As I continue to learn and grow in my photography, I often come across different topics and styles that are new to me or cause me to reflect and look for answers. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about photography genres and where I fit in. Where does my subject matter and style fit into the various types of genres and subcategories.
If I look at the current lists of genres, I would likely fall into Fine Art Photography. But somehow, that does not seem like an accurate enough fit to me. It is clear to me what I am not. For example, I am not a landscape photographer, a portrait photographer, a nature photographer, commercial photographer or street photographer. So, where do I fit in?
You may ask, “Why does it matter which genre you fit into? What difference does it make?”
When we are just starting out in photography, we are often more concerned with figuring out how to use our camera and how to take a good photo. At this point, it does not matter what your type of photography is. You may be trying out different styles and genres to see which one you love the most. Which one speaks to your heart. This is a great thing to focus on.
Once you progress and you are ready to start showing your work, it will be helpful to you and your target audience to understand where your work fits into the photography landscape. It will also be easier for potential commercial clients if they know what you have to offer. Knowing where you fit in, will help you feel more confident when you talk about your work. You will come across as a professional.
So, what are the different genres and where can you find a list? There are several places on the internet where you will find various lists. Wikipedia has a partial list and there is an interesting website at Shutha (pronounced: shoota) which goes into a lot of detail about the various types and categories. Shutha starts by dividing the various genres into fiction and non-fiction photography.
Genres in photography are categories that are characterized by a particular style, form or content with socially-agreed upon conventions that have developed over time. These genres may change with time and new genres are invented as new technologies and styles are created.
How can you figure out what genre your photography fits into? Some photographers already understand where they fit in and it will not be difficult to define their work. For others, this can be a little harder. It is sometimes difficult to decide if a type of photography is a genre or a technique. Is high speed photography a genre or technique?
Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to define your photography:
The first step is to remember to relax. Try to look at it as a “getting to know yourself better” exercise. There is no rush. Spending time on this exercise will help you have a better understanding of your talents and skills. If you want to succeed and reach your goals, you must know who you are.
Don’t let others define what you do. After all, who knows you better than you. The idea is to uncover your personal passions, interests and talents. It is important to be true to yourself. Studying the various lists of genres is just a starting point. The lists are meant to be used as a tool.
Gather up several of your photographs. Choose 10-20 of your favourite images. Look at them close up, far away and upside down. Look for similarities, subject matter, composition, depth of field, tones, colours and any other unique elements that jump out at you. What makes them come together as a single collection that represents you?
Ask yourself why you are taking photographs in the first place? What are you passionate about? What do you want to express and how do you want to do that?
When it comes to subject matter, what interests you the most?
Where are the places that you enjoy photographing?
Where does your heart lead you? What is it in the world that engages you? What subject matter is an expression of yourself or your passions?
If you are still having difficulty seeing where your work fits in, consider reaching out to others that you trust. Ask your family, friends and photography friends who support and encourage your work if they will look over your images and tell you the things they notice. What patterns do they see?
What if you still can’t figure it out? Let it go for a while or consider focusing on why you do what you do and talk about that instead of trying to fit yourself into a particular genre.
For me, I would describe myself as a Creative Photographer. I am an artist who uses a camera. I photograph architectural elements and objects to tell a story. I try to showcase beauty in the ordinary. I want the viewer to slow down and notice the beauty in ordinary things – objects that we walk past and disregard. It is my hope that the viewer will be open-minded and come to see the beauty in perceived imperfections. A lesson that could be carried over into our daily lives as we interact with each other.
In the end, what really matters is that you come to understand why you do what you do and what you have to offer others. What matters to you and what value can you offer your target audience.
What kind of photographer are you? What subject matter do you find yourself drawn to?
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