I often get asked, "What kind of photography do you do?"
My answer is, "Whatever I can do with a camera."
I'm not trying to be sarcastic...it really is whatever I can do with light and composition. It doesn't matter what the subject is. Sure, there are nuances to shooting different kinds of photography, but that can be learned with practice.
That being said, as human beings, we innately try to categorize the things and people around us. It helps us bring order to all of the information our brains receive every day. So it makes sense that people would ask me what type of photographer I am. Do I do landscape? portraits? family? commercial? sports? wildlife? events?
A sports photographer looks for that magic moment that freezes the action of a great athlete. A landscape photographer is looking for the best light and a magical setting to bring beauty into our lives with a photograph. A commercial photographer is trying to set up the best lighting and make you salivate over the new product they're capturing on camera. A family photographer wants to capture the personality of you and your children by snapping the shutter at just the right moment. A portrait photographer looks to create beautiful, stylized lighting that makes you look your best.
I could go on, but you get the point. All photographers are just trying to do the same thing...capture a scene in a meaningful and creative way by mastering light, composition and the full capabilities of their cameras. The subjects change. The other elements do not.
What I learn from one type of photography helps me with all other types of photography. For instance, wildlife photography teaches you patience, which is very beneficial when photographing young children. Event photography teaches you to see fleeting moments that must be captured at that moment to communicate the feeling of the event. This also helps when doing candid portraits of children (and adults). Understanding portrait lighting styles in a studio can help you understand how to light a product for commercial photography (and vice versa).
So here's my point: As a photographer, don't limit yourself to one style of photography. You will miss out on many opportunities to capture beautiful scenes and moments. And you will miss out on experience that will make you better at other types of photography.
And as someone looking to hire a photographer, don't underestimate the generalists, because they tend to have more creative ideas for your photos and can work in many different situations to get fantastic images for you.
Be sure to let me know your thoughts on this subject in the comments section!
Brant Waldeck is a professional photographer and cinematographer living and working in the Charlotte area.