Finding your photography style is one of the best achievements any photographer can do. But what exactly is a photographic style? Your style is your invisible signature. It’s when you see an image and know who shot it before you find the credit. Have you ever watched a movie trailer and thought “this looks like a Quentin Tarantino movie” and then find out that he is the director? There’s no mistaking a Tarantino movie for a Wes Anderson or Steven Spielberg movie. They’re all excellent examples of strong personal styles. This concept exists in photographic works too.
A style can include sticking to certain subjects or colour palettes, but those are only elements of the whole picture. Ultimately, a strong style should translate across different subjects. For example, I’m often known for shooting detailed flatlays with crisp tones on clean backgrounds so if I were to shoot portraits in that same style, they would also be detailed photos using crisp tones on clean backgrounds.
It’s also important to understand that a style is not a filter or preset. It’s not turning all your photos black and white just because. Anyone can use a photo filter. A strong, well-defined style cannot be easily copied.
So how do you find your photography style?
Photography Style Tip 1.0: Start With You
Start by looking at your favourite images already shot by you. Look for commonalities or patterns that pop up in your work. Note what adjectives you might use to describe your photos. Maybe you have a tendency to line up all your subjects in an orderly manner. Maybe you like soft pastel tones or bold pops of colours. Maybe you like to to get really close to your subject or maybe you prefer to use lots of negative space. Write down all the words and ways you can describe your favourite images.
It’s likely that you already fall into certain patterns when you pick up your camera. Think about what you naturally want to do when you compose your photo. You may feel particularly comfortable or in your element when shooting a certain subject or in a certain way. On the flip side, you might feel uninspired by particular subjects which is also good to note.
Now ask yourself WHY you do any of those things. You probably do those things for a reason even if you aren’t aware of it yet. I like to shoot brightly lit flatlays on clean background because I like the details of my objects to be clearly seen in order to tell their story. Sometimes it’s hard to answer why you do anything, so try starting with understanding why you don’t like to do the alternative. I avoid dark, moody lighting because I hate losing details into shadows.
So what do you always find yourself doing?
Photography Style Tip 2.0: Push Yourself Further
Once you’ve worked out what adjectives might describe your photography, start emphasising those adjectives in your new work. See how far you can push the ideas and concepts behind why you like to shoot in a certain way. Shoot a lot. Dare to experiment. Do you like using negative space? Use LOTS of negative space in your next image. Are you drawn to bold pops of colour? Maybe you like bold pops of colour because they create a feeling of bursting energy. So, add MORE bold colours to your photos. Add new elements to your work that emphasis that feeling of bursting energy.
If you like shooting specific items, try expanding on that subject. For example: if you love shooting coffee, try expanding that into cafe culture. Shoot other foods that go well with coffee, interiors of cafes, baristas making coffee, or other aspects of cafe life. Most importantly, keep shooting beyond just your initial first ideas. Challenge yourself to see how else you can explore your subject through different angles and compositions. And then shoot more.
This is the act of shooting with intention. Explore deeper the concepts and ideas you love within your work. Sometimes you’ll find that you don’t like the path you’ve gone down which is a great thing. Most paths in this process are never straight lines anyway. Knowing what you don’t like is still a step in the right direction to finding your personal photographic style.
Photography Style Tip 3.0: True Style Takes Time
Anything of value is always paid for in time. Finding your photography style will be a long process paid for with your time. But when your style starts to emerge and grow stronger, you will create a valuable asset that is unique and difficult to copy. It will become your invisible signature. Your style is what will set you apart from the crowd and it will be what clients will pay for that no one else can offer. Finding your photographic style is a lengthy, never-ending process, but it’s a journey that can be fulfilling, enriching, and as a creative, definitely worth investing your time.