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Photography Style: 5 Tips to Find Your Style
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Photography Style: 5 tips to find your style

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.
    01
    Stop 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.
    02
    Don'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.

    ciuanalphie

  • No.
    03
    Shoot 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.

    ciuanbike

  • No.
    04
    Don'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.)

    ciuanbraces

  • No.
    05
    Think 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.

    ciuanloopsy

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. 

Be YOURSELF. 

Shoot daily.  

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!

70 Comments
  • February 21, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    Wow thats a great post. I’m still looking for my own photography style. To shoot every day is a good tip, I will do it in the future. Hope to find out what I really want and what I really like at my photos.

    Sorry for my bad english, I hope to improve it this year :)

    • February 21, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      Anna – your English is wonderful! I’m always in awe of those who speak more than one language.

    • February 22, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Oh, Anna! Your English is really good! I hope you give shooting everyday a try!

  • February 21, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    ha! I love this post, thanks so much! I sometimes need a good kick in the pants to get me going again ;)

    • February 22, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      So glad you enjoyed it, Kim. :) Yes, I need a swift kick in the pants, too. Especially about laundry and cooking. *giggle*

  • Heather
    February 21, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Love this article and your Melissa!

    • February 22, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      Hi Heather!! Thanks so much!

  • February 21, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Awesome post!!! Once I ‘found my style’ I felt so liberated!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      Yes, I agree! When I finally found “ME” it was such a wonderful feeling. It’s like finding those perfect pair of shoes. They’re just so cozy and you don’t have to keep looking at all those other not-so-cozy shoes. :)

  • Jenn
    February 21, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Fabulous, as always Melissa!!! Love your work over on CM!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      Hi Jenn!! Thank you! *smooch*

  • February 21, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    This! I would also say that style is always evolving so don’t stress too much in daily images. Having a 365 project to be creative and do something that is NOT my style (dark and gloomy instead of bright and airy) has been helpful in exploring other styles and realizing why I love mine so much!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      I definitely agree on the not stressing too much on the daily images! I have given myself permission to shoot with my phone, too. As one of my buddies said once, “it’s not a masterpiece a day…it’s just a photo a day.” :)

  • Lynn
    February 21, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    I have to disagree about your comment “don’t excuse poor technique for style.” You don’t have know the technique to know a frame is your style of photography. I would never claim that a shot was purposely under/over exposed, positioned perfectly, etc. But I can still call the way I take unique shots as my “style”. If someone is standing on stage and I notice that they are barefoot and have their feet positioned a unique way I take that shot because that’s the quirky style of photography I like to take. The shot might be of poor quality because I’m still learning to use light to my advantage and learning manual mode on my camera… I will never claim a photo has great technique until I have learned those….but it’s certainly my “style” non-the-less. No disrespect. Loved reading everything else. Maybe I just read that portion of your blog differently then you meant.

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Hi Lynn! Thanks for taking the time to read the post and to comment. :) For me, with photography, there are so many steps and “phases” I guess you could say. I remember when I first started out and I was still learning. I remember trying to learn how to process my images. I remember trying to figure out how to compose an image properly. I even remember trying to learn my speedlight…..which was last week (AGAIN…still can’t get that thing right). For me, and I’d say for many, many photographers, “style” is one of the last things that they grow into. When I say “style” I mean…intentional head chops, moody black and whites, still life, clean and true to life, hazy and backlit, saturated or pops of color…things like that. A definite look that a photographer consistently shows. I don’t mean that those that are still learning don’t have a style. Rather, if a photographer has been shooting for a while and is too lazy to learn proper technique and, in turn, shoves it off as their “style”…that is what I’m discouraging. As I mentioned in the post, it is highly important to know the rules, how to properly expose, etc., before bending the rules intentionally. I hope I have explained myself well. :)

  • February 21, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    “You NEED to know the proper technique and rules if you’re going to break them.” So true! Practice doing it right first then get creative with crops and techniques. So important!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      Hi Michelle! Oh goodness, getting it right first was so hard for me. I remember having cheat sheets lying around…trying to remember how to do this and that and the other. Once it started coming more naturally, I was able to let loose and get more creative.

  • February 21, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Awesome post, a little bit of a slap in the face to wake up. I’ve taken the first couple of tips by not coping styles and I’ve started a 365 which I’m at day 51 now! I’m seeing a little bit of a style beginning to emerge with the pictures I’ve taken so far. It’s really interesting. Thanks for those amazing tips!!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Dina! You’ve made it to Day 51! That’s great!! Isn’t it neat to see the growth? I bet if you lined them all up you’d see so many things in common. And it’s interesting that you really don’t need words to go along with the images. I can remember what was happening on those days just by going through the images. It’s like I’m still there. Have fun with your 365!

      • February 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

        I really do need to take a look at them all lined up and see what is common with them. I’m loving this 365 it’s a nice way to document my baby and have those memories of him each and everyday I spend with him.

  • February 21, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    this is a truly awesome post. it is hard to not look at others work with fb and blogs. i think i ought to clean out my fb likes. i am doing a 365 project and it has been awesome! thanks for this!!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      You’re welcome, Joanna! Have a great time with your 365!

