Would you say you have a recognizable photographic style? Do you think it’s even important to have it? This is the topic I’ve been thinking about a lot, and in his recent video, Joe Edelman gives some fantastic points about it. He discusses the importance of having your style in photography, as well as various tips how to find it.
Searching for a particular style can be a hindrance to many young photographers, and it can be a source of creativity block and even frustration. The first thing you need to do it – stop worrying about it. Don’t define your style before it defines itself. Joe makes an excellent point by saying that it’s actually not upon the photographers to create their own style. It should be more upon the people who view their photos. A distinct style is something that’s difficult to determine at the beginning of the career. It comes after years of experience, when you can spot the most common choices for your work – the preferred type of lighting, the use of specific lenses in certain situations, the most common subjects etc.
Of course, if you want to develop your specific style and go in a certain direction, there are some things you can focus on to boost this development. Joe gives some useful advice how to achieve it:
1. Find your passion
Think about why you picked up the camera for the first time. Remember the photos that first caught your attention before you even started photographing. This will help you feel the passion you had in the very beginning and move in a certain direction. And if you don’t feel the passion for photography – then it’s a bigger problem than not having the defined style.
2. Forget what everyone else is doing
Just like in many other fields of life and art, trends in photography change as well. Young photographers tend to copy more experienced colleagues who follow these trends, and end up with two possible results. They either fail and get disappointed, or they succeed in recreation, but end up with the photo similar to thousands of others. In my opinion, copying is good for practicing techniques, but you shouldn’t let other people’s ideas be dominant over your own.
3. Practice makes perfect
Reading about photography, watching YouTube videos and tutorials is great, but it won’t improve your photography on its own. So, when you’re done with learning, always make sure to go out there with your camera and practice what you’ve learned.
4. Focus on your subject (not you gear)
We’ve heard this many times: gear doesn’t make the photo. You don’t need to pile it up and have the latest gadgets, but rather understand what you can achieve with the things you have, and what it takes to get certain results.
5. Technique matters
The advancements in technology have made photography more accessible to an average person. So, if you want to become a great photographer, technology alone won’t get you there. You need to understand the light, how exposure triangle works, how you can achieve certain look and much more. Your techniques should come before the technology.
6. Be a problem solver
Good photographers are good problem solvers. Whenever we have an idea for the photo, we create a new problem, and then we need to solve it. We need to find the best way to put all our knowledge practice and understanding of fear and techniques to good use.
7. Success in in the details
Good photo is deliberate, and according to Joe – good photographers are control freaks who worry about every little detail in their photos. You need to plan your shots, care about the lighting, background, placing your subject, focusing the most important elements – and the list goes on. I would add that there are situations when you can’t exactly plan (concerts, events, street and so on). But in these cases, it’s your patience, knowledge and understanding your gear and techniques is what will make your photos stand out.
8. Learn how to edit
There is only one best shot. Although we usually love to see more of our photos from the same shoot because we had fun or reached a milestone, the viewers don’t perceive it the same way. So, choose be critical and choose only your best shot.
9. Pay more attention to your heart than your brain
When you look at the iconic photos, many of them break the rules of composition, lighting and so on. But what they all have in common is that they evoke an emotion or make people connect with the moment in the image. You should let your brain make the technical decision, but your hart choose the most impactful photos that will evoke emotions.
10. Look back and review your work
After all this, after you’ve took hundreds of thousands of photos, how do you finally know what your photographic style is? Go back, review your work, and your photos will tell you.
The bottom line is that you need to learn from others, but also follow your own path, inspiration, and ideas. Find the clients who will pay you for what you do, not for copying others. Of course, it’s important to keep solving problems, learn, grow and adapt as time goes by. But don’t forget to stay true to yourself throughout all that.
I agree with Joe on many of his points, and I believe it’s too difficult to determine style in advance and in the very beginning of the career. As a hobbyist, I don’t think I even have it, and for me, it’s not that important. For professionals, though, I think it’s good to develop their style with time and be recognizable.
What are your thoughts? Do you think having your photographic style is important? Do you have it? I am curious to hear your point of view in the comments below.
[10 Tips to find your photographic style. Is it important to have a photography style? | Joe Edelman; top image credits: Modestas Jonauskas]