Those of us who love photography often find ourselves taking pictures of anything and everything we can, at all times. On top of that, we often browse the work of other photographers, whether for inspiration, admiration or even to check out the competition.
And as you see more and more shots from others, and hone your own craft, you’re probably going to find that you prefer particular styles over others. It might be that you like the photos of certain types of subjects, say landscapes. It may also be that you like the work of a particular photographer, or work done in particular style. This is a good way to start figuring out what YOUR style is.
A style is a hard thing to define, as the varieties are infinite. As mentioned above, you can categorize by subject matter, methods of shooting, and many other ways. The best photographers are known because they have their own styles; they might be good at capturing emotion in a picture, or they may specialize in landscapes or other subjects. The really cool thing about that is it can become possible to know who took a photograph simply by looking at the work.
If you have a particular subject you like to work with, it may be the beginnings of discovering your own style. Perhaps subjects aren’t so important to you, but other factors are, like bringing a striking contrast or unusual angles into your work. This again helps to define you as an individual and add your own unique style to your work.
Browsing the work of others helps here as you can single out those shots that you really enjoy and consider high quality, and pick out what specifically makes them unique for you. This can then be applied to your own work.
Once you have some inspiration to work from, you can then develop this into your own work. Don’t be too rigid with what you do, and don’t restrict yourself to either what is already being done, or what you intended to do. Sometimes we think something sounds like a great idea and works well for another photographer, then realize it doesn’t really work the same way for our own work. In this kind of situation adaptability is a must. You have to roll with it and be willing to discard ideas that you had considered great, if you aren’t satisfied with the final product.
The end goal is to come up with shots that have your own flavor and that satisfy you in terms of quality as well. Adding and taking away elements is something you should experiment with; after all, nobody wants you to just clone the methods used by an already successful photographer, since you’re unlikely to do it as well as they do.
Experimenting with a variety of methods, angles, techniques and subjects also helps to develop your overall game. This is a must for professional photographers as there will be times when your client wants you to work outside of your usual style and do things their way instead. Since these clients pay for your work, it’s best to keep them happy.
If you personally feel that there is a better way to do it, it’s a good idea to take shots in both the style they want and the style you feel is better, so you can show them both and try to persuade them on your style.
The biggest benefit of creating and developing your own style goes back to our earlier point of recognizing work. Once you have an individual style developed, your work will be much easier to recognize and will also gain admiration for its uniqueness. This can lead to more exposure for you and make your work more sought after. This is a great advantage for professional photographers, as we are always looking to cross that threshold from looking for work, to where work looks for us.
Despite all these advantages to your own style, you should never stop trying to further develop your style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods even once you are established. Further development can keep you ahead of the curve, and you never know when you’re going to make another breakthrough and find a way to make your work even better.
The best photographers are those who are never entirely satisfied, and who always want to find ways to improve. Use this as an example, and always strive for more. That way you’re sure to never become stagnant or ‘old news’.