  • February 21, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Amazing post! Thanks so much for writing it! <3

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      You’re welcome, Ruthie! (and I love that name)

  • February 21, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    This is such a great post! I’ve been shooting for almost three years now, but still working on my style. I think I’m finally finding it and I’m seeing my strengths and weaknesses showing through so I know what to work on. And I love the part where you said unsubscribe from that blog that you stalk. That was a HUGE step for me and I was better able to focus on MY work when I stopped drooling over someone elses. :)

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      Thank you, Courtney! Oh my, unsubscribing from that blog that I stalked was SO HARD! Maybe the hardest part for me. It’s like we were breaking up or something. But goodness, it really did help me to see myself and not worry about someone else. :)

  • Erica
    February 21, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Great post Melissa.

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      Thanks so much, sweetie! ;)

  • February 21, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    What an inspiring post! Love it and thanks for sharing these tips! My favorite shot is of the Lalaloopsy dolls! I think they are so freakin’ cute! I’m not a BIG fan of the large ones though. I think they are kind of scary looking.

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      Thanks for the sweet words, Elena! Yes, I may or may not have purchased two mini Lalaloopsy dolls last week because I thought they were cute. My girls have some of the big ones, too, but they are kind of creepy with those bobble heads!

  • February 21, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    Love! Great tips and advice Melissa! Thanks so much for sharing, I’m bout to share on my fb wall! ;)

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      Oh thanks a heap load, Celeste!! :)

  • February 21, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    LOVE this, Melissa! Thanks for the tough love (and the inspiring advice!).

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Katrina!! Hi!! Thank you for the nice comment. I’m glad you liked the post. :)

  • February 22, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    I big ole HEART this post!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s all

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Ha!! Thank you, Amber!

  • Tracy Bradbury
    February 22, 2013 at 4:08 AM

    Great article Melissa <3

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      Hi Tracy! Thank you so much. Hope you’re doing great across the pond. :)

  • February 22, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Great post! I saw this on Pinterest and was glad I checked it out! Thanks for all of the great links!

    • February 22, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      Oh Pinterest! I love that place!! Thank you, Genelle! Glad it was helpful to you!

  • mary
    February 25, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    Mant great points. However I don’t favor the headless shots or cropping from the eyes up. I know a lot of fotogs do it, and it puts focus elsewhere in the foto, yet I always thought missing heads look odd. But I know some folks like it, so to each her own :)

  • Lynn Marie
    February 25, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    Love this post , one of the best I have read !!

  • Lesly Ann Sasing
    March 18, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    hi..your post inspired me..im just starting to learn photography and your post boost my confidence..i need to start shooting everyday..thank you.. :)

  • Lehanne Creevy
    March 20, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Hi Melissa,,, have had my camera for about a year,,,bought it to take action shots of my son who does off-road motocycling!!! Have really battled, but keep going. I too droll over a specific photgrapher that takes photo’s at the races, but i suppose practice makes perfect!!! Have taken up your challenge of shooting everyday, and really enjoying it!!!! Thanks for the advise and i’ll keep shooting,,,i might just get it right!!!!

  • Marisela Robles
    March 28, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    Dear Melissa, thank you so much for your words I have found a lot of answers to my questions, I have great equiptment but it is on stand by waiting for an special occasion, now I will have my camara near me all the time and I am going to start to practice every day and also I am going to cancel all my suscriptions to other blogs that I loved but I think that is a bad influence for my work, it is time to be original! Thank you again!

  • April 4, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    Love this blog post! Great advice and you have inspired me to shoot daily and start my own informal 365 project. The best way to get better is to simply do! Thanks for the inspiration :-)

  • Suhet
    June 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    Good day,

    I’m from South Africa and I’m getting married in September which is our spring time.

    I have a nature wedding in the middle of the bush, my gown is very much princess style and white and silver.

    The reason I`M writing this message is I need advice on deciding what photographer to choose as I would like to get someone with the style of my wedding as you get different styles I would not appreciate it when my photographer brings edited pictures that does not capture all the detail in the princess dress, and now im stuck with the question, what style photographer must I choose?

    I don’t completely know how to explain this so please if I must elaborate more please let me know but if you understand, please give advice?*

    Kind regards,
    Suhet

  • Alicia
    August 12, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    That was a great blog, I’ve been taking pictures for over a year now and I haven’t quite found my style yet. I keep going back and forth. I am starting an online class this fall at the photography institute to learn more about photography and my camera. I can’t wait.
    Thanks for the great blog it has helped a lot.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Melissa, just wanted to say that I think you are awesome.

  • Beth
    November 3, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    I am wondering what you consider your style and what common threads you saw in your images. I am a liitle unsure what I should look for.

