For many of us, we find the insatiable urge to make images because it is fun.
Someone eventually tells you that you need a “style”. You feverishly Google “ Photographic Style” until you get lost in the spiraling tangle of information. This often sweeps away the initial joy that you started with and you feel lost! Don’t worry though! It is possible to find your way back to that joy. I am going to share several tips on how to find your Photographic Style and why sometimes no style is the best.
Do You Need a Photography Style in 2021?
In 2021, there is a niche for every type of photography imaginable. If you think something has not been done before, Google it! There is room out there for all of us!
Photographic Styles often develop after many years of photographing by chance instead of intention. They are more useful for business and marketing purposes than the act of making a photograph itself. Learning who you are, and why you photograph is one of the most important ways to find your style. When you are excited to shoot something that you genuinely like, your work becomes more consistent.
You can look high and low for your Photographic Style, but it is often spending time with your camera that is best. Setting weekly goals or adventures can be helpful to put in the hours to learn and develop your work. Learn to make mistakes and listen to valuable feedback. Learn to create experiments for yourself just to see what the world looks like in images. Don’t get disappointed when an image does not come out the way you had hoped. Even the best photographers miss the shot sometimes!
Finding the Why
In 2021, it is a slippery slope more than it ever has been to lose the importance of the why. With social media involved it becomes even harder to ignore the noise. With all of the noise that tries to influence us, we get lost like a ship in the sea with a broken anchor in opinions if our photographs are good or bad.
Think back to when you first picked up a camera. Consider the following:
- What did it feel like in your hands?
- What was the first photo that you made?
- Do you remember how you felt when you saw the image for the first time?
These moments often define us as photographers. We seek out that positive feeling that we get when we create images like someone requires air to breathe.
Opinions do not make our photographs – we do! Learning to let go of outside influence, and to reflect on who you are at your core is the first part of finding your photographic style. Think about:
- What brings you the same joy that you found when you made your first image?
- What value do you place on photography for yourself?
- How do you find that joy and value every time that you shoot?
If you know who you are and who you are not, you will be closer to finding your style.
Forcing a Photographic Style Often Leads to Failure
Some photographers actively try to label themselves as one thing too early. The truth – just like life, labels and photography are both messy! Finding your photographic style takes much experimentation to learn what you like and dislike. Forcing a style often leads to failure.
Some photographers make the mistake of shooting certain ways because someone told them that they should. Others get lost in chasing popularity and trends. But if your gut and heart don’t feel it, why do it?
The recipe to find your style often involves trying as many different kinds of photography as you can. If you don’t like something, don’t shoot it! If you do find that you enjoy a particular kind of photography, dig deep to find out why. A lot of times you will learn how your work relates to experiences and moments in your life.
The secret is to keep going through time to become consistent!
Don’t Get Disappointed
One of the biggest things that held me back personally in photography was the fear of disappointment. What if I get it wrong? What if people don’t like it? Well, if you don’t try, you will never succeed!
Photography is also a very personal art form. Who and what you shoot can tell you a lot about someone’s character. It is easy to fear the judgment of our work when we put it out into the world. This can lead to disappointment when we do not get the feedback that we hoped for.
In 1988, comedy writer John Cleese gave a lecture to 500 businessmen at the British-American Chamber of Commerce on “The Importance of Mistakes”.
In John’s lecture, he spoke of how mistakes are an opportunity to receive valuable feedback. Feedback provides a chance to develop and grow to get things right. Getting things right also leads to building confidence. It is important to approach your photography with a positive mindset. If you know that you will make mistakes, embrace them!
If you do make a mistake, you get an opportunity to learn how to make fewer mistakes. This allows us to form more positive experiences in our journey that lead to more consistent images. More consistent images can lead to a solid photographic style.
Ultimately, finding your style is a journey. It does not happen quickly. Start with the goal to make images that you like instead of limiting yourself to a particular style. You will find that your work will change more rapidly than the seasons when you begin to explore! The goal is to simply keep shooting and to enjoy the ride!