How to Establish Your Photographic Style

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OK, you’ve bought all the right camera equipment. You have three camera bodies, 10 lenses, a stack of lighting gear, all the filters and attachments you can think of, you’ve read the manual and gained some experience in taking different types of shots, but you’re still not happy with your results. You’ve even copied other people’s styles but they’re just good photos and they look the same as everyone else’s. They don’t stand out and nobody would instantly recognize them as yours. In other words, you have no distinct photographic style. What is photographic style and how do you establish your photographic style?

"Summer In London" captured by Jirina Kantova. (Click image to see more from Jirina Kantova.)

“Summer In London” captured by Jirina Kantova. (Click image to see more from Jirina Kantova.)

Photographic style is not a destination, it’s the journey itself. You don’t suddenly develop style. It’s the result of your experiences, an extension of who you are and how you see the world. It’s what you evoke in people viewing your work that makes you unique. Photographic style is not copying someone else’s style, but it is about making your photography an extension of yourself. In other words, don’t just copy the masters, try to be one!

As this article is about helping you develop a personal style, how do you go about it?

• Discover what you are passionate about. It’s easy to see which photographers are passionate about their work because it shows in many images they capture.

• Enjoy your photography for the same reason. It will shine through.

"Bookman-Bookwoman" captured by This Room Became A Hill. (Click image to see more from This Room Became A Hill.)

“Bookman-Bookwoman” captured by This Room Became A Hill. (Click image to see more from This Room Became A Hill.)

• Try new and different things to photograph subjects that challenge you. Every new challenge adds more skills and more experiences.

• Do not be afraid to fail by taking bad photographs. Overcoming failures by taking better photographs only make you a better photographer.

• Assign yourself assignments that you have not attempted before, especially those assignments that you’ve never seen done by others before.

• Be free to express yourself. Ignore the set rules. (Set by whom?)

• Be inspired. Attend workshops, seminars, look at photography blogs, magazines and books.

• Act as your own critic. Look at your own collection of shots and ask yourself how they could be improved. Is your work exciting to you or just another bird photo?

• Share your work with your friends and family, or got one stage further and sign up with photo web forums. Attend local meet up groups. Treat all negative feedback as a means to learn from them. Treat positive feedback as being on the right track.

• Take a camera wherever you go. That one perfect shot is waiting to be captured by you.

• Specialize on particular genre of photography but do it differently.

• Decide on a medium. Do you want to photograph in black and white only, HDR images? Pick one and be consistent in the main and I mean 90% of the time. There’s nothing worse that browsing through someone’s portfolio to see colour, black and white and some HDR. It cries out that you haven’t developed a style yet.

• Try and describe your style to others. Do you capture the moment, freeze action, tell a story or do you aspire to being a photo journalist? This will help to define your style by telling others.

"A Day Out" captured by Jay Sadler. (Click image to see more from Jay Sadler.)

“A Day Out” captured by Jay Sadler. (Click image to see more from Jay Sadler.)

Eventually, you will come to realise what your style really is. One word of caution, don’t over process your images in your favourite imaging software. Keep it simple and your work will stand the test of time.

About the Author:
Geordie Parkin is a photographer based in Forest Lake, Qld (http://photopress.in/brianparkin). For further information about wildlife photography, pet photography or general questions about digital photography.

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9 Comments

  1. Michal says:

    Most of this article seems to me like empty and sometimes contradictory clichés that have very little to do with any actual advice about how to establish style

    “Take a camera wherever you go. That one perfect shot is waiting to be captured by you.” – yeah, but it’s got nothing to do with style.

    “Specialize on particular genre of photography but do it differently” – oh gosh, really Captain Obvious?
    “Try and describe your style to others” – what for? Art should speak for itself, if you need to explain it, you are doing it wrong.

  2. Dave says:

    Sorry but i have to agree with the comment above.

    I agree with the second paragraph, but the rest is pretty much empty.

  3. Ivan says:

    I came to this article hoping to get anything to help me to find a photography style… Unfortunately I leave empty handed.

  4. Al says:

    Agree with the above posters.

    Couldn’t disagree more with your bulleted point:

    “Decide on a medium. Do you want to photograph in black and white only, HDR images? Pick one and be consistent in the main and I mean 90% of the time. There’s nothing worse that browsing through someone’s portfolio to see colour, black and white and some HDR. It cries out that you haven’t developed a style yet”

    I personally have been photographing various subjects for over 25 years, sure I have my favourite genres, but I love the challenge of capturing images of new things that I haven’t captured before. Experimenting is part of the fun. Who want’s to be pigeonholed capturing images of only one type of subject?

    Overall a very disappointing post.

  5. Tom says:

    Nothing new under the horizon. The advice and hints are the same as read many times before in forums, books or workshop materials, and remain on the surface

    Create your own style, don’t copy masters, be different. This is the beginning of a circular argument.

  6. I am also in agreement with the above comments, and would also like to add that you put in an image that has been totally over-processed after you say not to over process your images. It has been yellowed to death.

  7. Alvinium says:

    I never comment on these things but thought to myself this is a pretty lame article, and was a bit offended when i read “Decide on a medium. Do you want to photograph in black and white only, HDR images? Pick one and be consistent in the main and I mean 90% of the time. There’s nothing worse that browsing through someone’s portfolio to see colour, black and white and some HDR. It cries out that you haven’t developed a style yet”

    I enjoy shooting various subjects, some in black and white, some in color, some with filters some without. Being diverse and adaptable seems to be a good characteristic in every other part of life, why not in photography? How about saying something along the lines of encouraging people to have different portfolios like B/W, Color…whatever.

  8. NC Photographer says:

    If you are a “photographer” and not just someone who “happens to own a camera” then you will have a style, and personally speaking, I constantly have people tell me they saw “so and so’s” photos and instantly knew that I had taken them. I’ve even had a local photo processor call me on several occassions to see if “so and so” had permission to print my work (because they recognized my style!)

    A vast portfolio is much better than one medium and sticking to it. Certain situations scream for a different medium!

    Challenge yourself… indeed! But if you stick with the same old style and the same old medium, where is the challenge in that? I tend to agree with the majority of comments above, and especially about over processing… the headlining photo appears to be “greatly” processed!

  9. Bil Palmer says:

    I believe that there is no pure creativity. We see many things or people in out life that make us sit up and take notice. As photographers, we steal from the best and develop our own style. In this case, this is research, not plagerism! Style is developed and if you are lucky, it matures and grows. Boredom also
    helps.

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