8 Essential Shots Every Serious Photographer Should Know


There is a constant tug of war in photography concerning whether a photographer should attempt to master one specific genre or whether they should make it a point to do many things well.

Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of this debate, I think it’s a good idea to know how to create a variety of photos even if you specialize in one type.

In the spirit of diversifying your skill set, here are 8 types of photos every photographer should know how to make.

1. Long Exposure

I know it looks like magic, but of course, it’s not. While most people associate light trails and waterfalls with long exposure photography, this technique has many more uses than you might have realized.

You can use long exposures to creatively capture motion in everything from the skies to the streets and to make all the people milling around your favorite tourist attraction disappear.

2. Portrait

There’s more to a good portrait than placing someone in front of your camera and just pressing the shutter button. A good portrait, at a minimum, requires establishing a connection with the subject and an understanding of light, whether natural or artificial.

In addition to subject and lighting, you’ll also have to consider lens, focal length, angle and crop.

Portraiture will be more of a challenge for photographers who don’t typically deal with human subjects; if this applies to you, please refer to the following entry.

Photo by Jason D. Little

3. Self-Portrait

No, not a “selfie.”

A self-portrait requires you to slow down, consider your true essence and determine how to best capture that on camera. This isn’t an easy task for most people, but it will force you to engage in a bit of self-reflection, which never hurts.

Additionally, you’ll have to be resourceful and efficient when it comes to setting up the shot. Will you use a mirror or some other prop? A tripod? A remote shutter release? Where will you stage the scene?

Self-portraits present a number of logistical and creative questions that you alone have to answer.

4. Landscape

For those who prefer not to deal with people, landscape photography is the perfect activity. You don’t need to travel to a far away location — whether your environment is rural or urban, there are landscape/cityscape/seascape opportunities all around you. The key is to learn to “see” them.

You’ll find that landscape photography can be done with a wide angle lens…or telephoto lens. Effective composition and framing are more important than trying to stick to a traditional focal length.

5. Close-Up

This category is wide open. Some of you might see “close-up” and immediately think of macro photography. Macro, of course, is close-up photography taken to the max. While a dedicated macro lens is convenient, it’s not a necessity — extension tubes and the reverse lens technique are two other viable options.

A close-up shot doesn’t have to be extreme, however. It can simply be used to isolate a particular feature of your subject — color, texture, contours. These sorts of shots are great storytelling components.

photo by pixabay
Alexas Fotos

6. Action

Landscapes don’t move. People can be asked to hold still. But not everything you encounter in life will be static. If you have kids or if you enjoy sports you will have the opportunity to put your camera’s autofocus system to the test.

You will need to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of falling rain, your daughter sprinting across the finish line or those cyclists racing around the bend.

Opportunities to use a fast shutter speed to capture action pop up on a daily basis. Stay alert and act quickly.

utah mountain biking bike biking

7. Wildlife

Like landscape photography, capturing wildlife doesn’t necessarily mean you have to travel abroad. Even if you live in a city you will encounter opportunities to photograph wildlife. Pigeons count.

From birds in flight (pigeons) to random creatures that might wander into your yard, these animals make great subjects and you can use them as practice for the day when you do get to go on Safari with your 800mm lens and photograph elephants and lions.

pexels photo
Johannes Plenio

8. Black And White

A really good black and white image isn’t the result of a simple conversion in post-production, it is the result of seeing in black and white.

When you plan to convert an image to black and white, you should shoot for contrast and texture; find lighting that creates drama or mystery.

One method of learning to see in black and white is to set your camera so the LCD displays in black and white.

Photo by Jason D. Little | Ilford Delta 400

Final Thoughts

It’s great to specialize in something, to do one thing exceptionally well. But there are other skills and styles of photography that every photography will find useful. Even if you only engage in other styles for the fun of it, there’s something to learn from and apply to your creative arsenal.

Never stop growing.

Further Reading

About Author

Jason Little is a photographer, author and stock shooter. You can see Jason’s photography on his Website or his Instagram feed.

Okay, Jason. I’ve seen your site and read enough of your articles over the years that I feel compelled to comment. This is a great short article. I am in a camera club and I will share this with the members. I assume that when you say “serious” photographer, you don’t mean professional photographer, but rather one who likes to learn and practice, enjoy the art for the sake of it, and (sometimes) share the results with others. Thanks for your insight.

I’ll have to answer that one (cos I chose the title). But yeah, you’re spot on – somebody who actively pursues the craft. Actively learns. Wasn’t meant as a pro/amateur thing.

I love the simplicity of the information given. Some of the topics get me thinking outside my comfort zone. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Ive done them, just not often enough. If one has a “been there, done that”, you can pretty much bet they havent “done” it enough – i always try to learn something new.

I would disagree. Stick to what you love most. it may be portrait or landscape or macro or events ….whatever you love and keep improving. when you try many things it complicates.

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