Genre, Style, and Attitude

Categories of Photography: Genre, Style, and Attitude Towards the Medium

Ways of categorizing photographs based on Genre (what), Style (how) and Attitude (why). Given any particular photograph, there can be overlap among categories.


Categories centered on subject matter. Originally based on the hierarchy of types of paintings (history/religious, portrait, landscape, genre, still life). Photography introduced new categories.

  • Portrait

  • Landscape and Cityscape (includes Architecture)

  • Still Life

  • Vernacular (pictures of everyday life)

  • Photojournalism

  • Documentary

  • Street

  • Commercial (includes Fashion, Advertising, Product, etc.)

  • Experimental (dealing directly with the methods of photography itself)

  • Scientific / Technical / Documentation / Evidence

  • Nudes / The Body

Broad Categories of Photographic Style

Categories of photography based on process and/or form.

  • Objective Realist

  • Pictorialist

  • Conceptual

  • Snapshot

  • Process-Determined

  • Directorial / Constructed

The Photographer’s Attitude Towards Photography

Categories based on how the photographer feels about the role and function of Photography itself:

  • Explanatory: you want to describe, to show what is

  • Aesthetic: you want to show what is beautiful (or ugly, or funny)

  • Interpretive: you want to show how you see the world

  • Evaluative: you want to show what is right or wrong or change opinions