How to Establish Your Photographic Style

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?

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’s about making your photography an extension of yourself. In other words, don’t just copy the masters, try to be one!

netherlands cityscape

Photo by Tom Roeleveld; three-exposure composite.

How do you go about developing a personal style?

  • Discover what you’re 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.
  • Try new and different things to photograph subjects that challenge you. Every new challenge adds more skills and more experiences.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail by taking bad photographs. Overcoming failures by taking better photographs only makes you a better photographer.
  • Assign yourself projects 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 and 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 go one stage further and sign up with photo web forums. Attend local meet up groups. Treat all negative feedback as a means to learn. 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 —and I mean 90 percent of the time. There’s nothing worse that browsing through someone’s portfolio to see color, black and white, and some HDR. It cries out that you haven’t developed a style yet.
  • Try to 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.
close up profile

Photo by Roberto Taddeo; ISO 3200, f/2, 1/200 exposure.

Eventually, you will come to realize what your style really is. One word of caution: don’t over-process your images. 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 (photopress dot in slash brianparkin).

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