How to Develop a Photography Style
Style is the signature that every artist develops with time, experience, research and practice. It is a mixture of particular recurrent elements that makes your photography unique and recognisable to the public. When your clients tell you “I Love your style” you will definitively know that – good or bad – you have one. Yay!
To me the concept of style is a non-static state of mind that reflects who you are as a person and where you are in your life. Your personality and your craft get refined by practicing your art and experiencing the world. When you change so does your vision of life and therefore your representation of it. Have you ever gone through your pictures of a couple years ago? Wow, what a difference! The change in style can be subtle or more dramatic but it happens to all of us. And it is a good thing because it means that we are moving forward.
But once decided what subject your photography is going to be about, how to get there? How to find out what is your style?
Look around. Take notes. Record. To develop a style you need to know what you like, so when you see it take it with you in a picture or in anote and put it together on a board. Inspiration lies everywhere. Learn to observe and ask yourself “Why do I like that? What is it that attracted me?“. Is it the colours, the shape, the smell, the patterns, the light, the contrast or the melody? And it doesn’t need to be a photograph for you to be drawn to it but actually looking outside your realm will help you develop not only your eye but your awareness of who you are. This is the first step.
Your subconscious will always let you know how you feel through your body. You will definitively have a physical reaction of some sort to something you either love or you do not. If in doubt, it means that it is “vanilla” and there is no need to dwell on it. It is noticeable reactions we are looking for as indicators of the right – or wrong – way.
We all have our “I wish I could do that” professionals in our industry that we would love to have inherited the genes from. As this did not happen, all we can do is to use them as model of inspiration by analysing and trying to replicate what makes them so special (light, pose, postprocessing, styling, etc.). The important thing is to add our own personal touch and not just blatantly copy them because that would be just wrong to everybody.
Everybody has an opinion and there will always be different ones on your work, so why being brave and be just you? There is no point in trying to please the world and avoiding making the only person that really counts – you – happy. You will be booked for your style and if you are not true to yourself the result is that your identity will be lost and your clients confused. And a confused mind doesn’t buy.
You have to produce “shite” in order to create brilliance. Our art is like a child and we have to learn where the limits are in order to expand and develop or we will never fully appreciate the extent of our skills. It is painful but necessary as saying “no” to a toddler.
This can be a painful, but it needs to be done. If you become too complacent with your achievements you will never accomplish greatness.
Be humble, patient and listen to every person is willing to give you some advice. Then decide what is to be taken. But be a Jedi first.
There is no theoretical knowledge that will substitute practice. Action is the only way. And remember that being frustrated with the results is a good thing. It will push you to do better and better. I promise it will come to a point where you will be happy with your work for some weeks…or maybe more.
I read somewhere that “there are no limitations except those we acknowledge”. If we think we are not good enough, we will. If we think we can make it, we also will. Be kind and give yourself some credit. Allow your style time to develop because very rarely success comes overnight. Most of the times all we see are the final brilliant results but are unaware of all the years of hard work and failures behind those incredible accomplishments.
There is a lot of people belonging to previous generations that still think I am a crazy person to live on my art because in my home country being a photographer is not considered a proper job. Let’s be honest, being an artist is not always an easy or straight path. It is a challenging journey to find and nourish our own voice, believe in our vision and take criticism, but we do it because it is our passion. So let’s remind ourselves to make it an enjoyable path, one that enriches every single day of our life by making it memorable for those people who love what we are able to create for them.