Individual style is an intrepidly fickle thing. Style really is impossible to truly define but at the same time is critically important to a career in virtually any creative industry. As photographers we are no strangers to the pursuit of style, for it is what clients truly value most when deciding who to hire for a given project.
What Is Style?
Style is an undefinable sense of consistency among the works an artist creates to unify his or her work in a unique way.
In a shallow sense style can be attributed to a common appearance, subject matter, or emotion. One can create style by creating a sense of unity among each piece of work he or she creates. This can be anything from a specific lighting to a certain way of post processing.
However, more accurately, style, more than anything else, is the heart and soul of your creativity. You cannot truly create style by simply deciding on a method of editing at random. Instead, style is more or less a sense of voice within your work. It is a reflection of you and the brand you wish to share with the world.
If you were to examine the work of any truly great photographer you will quickly realize that even when that photographer explores alternative technical methodology it seems like his or her work still remains consistent. Somehow they are able to retain that consistent voice while their technical implementation evolves.
Defining their own style is one of the most common challenges of inexperienced photographers.
How Do I Discover My Style?
In a previous career I was a graphic designer. A big part of being a graphic designer is understanding the brand of a client and communicating that style via design.
There was one exercise I used to commonly have my clients complete to help me develop a better understanding of the brand I was to help them create. Today, you are going to use that exercise to better understand your own personal brand.
To begin with I want you to go grab a pen and paper. Choose a relatively nice piece of paper that you will hold onto for a while, not a napkin or a torn sheet from a newspaper. Choose something that won’t trivialize that which you are about to write.
Write 5 words that represent descriptors about what you love most about your photography. Interpret this as you will be feel free to write adjectives, emotions, feelings, colors, anything that comes to mind that represents what you love about photography.
Create a new list. In this list I want you to list just 3 words that reflect what you DON’T want your photography to be. However, there is a catch, these 3 words have to be POSITIVE things. Think of it like 3 compliments that you don’t want. This won’t be easy so take your time.
Stick this piece of paper on your fridge, or tattoo it on your arm, or slide it into your wallet. It doesn’t really matter where so long as it is someplace where you are able to refer back to it often.
Keep The Lists In Mind While Shooting
Moving forward I want you to now take a moment before each shoot to reflect on this list. Knowing what you want your photography to be is critical to creating a sense of unique style. But what is even more important, and what is often overlooked is an understanding of what you want your work to not be.
For example, in my case, I am a beauty photographer yet I don’t want my work to be “sexy”, it is something I keep close at hand during every shoot.
If you are curious and want to see an example of this exercise feel free to head over to my blog where I have made a post digging into my own personal list and why I chose each word.
The Evolution Of Your Style
As you pursue the journey of life you will inevitably change. Experience helps deepen your understanding of self which in turn will expand the core of your style. Eventually you will feel so comfortable with the evolving nature of your style that your understanding of it will be second nature, however, until then I want as you to feel free to pull that list you made out and alter it, remove items, add new ones, make sure to keep the list up to date with who you are and, most importantly, what your priorities are.