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40 types of freelance photographers - which one are you?
The freelance photography business is booming, and as more people pick up their cameras (and their smartphones) to express their creativity and unique style, there are more types of photographers than ever before.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of self-employed photographers in the United States is expected to grow by 10% over the next 10 years. It’s no real surprise, given that photography is a lucrative business in many states, with some digital photographers bringing in upwards to $82,000+ a year. Of course, your income will depend on what level of photographer you are (i.e. how much experience you have).
With more and more photographers — and types of photographers — entering the freelance world, it’s more important than ever to be crystal clear about what type of photographer you are and what kind of photography services you offer. You may want to consider widening your offering to stay competitive, or niching down to be seen as an expert in your area.
At Bonsai, we want to see your freelance business thrive. So, to help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 40 types of photographers with a brief description of each, so you can identify ways to start or expand your digital photographer freelance business.
Types of animal photographers
If you’re an animal lover, there are plenty of types of photographers who get to hang out with animals all day! It takes a certain level of photographer to know how to work with animals, but with the right amount of practice, you can do it too.
1. Pet photographer
In some families, pets are treated like children! As a pet photographer, you can help dog dads and cat moms create beautiful moments of their fur babies that they will treasure forever.
2. Wildlife photographer
This type of photographer requires a lot of patience as it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years to get the perfect shot of a wild animal. But if you’re lucky and the hard work pays off, your wildlife photo could even be featured in National Geographic!
3. Equine photographer
The equine industry relies on high-quality photographs of horses, whether it’s for submitting to potential breeders (to show that a horse’s physical characteristics conform to the breeder’s needs) or for promoting horse races and shows.
4. Bird photographer
A specific type of wildlife photographer, bird photographers have to get to know where and when to capture them at their most active (typically in the early morning or late afternoon).
Types of commercial photographers
Commercial photographers work with businesses across a wide range of industries to help them create stunning photos that attract the attention of their target customers (or other audience). Working with commercial clients offers a great way to set up retainer work, as most clients will need new photos on an ongoing basis.
Nearly every industry relies on photos, so there is a niche for every interest. Here are just some types of commercial photographers.
5. Fashion photographer
As a fashion photographer, you may work for a specific brand to help them create brand imagery for their website and advertisements. This type of photographer can also be seen at fashion events — even large events like London Fashion Week look for freelance fashion photographers.
6. Sports photographer
This type of photographer needs to be fast on their feet! As a sports photographer, you’ll often have to keep up with high-speed athletes running across football fields, around tracks, or swimming lanes.
To snag those coveted photography contracts at high-profile sporting events, you’re going to need a great proposal. Bonsai’s freelance proposals tool can help you create an on-brand, compelling proposal in no time.
7. Architecture photographer
If you love an aesthetically pleasing building, you might enjoy architecture photography. From building exteriors and unique exteriors to bridges and skylines, there are so many types of architecture to explore.
8. Real estate photographer
Beautiful images are vital in selling a property. A potential buyer’s first impression of a property relies almost solely on the images that have been chosen for the listing, so real estate agents need to hire photographers they can depend on to show the property in the best possible way.
9. Medical photographer
Hospitals and clinics rely on medical photographs to help them document procedures, from surgeries to autopsies. Medical photographers may have to photograph patients or specimens that have been removed from the body.
10. Food photographer
Food photography existed way before Instagram made it popular in the general public (#foodie). This type of photographer helps restaurants, cookbook editors, food magazines, and even advertising companies capture delicious dishes in the right way.
11. Vehicle photographer
Automotive photography can be quite stunning. From high-speed movement shots to sharp stationary photos, this is the perfect venture for a freelance photographer who is also a car aficionado.
12. Advertising photographer
As an advertising photographer, you’re responsible for showing a product in the most appealing way possible for the target audience. This will probably include a combination of flat-lay product shots and photos of people using the product in the intended way.
13. Product digital photographer
A product photographer is similar to an advertising photographer, but this type of photographer is more likely to shoot the product on its own rather than in a staged situation. These images may be used in advertisements, but are also often used for product listings.
