In a world that’s saturated with images, developing your own photographic style is vitally important to help you stand out from the crowd.
If you’re a pro photographer, the last thing you want is for your images to become mixed up with, and no different from the millions of phone snaps out there! Of course, the idea of developing your own style can seem daunting – particularly as there is the old adage that nothing is original anymore, and has all been done before. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting task!
Who Are You?
Developing your own photographic style is essentially coming up with a personal style. And by that I mean that your work should be an extension of your personality. As a photographer, it’s often easy to look at master photographers whose work you admire and focus too much on trying to emulate them. There’s nothing wrong with studying the work of those you’d admire, but it’s important to think about yourself. What motivates you to take photographs? What do you enjoy photographing? What do you like and dislike in the arts? You need to understand yourself and refine your choices to help you create something unique.
Think about why you are interested in taking certain photographs and what you are trying to do with the images. You need to know what you are trying to achieve and the look or story you’re trying to get.
The Subject Matter
When you’re starting out in photography and want to develop your own style, you might find yourself sticking rigorously to one subject matter. But most of us have more than one thing we like to photograph and it’s also important to learn that not everything will fit into the same style. But you can still concentrate on developing your own style with the subjects you photograph the most and what interests you.
For instance, I primarily shoot portraiture and concentrate on my portraits all displaying a particular style. When I shoot landscapes, I generally just do it for enjoyment. A bit of variety is no bad thing, although there are still ties to my style even in landscapes.
The Technical Aspect
Whilst good photography relies on the natural ‘eye’ of the photographer, having technical know-how and ability is also essential to developing a style. You need to understand your equipment and how it works in order to make it shoot the style you want. In my view, a great photo should be a combination of creativity and good technique.
Often, by focusing on a specific technique, you can use it to give your imagery the same ‘feel’.
With modern technology and editing programmes, a lot of photographers choose to develop their own personal style by applying a specific look in post-production. Editing programmes such as Photoshop offer an infinite number of tools along with ranges of plug-ins to create a distinctive style with ease.
I do think it’s easy to go too far in post-production but, by treating it like a digital darkroom, you can tweak your images to have a common look.
How You Shoot
The way you shoot can also help you to develop your photographic style. Do you shoot handheld at all times, or do you mainly use a tripod? Perhaps you always shoot with a 50mm lens or maybe you prefer your photos to be in black and white. Are you images planned or do you shoot spontaneously? Do you use natural or artificial light? You get the idea – if you shoot in a particular way this will help all your images to share a common theme.
Finding your own photographic style should be a journey and something that you tweak along the way. Hopefully this article will go some way to helping you start to develop it.