Finding your photography style can be a somewhat daunting task especially when you are just starting out. But let me assure you that this also is a problem some of the veterans face from time to time. Do you know why? Because we are human and our likes, dislike, and attitudes do change over time. This is only natural.
While you may think that if you have a good thing going in terms of an established style, why rock the boat? But sometimes not listening to that inner voice can have negative effects in terms of creating work that you are really proud of!
So regardless of where you are in your photographic journey, there are a few things you can do to find your style and creative voice – be it in terms of photographing or editing your photos.
One thing to keep in mind as you are going through this process is that less is often more than enough. So don’t feel like you need hundreds of images to create a successful collection of photographs! Here are 5 tips to get you started on finding or defining your photography style.
#1 – Determine your goals (this is your why)
The first thing to understand in defining your style is to ask yourself what are you looking to accomplish with your photography. Are you looking to photograph for leisure or pleasure? Do you want to sell your work in terms of print or stock? Do you want to use your images for your portfolio to attract a certain type of clients?
There are many different genres of photography and there are many different types of clients for each genre. It’s typically best to start the process of defining your style by focusing on one collection of work at a time, so set your goals on what you want to accomplish for each individual series of work.
#2 – Seek inspiration
Research, research, research. In other words, look around you to see what everyone else is doing and creating. It is very important to be aware of what other photographers are creating in your industry. I am not telling you this with the intention of you copying or following what everyone else is doing. But with the intention of educating yourself on what all is out there in the market space.
When you are defining a unique style for yourself, you can certainly use their work for inspiration, but do make your images different so they speak to you and your own aesthetic sensibilities. Your photographs are a visual representation of your brand, so try to think of ways to be true to yourself while still adding a unique edge to your work.
You can use visual tools like Pinterest and fill it with images that represent the look and feel you are trying to achieve – not just with the photographic style but also the editing style.
#3 – Be your own critic
This may be the most difficult thing to wrap your head and mindset around, but it will definitely help you in the long run. Take a step back and really analyze your work. Pick 10-20 of your favorite images that speak to what you want to focus on (your goals) and really ask yourself what is it about them that you like or dislike. Analyze the images in terms of emotions they convey, tone and mood they set, and even how they look from a distance as well as from up close.
The idea is that you want to bring yourself to a point where you feel you can recognize your style from wherever you look. Look for similarities in subject matter, composition, depth of field, lenses used, tones, colors, and any unique patterns your eye may catch. No matter which genre of photography you are pursuing, you are still the artist behind the camera and you are creating these images.
#4 – Define your rules of engagement
This process is important because it will really help you set guidelines for yourself so you can start to be consciously consistent. Note what makes all of the images unique to your brand and your style of photography, and how you are going to make them better. Maybe even print out your favorite images so you can compare and contrast any new work you produce to fit within the framework of your style.
For example, my work is very light, bright and airy because that is how I like my images. I constantly compare new work to see if it fits within that style. In order for me to photograph in that style, I need a few things to be aligned – bright sun, elements that are pastel toned, and scenes that are less busy. This is not to say that I will not photograph dramatic skies or colorful market scenes – it is just not what my eyes naturally gravitate towards. This is just one of the rules I have given myself permission to maintain in order to stay true to my style.
#5 – Make mistakes intentionally
After all the hard work you have put into defining your style, I am going to do a complete 360 turn and tell you to go ahead and break some of the rules and make mistakes. Why? Because that is the best way to learn what to do and what not to do.
By experimenting and trying out new things, you might find inspiration for a new genre of work. Like I said earlier in the article, your photographic style does not have to stay consistent for the rest of your life. If something else really motivates you and gets your creative juices flowing in spite of having a set style of photography, go ahead and experiment and see where that leads you, based on your why and your goals.
One accidental shutter click or new editing technique can often spark something new that’ll make your work better, or lead you into an entirely new collection of work.
Over to you
I hope these simple yet powerful steps help direct you towards finding and experimenting with your own photography style until you find something that is a reflection of you, your mindset, and your brand.