14. Aerial photographer
Nothing has had more of an impact on the digital photographer industry over the last few years than drones. This is especially true in the real estate photography industry, where homes with aerial images sell 68% faster than those without. However, this type of photography also plays a role in a wide range of industries, including the construction, events, travel, and advertising sectors.
Wondering exactly how to create a proposal for a commercial photography client, or how to send them an invoice when the job is done? Try a free two-week trial of Bonsai, which can help you manage all your client admin in a single place.
Types of nature photographers
If you love being outdoors, you would probably enjoy being a nature photographer. Even if you aren’t interested in wildlife photography, there are plenty of types of nature photographers out there to choose from. Here are a few.
15. Landscape photographer
Imagine taking those sprawling landscape shots that make for stunning desktop backgrounds. Landscape photography is a broad form of photography that encompasses any photos of the outdoors. A good landscape photographer can capture the essence of any natural space, no matter how vast, and make it look just as impressive on a small screen.
16. Panoramic photographer
Panoramic photography has its place in a wide range of photography areas, but it is primarily used in nature photography. This photography technique involves merging several photos together to make one wide shot, which helps better encompass a vast or elongated space.
17. Underwater photographer
This is possibly one of the coolest forms of photography, simply because the shots are so unique — and difficult to take! To become an underwater photographer, you’re probably going to want to know how to scuba dive, but you can also take photos from just below the surface or from within an underwater vehicle.
18. Storm photographer
Storm photography is not for the faint of heart. Not only do you have to be a storm chaser to engage in this thrilling form of photography, but you also have to be willing to get up close and personal with your subject. Be prepared to invest in some heavy-duty equipment if this is your path of choice!
Types of children photographers
The children photography industry has blossomed thanks to tech advancements that make it so much easier to snap photos of wiggly babies and active children on the go. No need for a studio anymore: many of today’s children’s photographers visit clients in their own home!
If you’re interested in working with children, here are some types of photography to explore.
19. Family photographer
Family photography is all about giving families momentos to treasure, so they can capture moments and hold on to them long into the future. As a family photographer, you could specialize even further by focusing your talents on mother and baby shots, staged group portraits, or even candid outdoor sessions.
20. Baby and child photographer
If you have more of a creative streak, baby and child photography might be a great fit for you! From cake-smash shoots to bright and colorful milestone photos, this is a popular — and lucrative — type of photography and offers a great chance to try new things and hop on photography trends.
21. Newborn photographer
While babies and children are active, newborns are a bit more limited in what they can do, so newborn photography requires a distinct skillset and approach. Newborn shoots typically take place while the child is asleep, allowing for greater flexibility in poses.
22. School photographer
From individual school portraits (we all remember photo day) to group class shots, school photography is always in demand. Build relationships with schools in your area to ensure they come back to you year after year.
Types of people photographers
If you're passionate about catching the perfect smile or unique postures in your photos, here are some options you could choose from.
23. Portrait photographer
It’s not just children who want their photos taken! From headshots to engagement shoots, portrait sessions are becoming more and more popular in a world where we’re constantly looking for a curated Instagram feed or professional-looking LinkedIn profile photo.
24. Branding photographer
A subset of portrait photography, branding photography is for business owners or small business teams who need on-brand photos for their social media feeds, blogs, websites, advertisements, and other marketing channels. The shoots are typically lifestyle-oriented and might take place in the client’s office or another working environment (like a coffee shop).
25. Boudoir photographer
Boudoir photography typically involves shooting the subject in a sensual and/or romantic way. The client usually wears lingerie, and the “studio” is a more intimate setting like a bedroom or dressing room.
26. Erotic photographer
There’s not much we can say about erotic or nude photography and still remain professional, but it is worth acknowledging as a lucrative type of photography. It typically goes one step further than boudoir photography, and is certainly a niche market.
Types of photographers for the art industry
If you’re a photographer, or are interested in becoming one, chances are you have an artistic side. Photographing from within the arts industry allows you to surround yourself with several different art forms at once, and can really help you bring out your creative streak. Here are just a few examples.
27. Concert photographer
Concert photography is a pretty sweet gig, especially if you’re a music fan. You have the rare chance of taking photos of performing artists from close-up, and get to enjoy their music at the same time. Of course, the higher your level of photography, the better chance you’ll have of working with big-name musicians.
