There’s one question that I hear asked over and over and over again. I bet it’s the most-asked question in the photography community. Well, besides the “Wow! What great pictures! What kind of camera is THAT?!” question, of course. I guess that makes this one the second most asked question.
How can I decide on a photography style?
It sounds like such a huge task. Deciding on a photography style. Sticking to a photography style, a look that you are confident enough in that you show it again and again and again. Many of us feel that we’ve found our “look”, while many of us are still trying to find the groove. So, how is it done? Well, here are a few of my thoughts on how you can decide on your own photography style. Your own YOU. Be advised, I’m about to hit you with some tough love.
- No.01Stop looking at everyone else
Period. You know that blog that you follow? The one where you always gush over the images and say, “Dude. I wish I could shoot like THAT.” Or maybe you say, “Ugh. I wish that were MY STYLE.” Yes, that blog. Unsubscribe from it. Go ahead…I’ll wait. And now you’re wondering “but, but, but, where am I going to get my inspiration from now?!” Look around your house. Your town. Your family. THERE is your inspiration. You just haven’t seen it yet because you’re stalking someone else’s work. You browse that “other blog” and you love it, but it makes you feel crummy about your own work. Am I right? Well, unsubscribe and be inspired somewhere else.
- No.02Don't copy
Period. Don’t copy someone else’s photography style. You know that saying? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Well, it’s also the most annoying. And I don’t necessarily mean it’s annoying to the person being copied (although it is). I mean, for you as well. It’s annoying for YOU. Why? Because you can never, ever, no not ever get that image to look like the one that you are copying. And why would you want to? It’s the idea and brain and heart of someone else.
Instead, take an IDEA and run with it. Find what you like about that photography style and make it PART of your photography style. Maybe it’s the haziness of someone’s work that you love. Maybe it’s the lens flare. It’s very likely that you can pull ONE element out. You just need to pinpoint what you love about it. Just recently, I noticed an image from one of my sweet buddies. She had such gorgeous light and shadows right there in her living room. That, in turn, made me think of my own living room and the shadows that fall on the floor in the morning. I took THAT part of her image and I went with it. I made it my own. Her image was inspiring to me. Which is completely different from me copying her work.
- No.03Shoot daily
Shoot an image every.single.day. Did you hear that? EVERYDAY you are to shoot. I promise you that if you shoot daily your photography style will emerge. In January of 2011, I started a Project 365. Starting out I was shooting this and that and the other. Just pointing my lens at anything and everything. Trying out different ideas with my girls and various processing styles for different images. Finally, about 7 months in I saw it. It was like rainbows and butterflies and angels singing from the clouds! It took me nearly a year more to have the courage to shoot that way all the time and embrace my photography style, but boy was that a glorious feeling. Just try shooting daily and after a while you will see what you love as a constant in about 75% of your shots. You’ll know you’ve made it. The next step is having the courage to run with it.
- No.04Don't excuse poor technique as a "style"
First and foremost, learn the rules of photography. Courtney has tutorial after tutorial here on Click it Up a Notch. You NEED to know the proper technique and rules if you’re going to break them. You have to know how to get proper white balance. How to compose an image. How to make intentional chops. So many times I’ve heard photographers say, “I know this image is blah-blah-blah and I did blah-blah-blah to their feet, but that’s my style.” I’m sorry, y’all, but orange skin tone is NOT a style. It’s horrid white balance and improper exposure. Repeatedly odd finger and limb chops isn’t a style. I can’t stress to you enough that you MUST know the rules in order to break them accordingly. Please don’t be lazy and call it “photography style”. It’s poor technique and a poor excuse and you CAN do better than that. (See? I told you this would be some tough love.)
- No.05Think about what you want rather than what others want
Quick question about the shoes you are wearing right now. Are you wearing those because your friend wanted you to wear them? Are you driving that SUV because your father-in-law likes it? No! It’s because you like it. You want to shoot all black and white film? Do it! You just want to shoot still life? Do that! Who cares what someone else wants you to shoot? You aren’t wearing the clothes someone else picked out for you so why shoot what someone else wants you to shoot?! It seems like common sense, but so many people struggle with doing what they want. Peer pressure is for high school, y’all. Now get out there and do what YOU want.
Finding and deciding on a photography style isn’t an easy task. Especially these days, when we are simply saturated with photographers, blogs and Facebook feeds. I encourage you to step back from everyone else.
Know the rules and THEN break them intentionally.
And don’t ever, no not ever, copy someone else just because you want to be like them.
Shoot what you love the way you want to shoot it and people will flood YOUR blog, YOUR Facebook and YOUR email. Now. Go get ‘em tiger!