Becoming a Photographer – Finding your Style
I was talking about photographic style with a photographer friend the other day. My friend is a very different kind of photographer to me. He’s a camera man for TV and does a lot of studio photography.
If you ask him any question about kit, gear and the technical intricacies of photography and he has the answer at his fingertips. I am hugely envious of his ability to technically nail a shot every time. And yet he told me that he struggles with the artistic side of photography.
He considers himself a photographer, absolutely, but he wouldn’t call himself an artist. I consider myself a photographer but also an artist because my personal style is influenced by a love of fine art photography and contemporary art.
I’m three years into my journey as a photographer and it’s only really now that I’m starting to have an awareness of my own photographic style/voice and what this means for my business.
As a photographer delivering commercial work (whether that’s weddings, fashion or something completely different) your aesthetic is part of your brand and if you want to build a strong brand your style needs to be fairly consistent. Clients that book you are doing so on the basis of previous work that you’ve done so you need to be able deliver work that meets (or exceeds!) their expectations based on what you’ve done before.
Of course that doesn’t mean your work can’t evolve, grow and develop and it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative and push yourself but there should be a golden thread that links all of your work together. Never be afraid to experiment but you should also be brave enough to realise when something isn’t going to work for you as an artist. Your work should have it’s own visual identity and something to aspire to is for people to see an image and instantly recognise it as one of yours.
Your personal style is all about the choices you make as an artist. Which lens do you shoot with? How do you process your images? Do you you expose very evenly across the scene or do you seek out shadows and contrast? Do you document or conceptulise? Which books or magazines do you get inspiration from? How do you compose an image? Do you shoot with natural light or artificial light? All of these things can influence the way you work and they are things to think about.
If you’ve never studied your own work in this way, try it. Sit down with a collection of your images and work out what is consistent throughout those images. What factors contribute to your visual style and why do you work in the way you do. What can you do to find your voice and strengthen your personal style?
I recently did an excercise where I reviewed my portfolio based on three key words that I want to portray as part of my personal style. Any images that didn’t fit two out of three of the keywords were axed. I found this to be a really useful excercise; your own portfolio becomes a kind of mood-board for the visual direction you want to take.
I’m not going to try to do this each time I update my porfolio. Images that don’t fit with the aesthetic I’m aiming for will be removed, even if they’re strong images.
My personal style is something I’ve really only started to think about recently and I suspect it’s something that will be something that I continue to develop and hone for the rest of my life.
What are you doing to find your personal style/creative voice? What other excercises can I do to hone my personal style? I’d love to hear your thoughts.