28. Fine art photographer
Fine art photography is more aligned with other traditional art forms, like fine art paintings. It tends to have a much more artistic approach, bringing to life a more abstract vision or story. Some fine art photographers get very creative, overlaying digital effects and editing the image to create something truly surreal.
29. Street photographer
Street photography somewhat fits under the category of art photography, but it depends on your personal style and approach. It is a type of candid photography that involves going out in the world and finding your subjects by chance. The incredibly popular Humans of New York series is a great example of this type of photography.
Types of event photographers
Is an event truly an event if there’s no photographer present? From weddings and engagements to birthdays and anniversaries, most event planners list hiring a great photographer as their number one priority.
30. Wedding photographer
As a wedding photographer, you get to share in the happiest day of a couple’s life together. If you get joy out of seeing families brought together, wedding photography might be your calling. You’ll have the chance to be a “fly on the wall” in some of the most intimate settings, capturing moments that families will cherish for the rest of their lives.
31. Birthday photographer
While certainly not as popular as wedding photography, some people chose to invite a professional photographer to birthday parties! This is especially true for milestone birthdays, such as a 50th birthday or a child’s first birthday party.
Other types of photographers
Still haven't found one that sounds right for you? You're in luck! There are still plenty to go through.
32. Travel photographer
Dream of seeing the world? Why not bring your camera with you and make a freelance career out of it! There are many different subsets of this type of photography: you can document a country’s people, traditions, food, or landscapes.
Being a travel photographer often means lots of moving around, so it’s important to track your freelance expenses on the go so you can easily charge your client after the project is complete.
Photojournalism is the art of sharing news and telling stories through photos. If you want to be a photojournalist, you’re going to have to have the same skills as a traditional journalist — namely, being able to seek out a popular story and document it well.
34. Press photographer
Press photography is similar to photojournalism, but it is moreso a term reserved for photographers who go out on assignments set by an editor or publisher. For example, you might be asked to photograph a grand opening or some other local celebration so there is a photo to go along with the story in tomorrow’s newspaper.
35. Stock photographer
Stock photography looks nothing like it used to! No longer merely forced-looking photos of people in everyday situations, you might be surprised at how many stock photos you see on your social media feeds every single day without even realizing it.
Popular online stock photo resources include Unsplash, Pexels, and even stock photo membership sites like Haute Stock and Styled Stock Society. You could sell your photos to any one of these platforms, or create your own!
36. Paparazzi photographer
We’ve all seen those paparazzi photos of politicians, celebrities, athletes and famous artists. Paparazzi photographers are typically independently-contracted photographers who make their living taking and selling pictures of high-profile people to the highest bidder. The best paparazzi can rake in low- to mid-six-figure annual salaries!
37. Macro photographer
Macro photography involves getting up close and personal with your subject, typically using a long camera lens. This is a type of photography that’s commonly used to capture insects, other small organisms, and natural elements like dewdrops or frost.
38. Micro photographer
Taking macro photography to the next level, micro photography requires very specific equipment that allows you to magnify your subject anywhere from x7 to x100 — usually a microscope. This isn’t an incredibly popular type of photography, at least among freelancers, but it is important to the scientific community.
39. Film camera photographer
Film camera photographers are considered somewhat old-school nowadays, as they rely on film to take pictures rather than modern digital setups (like SD cards). However, film photography is rising in popularity again, as it provides a truly unique look that can’t be achieved with the digital camera.
Keep in mind that film photography requires some skills that your digital camera may not have taught you. But knowing how to use both can make you a more well-rounded photographer!
Astrophotographer is just a long and fancy name that means taking photos of the night sky. Your subject could be the moon, a distant star, or as much of the galaxy as you can capture in a single frame. Once relying on NASA-developed telescopic cameras, you can now engage in basic astrophotography using your smartphone!
Ready to launch your photography career?
Now that you know what type of photography to dive into for your freelance business, it’s time to find your next photography job.
Once you’ve landed the job, Bonsai can help you send over your contract, invoice your client, and track your expenses on the job. Get started with your free trial today.