Nobody else takes photos like you do. There may be artists who have a similar editing style to yours, but who have a completely different way of composing their shots. There might be a local photographer who takes photos of the same models, but whose concepts are worlds away from yours. Regardless of how similar you might think you are to other artists, you stand out in your own way.
Discovering one’s style isn’t as complicated as it may seem. In addition to practicing and experimenting, you have to observe your favorite artists’ work, get involved in communities, and fearlessly share your work online. Here are ways you can combine all of these methods to find your unique style.
Whose work greatly appeals to you? If you have several artists you look up to, create a mood board filled with their images. Research themes, concepts, or subjects that spark your interest, and pick photographs that stand out to you. Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram all have saving features that will help you access your favourite shots in a matter of seconds. I recommend collecting up to 50 different pieces.
Once your collection is ready, analyze it. What do you like about each artist? Pay attention to these things:
- Editing/color correcting
- Comfortable-looking models
These observations will benefit you greatly by directly showing you the kinds of styles you can blend and use yourself.
Take Lots (and Lots) of Photos
Take photos of friends, inanimate objects, strangers, landscapes, and animals. Take photos of anything that catches your eye. As you take these photos, you’ll notice your own unique methods of photographing, your favorite angles, the compositions you prefer, and the things you strive to highlight. Notice and appreciate the combination of strengths you have, and use them to create a style of your own.
Join Contests and Challenges
Most online contests are free to join, easy to be a part of, and perfect for those who enjoy looking forward to an intriguing prize. Joining a contest with a specific theme will limit you, which will help you focus intensely on both your strengths and your weaknesses. In this limitation, however, your style will begin to thrive. Joining a contest will also provide you with a goal: a great prize that, if won, will immensely boost your creativity.
Challenges are self-made projects. Though they may not, upon completion, provide you with an extraordinary gift, they’ll give you lots of room to experiment, grow, and learn. Here are a few challenges you can try:
- 365-day project: this one requires a lot of commitment, but the goal is certainly worth it: a collection of images you took every day for a year. Having a theme is optional.
- 52-week project: less intense than the first option, the 52-week project encourages artists to take one photo every week for a year. It’s not uncommon to come across weekly themes for this challenge. You can even create your own themes as you go!
- Taking photos with a limited amount of equipment: those who work with a variety of cameras and lenses will find this tough but gratifying. Focusing on the subject, instead of the equipment, encourages participants to really appreciate what’s in front of their camera and photograph it in the best way possible.
Color correcting will further enhance your style. If you don’t have your own editing tools – such as Lightroom presets or Photoshop actions – use ones that have been carefully made for photographers. Even pre-made tools can be blended in a way that creates unique results, so don’t be afraid of using them. If you’re on the lookout for resources, give MCP’s free presets a try!
The most important thing you should know right now is that your style already exists. When you feel unoriginal, remember that your style is simply waiting to be discovered. It’s certainly not something you should force. The more you experiment with themes and the more you open yourself up to different photo-taking methods, the more you’ll understand your style and all the incredible potential it has yet to show you.