Finding Your Style as a Photographer
A straight shot is so predictable, not to mention boring! Do you want your clients to choose you as an artist because your photography is something unique that will last forever? Of course you do! The million-dollar question is, how do you develop your own personal style?
For me personally, it wasn’t all that long ago that I labeled myself as a “black and white” photographer. After several seasons of encouraging ALL of my clients to wear nothing but black for any and every session, I found myself in a dreadful creative rut. To be perfectly honest, my beginnings in photography started down a very narrow path which made it very difficult to express myself in my work. Fortunately, with help from my own mentor and some of my best clients, I was able to understand that photography was so much more than a theme, it is Art with Style!!
One of the best things I did for my business early on was to start by investing a lot of time in getting to know the ends and outs of my camera. Doing that created a freedom that allowed me to reach a new level in my photography and because of that, I was able to focus on my own perspective and style. Like most things in my life, I have learned to embrace the natural way my art has evolved and
as a result, my style has grown by leaps and bounds. Of course, there is still a privileged place in my style for black and white photography-right next to the vivid colors with their richness beyond compare! It took me a little while to learn, but I believe photography begins with an open mind and a vision beyond the end of the lens.
Everyone has his or her own perspective. If you had 5 photographers with the same model and the same location, each would have a unique perspective and image. Here are some examples of how simply you can change your perspective and create stunning images:
- When shooting a child, you can just shoot him/her from above OR get down on the ground with that child and see them from a totally different angle.
- Shoot something with a foreground that draws your eye inward. Many photographers are so concerned with the background that this important element often gets ignored. The next time you’re shooting, don’t just look at what’s behind the subject; look at what’s in front of them too! The foreground can be just as an exciting element in a photograph as the background. Another way to use foreground is to shoot through something. For example, a sheer fabric in front of your subject can add an interesting texture and produce images that wow your clients!
- Something as little as changing the width of the frame can make a big difference. The same shot taken with a wide-angle lens can have a totally different perspective than that same shot in tight with a long lens.
- Strive to tell a story with your camera. Video-graphers have it easy, they have sound to go along with their imagery, which makes story telling much simpler. But you can do it with your camera too! Focus on your subject, but then focus on other things too…what’s in the surrounding area? What is it about your location that tells a story about your subject?
- Use some creative cropping to change perspective. For example, make something unexpected (such as a hand, or the child’s feet) the focal point. Small changes like this can take an image from blah to wow!
- Take all distracting elements out of your image by utilizing depth of field. Remember too, that you can maximize shallow depth of field beyond just changing your aperture settings. By combining a long focal length lens, getting in close to your subject, AND shooting wide open you can turn your background into a work of art instead of having distracting elements that take away from the image.
Your perspective in your images will lead to a unique style that identifies you as sort of a “unicorn” in your chosen niche. Think about the different perspectives identified above and how you can hone them to create your own style.
When thinking about your perspective, also take time to think about your personal preferences regarding post-processing. This can affect the mood of your images significantly and is important to consider. What about the overall environment of your images? Do you tend to enjoy more playful images with everyone laughing and smiling? Then perhaps you would prefer amped-up textures and intense colors. Or do you lean more towards serious and thoughtful? In that case, maybe softness and muted colors speak to you.
Finding the inspiration to perpetuate your own style can seem like a daunting task, but I’m here to tell you….it’s not! Inspiration can be found in so many places and while some of them are obvious, others may surprise you!
Some of the most successful photographers spend time admiring other photographer’s work. This is a powerful and helpful activity, so let it guide you! Looking at other people’s work will open your eyes to other possibilities and can inspire you in your own journey. When searching for photographers’ work you can admire, don’t limit yourself to the popular photographers of today. Study the master photographers from the past as well; we have much to learn from their accomplishments.
Don’t neglect other art forms in your quest for inspiration! From graphic designers to painters from the renaissance period, you can find ideas and concepts for your photography that will help you towards producing work that moves you and your clients. Study the way other artists utilize color, composition, and lighting. Where does the light seem to be coming from? How do they utilize shadows to convey mood? When you open your eyes to all the possibilities, the sky truly is the limit!
Still, in a nod to the reality that your style is ALWAYS unique to you, take time to remind yourself that this life is your own story to tell. Don’t always expect perfection, but embrace that chaos that is YOUR balance. Your perspective plus your style equals your brand. What do you want your personal brand to be? Use perspective and style to create that differentiation, your own BRAND!!
In the end, the largest measure of your photographic success is not your adherence to “the PERFECT” style or perspective but the depth of your client’s experience surrounding your photography. Their personal experience during their time with you will bring them more happiness than the wall portrait that will hang on their wall for generations to come. The final product is out of their control, but having you capture their deep personal connections and the reflection of these relationships in your work will be a lasting salute to your STYLE!!!
Tricia Lee Whitmer is a photographer who prides herself on finding beauty in the most unlikely places. She has embraced the fluidity of her life and art over the 15 years that she has been a professional and enjoys sharing all of it with you on line at Tricia Lee Photography.