  • Carol
    January 31, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Thank you so much for such a great post Melissa! I truly love photography and do exactly what you say…compare my photos to a few others. And wish that were “my style” or “my photo”. (I will go delete them from my feed and unsubscribe after I type this… yes, I will). Then I decide not to post a photo because it isn’t what I normally would shoot (example: a self portrait) and others will harshly critique or just not like it. I am finally engaging in a 365project (almost completely public and open to constructive feedback), and hope to find my style since what I love to shoot seems to have changed as I become more familiar with my gear and comfortable with my camera in public areas. So thank you very much for the tough love :)

  • tracy
    March 31, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    hi as a mature student doing As photography I think I am yet to find my style, on the course we are learning the rule of thirds, composition, leading lines, foreground/background among others, and studying some great photographers like Ansel Adams and The Westons among others, and the basics of editing in Photoshop, we are taught to research photographers that are prominent in our chosen subject, then do a shoot and try and do some photos in the style of… it helps to have a better camera, i recently bought a bridge camera, though still on auto it is a vast improvement on my old digital… would of liked a DSLR but out of my price range :)

  • April 6, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Thank you so much for this. God bless <3

  • Mario
    April 24, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    Tnx for this article!

    Well I am from Croatia and recently I came back from America, i started to work as a photographer for a cruise line.. and the thing is, i did not, realised that earlier, but i am sure i was born to be a photographer :) i did take a look back to see al my photos and I’ve found my style, and while i am free, i am just shooting, i can find inspiration everywhere, nature, city, and I am learning and learnig on my mystakes.. every time before i start shooting i have a few visions of pictures i would like to do, but once i get my camera and start looking through it, i get lost for minutes, hours, until i am done.. and at the end i came back home with other visions :)
    well i am 26, and some people here used to say to me that I should grow up and find a real job, hm, ..isnt our job as a human bean to help each other? inspire each other? share beauty with each other? learn?

    Thank you for listening to me.
    Sorry for broken english, still learning ;)

  • Shea M
    May 26, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Totally guilty of obsessing over a certain photographers style! I am in the process of perfecting my own now :)
    Loved this post, as well as many of the others on ‘Click it up a notch’.

  • July 9, 2014 at 11:07 PM

    Such a great article and just when i needed it. I am so ready to look my way, learn the rules and run! Thank you sooooooooooo much
    Kathy

  • September 27, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    thank you for this wonderful article which i thoroughly enjoyed.
    i have a q though. photography style…isn’t about classic vintage look (as your 1st photo)/bold, crisp, glossy, saturated look/hdr style/minimal style..etc.?
    thank you.

    keep up the great work!

    • September 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Hey Betty,

      I don’t think I understand your question. Could you clarify what you are asking :)

  • October 25, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    Thank you for that great post. I needed it!

  • January 20, 2015 at 11:11 AM

    Great post! I definitely think shooting daily is key to nailing our personal style. I find the more frequently I shoot, my work is not only consistent but consistently good. (Good being a relative term here lol)

  • February 2, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    I seriously loved this article! I do constantly look at other people’s work and then try to imitate it when what I should be doing is focusing on what I enjoy! I am going to take what you said and run with it and I am sure that my style will come out. Thanks!

  • February 18, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    Hey there! This was a great article. I’m currently struggeling with all the “my own style” thing and I’m having kind of a bad time. This really helps. Thank you!

  • Raj
    January 8, 2016 at 12:59 PM

    Thank you …needed to hear this.

  • Randy
    February 19, 2016 at 11:07 PM

    It’s always good to hear someone be direct. I’ve been doing the same thinga you’ve mentioned. Great read!

  • Jennifer Venter
    August 19, 2016 at 3:14 AM

    Stunning article and super advice. Best thing I ever did was STOP following and comparing myself to others. Now I work on myself, my style, my knowledge and work on it daily. It made a huge change to my day, my work and my output. It will also help your positivity and allow you to stretch yourself into new ways of thinking about your images and your business approach. After all we are ALL artists.

  • AW
    September 9, 2016 at 12:19 PM

    I am not at all a new photographer but man did I need to hear this! Number one! I needed your advice in number one in my life so badly. Comparing myself to others (and getting blasted by others in facebook photo groups) has just about made me give up the passion of my life.

    I knew I was having a hard time but until just now I couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind it!
    Thank you so much.

  • Mary Smith
    February 24, 2017 at 9:14 AM

    I absolutely love this post – thank you so much x

  • Candice
    June 25, 2017 at 1:08 PM

    Every photographer and “photographer” should read this! This is exactly what I needed to read today! PERFECT tough love and thank you!!

  • Alex Bischoff
    November 15, 2017 at 5:30 PM

    Omgoodness this article was so helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write it! Would you mind if I shared it on my blog? I would be more than happy to credit you for the post :) My website is http://www.bischoffphotography.ca

  • Kacy
    October 30, 2018 at 11:08 AM

    So I am new to photography in the more professional aspect and I know I still have so much to learn. I’ve talked with my professional friends and they all say I have to declare an editing Style. I however have full examined what makes me fall in love with photography over and over again and what would mean the most to me as a consumer, variety!I don’t want to deliver 15-20 of the same images to my client with just different poses. I sent to create and deliver so much more and edit a shoot based on the mood for that specific session not to look like everything else I’ve already done. However, my friends saythat this is only going to bring in low paying clients and will look unprofessional as well. Any advice?

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