Specialty Guidelines

The following is a list of specialties that we use to describe our photographers.

We strive to provide clients with the most useful possible list of specialties, so they can effectively find photographers appropriate for a project. We need enough specialties to categorize most commercial and editorial assignments, but not so many that they become confusing or unwieldy for our clients and our staff. Our specialties describe the subject matter rather than the client type (which is why we don't use terms like Advertising or Editorial). We do our best to follow industry standards when defining these terms. In order to qualify for any category, photos have to be relevant to some sort of client, and we always consider quality, quantity, and cohesiveness. Please let Bill know if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions about how we can improve our list of specialties or their definitions.

ADVENTURE

Includes extreme sports and other rigorous outdoor activities. Demonstrates the photographer’s ability to work in remote (and often inhospitable) locations and capture adrenaline-fueled action.

AERIAL

Shot from a high vantage point, usually from a drone or aircraft.

AGRICULTURE

Illustrates the practice of cultivating, breeding, or harvesting plants and animals to produce food, fabrics, and other materials.

ANIMALS

Features pets, livestock, and wildlife, with or without people.

ARCHITECTURE

Concerned primarily with the interior or exterior of a structure, more so than the people, furniture, or decor in or around it. Should demonstrate a high degree of technical proficiency including perspective control and mixed lighting.

AUTO & VEHICLES

Mostly features cars, but can include other vehicles like motorcycles, boats, trains, helicopters, and planes. Mostly shows the vehicles as products, but can also address their culture.

BEAUTY & COSMETICS

Presents beautiful faces, bodies, and hair. Mostly promoting cosmetics, fragrances, hair and skin products, jewelry, or glasses. Often expertly retouched. Can include still life pictures of the make-up products themselves.

BRAND NARRATIVE

Depicts an idealized version of real life, but by telling a story (using multiple pictures in a series) about a consumer's or producer’s engagement with a particular product or brand. Read more.

CELEBRITY

Features anyone widely recognizable, candid or portrait. Mostly entertainers of some sort but can also be models, musicians, or athletes when they transcend their fashion, music, or sports realm. Photographers should demonstrate exceptional portrait skills and have experience working with individuals requiring special handling, extra planning, and limited sitting time.

CGI

Contains elements created entirely by a computer, usually intended to look like a realistic photograph.

CONCEPTUAL

Normally planned and produced to convey a specific idea, often using props, wardrobe, makeup, exaggeration, special effects, retouching for dramatic or comedic effect.

CORPORATE

Broadly encompasses the world of business, often showing people dressed in business attire in business environments doing business-like things. Can be shot in reportage, lifestyle, portrait or conceptual styles.

EDUCATION

Captures the experience of learning, often in an organized school setting, from early childhood to post-grad.

FASHION

Focuses on clothing, shoes, accessories, usually worn by professional models.

FINE ART

Expresses an aesthetic or intellectual (rather than commercial or editorial) message.

FOOD & DRINK

Presents food or drink as a product or an experience, including showing it being grown, prepared, served, consumed.

GIF & CINEMAGRAPH

Includes GIFs, short repeating video clips (stop-motion and live-action), and cinemagraphs, still photographs in which minor and repeated movement occurs forming a video clip.  

HEALTHCARE

Features mostly upbeat pictures of patients, doctors, nurses, caregivers, often in an institutional setting. Can include pharmaceutical and health science research and manufacturing.

HOME & GARDEN

Emphasizes the furnishings and decor in or around the structure and less the structure itself. Sometimes includes people. Usually, but not always, residential.

HOSPITALITY

Combines Food & Drink, Architecture, Home & Garden, and especially Lifestyle photos that convey the experience of hotels, resorts, spas, or cruise lines.

HUMANITARIAN

Often used by aid organizations and meant to raise awareness of (and in turn provide relief from) human suffering.

INDUSTRIAL

Shows people building and making things (especially on a large scale), including construction, mining, manufacturing, transportation, and energy. Read more.

KIDS

Focuses on children or the experience of growing up. Mostly well-produced and upbeat but can in reportage style as well.

LANDSCAPE

Concerned with the vastness of a space. Normally outdoors, those spaces can be urban, suburban, rural, land or water, night or day. There is usually a horizon and the photos can include people, animals, structures, or objects as long as they don't dominate the scene. Read more.

LIFESTYLE

Depicts an idealized, aspirational version of real life. Usually showing happy, attractive people in nice clothes doing fun things in beautiful places. Often using professional models, hair/make-up, props, wardrobe, locations, and yet still looking authentic. Often intended to help promote a product or service but can be used editorially as well.

LIQUIDS

Captures liquids spilling, splashing, pouring, mixing, foaming, or just standing still. Usually shot in a controlled environment and often highly produced and retouched.

MOTION

Shows a mastery of moving pictures (and usually sound) through a director's reel or individual projects demonstrating good production value and technical and storytelling skills. Generally not behind-the-scenes, basic interviews, or event coverage.

MUSIC & PERFORMING ARTS

Presents musicians, actors, dancers, or other performers, playing, singing, acting, performing—candid or posed. If the photos document a performance, they need to show a level of creativity beyond mere event coverage.

PORTRAITURE

Depicts individuals or groups of people who are aware of (if not always looking at) the camera and at least superficially engaged with the photographer (as opposed to reportage, where subjects tend to be less engaged with the photographer). Portraits tend to say something about the character of the subject (as opposed to a fashion photograph which tends to obscure rather than reveal the personality of the person).

REPORTAGE

Captures real life as it’s happening in a straightforward, un-produced style. Usually, subjects are not posed, lighting conditions are natural, and minimal post-production processing has been done. Includes social documentary, breaking news, and conflict/crisis. Usually news coverage, but sometimes showing people at work or playing sports.

SPORTS & FITNESS

Includes anything relating to sports, games, athletes, fitness, exercise—can be candid (action) or controlled.

STILL LIFE

Presents any inanimate object (usually smaller than an automobile) not covered by our other specialties. Often features products.

TRAVEL

Shows, in an upbeat mood, a destination, emphasizing scenery, culture, attractions, activities, accomodations, and often food. Usually from a tourist’s point of view. Read more.

UNDERWATER

Taken ... underwater. Could be shot in oceans, swimming pools or bathtubs, of people, animals or objects.

YOUTH CULTURE

Portrays what differentiates teenagers and young adults in the way they dress, behave, relate to each other. Can be staged, but sometimes real or at least look real.