Finding Your Style In Photography
Do I need to find my own style, or my own “look” when it comes to taking pictures?
As I continue to improve on my photography skills, this is something that always been in the back of my mind, beyond improving my technique and taking better quality images on a regular basis.
Do you need to decide on a particular style?
When I look at other artistic forms, I relate this to a musician having a particular style, or sound, or a painter having a particular style, like abstract, or realism. Do I need my own personal perspective, or eye as to what I’m hoping to capture on film? Or does one just simple wander out into his surroundings, find an interesting subject, and simply shoot?
If this is the case, then what separates one photograph from another beyond the techniques? I understand the importance of having the right aperture, shutter speed, framing the subject properly, the right lighting, etc. But if we’re all just shooting landscapes, portraits, still life, or any other composition, how can ever hope to know if my images are good enough? How can I possibly determine whether I measure up?
I don’t want get discouraged in my pursuit of becoming a better photographer. But at the same time, I want to know that I’m making a statement, conveying an idea, or capturing the right mood when I’m taking photographs in a particular way that makes it unique, and stand out from other images.
How can I ever achieve this?
This first step is obvious. Shooting daily. Or at least, try to take photographs daily, or as often as possible. But I feel like this might need to go beyond the basics of just practicing, which I talked about earlier. I feel that shooting often, making mistakes, correcting them, and challenging myself may help me find out what works and what doesn’t work for me.
Now for me – this is actually something so simple, yet profound. I basically take the same commute to my job five days a week, then hit the gym a few days after work. So most of my time, I’m around the same parts of town, viewing the same landmarks and features.
You’d think a person would run out of ideas really fast. But by shooting daily, I find myself capturing anything and everything I can point my camera at, changing up the perspective, or trying different ideas. Over time, I’m starting to see particular traits, characteristics or qualities over the hundreds of images that I take – some good, some not so good. But I feel that it’s starting to give me an outlook of what appeals to me, and what captures my eye.
Know the rules first
Though this may be a good thing, I think it’s also important to remind myself that I still need to take good photographs. Let’s not get carried away in thinking that any random image that you take can stand out as a style when there’s clearly an area that’s completely off. It’s one thing if an image is drastically out of focus, and perhaps there’s a particular effect that you’re going for with that blurred image.
That’s what happened with me in trying to capture this NYPD officer in Grand Central Station last summer. I couldn’t pull out my DSLR camera fast enough, so I’d thought I would wing it with my Samsung smartphone. Plus is quicker and less obvious that I’m taking his photo.
Unfortunately, I was in the such a hurry to catch the next train out, that I didn’t take my time to focus him properly and caught him out of focus. But still, in my post editing using Adobe Photoshop, I did the best I could in cleaning it up, and decided to simply ’embrace’ the blur, and touch it up with a few of the artistic filters from the Filter Gallery for a different look. Now I’m not suggesting that you take blurry images all the time – but this was an instance of knowing that the focus is off and just trying to make something out of nothing.
It’s something completely different if an image is completely overexposed and I’m expecting to pass this off as a particular style. If this is the case, then my question would be, “What style are you going for?” because any photographer wouldn’t have a hard time realizing that you let in too much light and you need to tone things down, with either your ISO or shutter speed on your dslr camera.
The image on the left is clearly not a style that should be acceptable, but bad exposure that should be corrected and adjusted properly.
Pick up ideas from others
As an artist, I always felt it was important to study other painter’s techniques and different styles as long as I wasn’t completely copying their style. I personally don’t mind other artists who admire my work, shading, lighting, or brush strokes – because that’s how I learned to become a better artist – through hard work, practice, and finding some inspiration in others works, whether that be Rembrandt, Monet, or Norman Rockwell.
Likewise, as I’m exploring and searching for a particular theme or mood that I’m conveying, I do manage to take subtle snippets from other images or photographer whose works I study or admire. Now I may not be able to completely capture their exact image or technique, and I’m not really trying to. But if there’s something unique that I enjoyed about a piece of work, or some quality that I can takeaway that will open up ideas for my own style? This is something that should encourage me in developing my own perspective.
Finding what appeals to you
At the end of the day, it’s important to be “me”, not only in my branding, but in my style and how I experience things. And this is something I shouldn’t be ashamed of, but should follow after. It’s in every area, whether it’s the style of my attire, or the music I listen, or anything else that I’m passionate about. So why conform and try to be anything else?
If I’m find myself favoring landscape photography over portraits or still life because there’s something captivating about it when captured in the right mood then that’s alright with me. Similarly, black and white photography is more compelling to me than color, when filtered correctly to capture the right effect. For others, it may be the opposite, where color images may express things differently as opposed to black and white photography. And that’s perfectly fine. You should go follow what style that appeals to you.
As I continue to take more photos regularly and challenge myself to get better, I believe I’ll continue to come into my own and be able to capture my own unique view of the world around me.
I really enjoyed your article! Just thought I’d make a note that there’s a double negative in the conclusion…”and this isn’t something I shouldn’t censor or be ashamed of”. Are you saying you it IS something you SHOULD censor or be ashamed of?
Otherwise great thoughts and insights!
You’re right – I should have said I ‘shouldn’t be ashamed of’ :-). Thanks for the feedback!
Hi, Isaiah! This is a pretty spot-on post. In fact, it takes me back to a color photography class I took in college. The reading, the assignments, and the shooting projects all revolved around the three steps you described. The reading covered other famous photographers and showed their works and explained their styles. The assignments and the shooting projects had us take a certain amount of photos of things around campus and town – NOT in our dorms/apartments, as the instructor emphatically told us.
This helped teach us how to use the DSLR cameras and how to adjust the ISO and shutter speed. But it also helped those who wanted to continue photography to find their own style. If they didn’t find it by the class’s end (it was a shorter summer class), it at least set them on the right path to do so.
I appreciate your perspective, Kelby. I think this is an important part of becoming a better photographer. Thanks for the feedback!
I agree with you, it is more about finding your own style than choosing a style. I believe the challenge is in staying true to your style afterwards, we have to resist the temptation of changing it when we see all different kinds of things from others.
I liked your post!! I look forward to reading more from your website.
Thanks Alberto! I appreciate your feedback.