!

Get easy-to-understand instruction on maternity and newborn photography tips.

Documentary Photography

types of photography documentary photography

Along with photojournalists, documentary photographers strive to depict newsworthy events in a way that helps people better understand or connect to the event that's occurring.

The focus of documentary photography is on emotionality - evoking a feeling in the viewer that makes the event more real.

Though war photography is likely the best-known subgenre of documentary photography, many other events - presidential activities, state gatherings, and national celebrations - might fall under the purview of a documentary photographer. Additionally, many documentary photographers simply seek to capture daily life, history, culture, and so forth.

Still Life Photography

types of photography still life

Still life photography is all about creating images of objects.

In many instances, just a single object or a few objects - a bowl of fruit, for example - might serve as the subject of a still life photo.

The key to a successful still life image is having excellent lighting that casts an even light on the subject while also minimizing shadows.

Even though it might not be the most popular photography type, by focusing on the lighting, you can create an interesting scene out of even the most mundane of subjects - silverware, items on a desk, kids' toys, and so on.

Macro Photography

 

If you've got a keen eye for detail, macro photography might be for you.

Photographing small objects - flowers and insects, for example - is actually a lot easier than it looks, provided you have the right gear and the right approach.

In fact, you can use your smartphone for macro photography and get pretty awesome results!

Like any type of photography, becoming a pro at macro takes time, but if you commit yourself to practicing and learning, you can create some truly breathtaking photos.

Pet Photography

types of photography pet photography

When you're just starting out in photography, your pets are one of the best subjects with which to work.

After all, they're easy to access, they'll listen to your direction (hopefully!), and you can photograph them in the comfort of your own home.

Better still, because many of the same principles of portrait photography apply to pet photography, it's a great primer for flexing your portraiture muscles down the road.

So, put your dog in his favorite costume, grab your camera, and start working on your composition skills, mastering camera settings, and storytelling abilities!

For a humorous look at these and other types of photography, be sure to check out the video above by Antti Karppinen.

In the meantime, use the information I've provided above to think about the type of photography that best suits your interests and skills.

Don't be afraid to test out multiple genres as well!



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