There are many things that we can learn from the interwebs about photography. The first being, the “rules” of photography (i.e. exposure, composition, etc.). Secondly, we can also get advice on how and when to break the “rules”. And I’m using air quotes here because, truly, there really aren’t any rules when it comes to capturing in camera what you see with your mind’s eye.
In my own personal journey in photography, this question didn’t really start coming up for me until I had a basic understanding of the “rules”. And then when I started asking this question, the answers were something along the lines of the following:
There’s no right or wrong answer.
Don’t worry about it…you’ll know when you know.
It’s a journey and you’ll discover it when you get there.
When you stop looking for it, you’ll find it.
If you’re anything like me, the above advice makes you either want to a) start bawling, b) throw your camera and gear out the window, or c) punch someone in the face.
Seriously, I get it.
Here’s the thing though…it really is such a very personal journey. No one can tell you definitely what your style is. But take heart, because even though I can’t give you any concrete answers, I can at least give you some good questions to ask yourself. Think of them as landmarks to look for on this journey that you have embarked on.
Here’s an easy question…what do you love to take pictures of? Whether it’s portraits or nature or still life or lifestyle/documentary/photojournalistic, this is one the most defining elements when it comes to style. Because this speaks to what makes you come alive on the inside.
Elements of Style #2 – Technique/Equipment
The next set of questions are regarding the nuts and bolts. Do you love to shoot in film? Or with a macro lens? Or do you love the abstract magic or ethereal mood that occurs when freelensing or shooting with a Lensbaby? All of these elements lend themselves to style, and when taken in context with a body of work, they speak to an overall genre or artistic vision.
Elements of Style #3 – Point of View
Whether it’s top-down/flatlay or hip-level. Up-close or wide open. There is a certain type of vibe that comes from shooting in any one of these compositional settings. But in addition, I think point of view is also important because, as a work of art, photos are created from your sensibilities…your world view and your life experiences. These two elements combine to make for a unique, original piece of art. Once again, the question to ask yourself is, “Which point of view helps me capture the image that I see in my mind's eye."
Elements of Style #4 – Post-processing
So now that we’ve covered most of the in-camera elements of style, let’s talk about the magic that happens in post-processing. Whether it’s an artful or abstract interpretation of an image or just adding a little bit polish to a photo, post-processing is a fun way to explore style in photography. Black and white, dark and moody, light and bright, cross-processed, or faded/vintage…these are just a few of the ways to interpret any given photo. As always, the question remains, which of these help to tell the story or express your creative vision.
My advice is to pay attention to what you pay attention to.
Here’s a perfect example…I follow a wide variety of artists on Instagram and Pinterest. One of the gals I follow, Ffion McKeown, has a very definitive style – a self-described ‘old-soul and hopelessly romantic’, she loves all things “soulful, soothing, and color-shy.”
In contrast, here is a snapshot of my most recent pins. Warm, rich tones. Pretty light. Timeless and/or moody vibes. The exact opposite really.
Which is exactly everything I love about photography.
Until next time,