I have recently received a few comments on my previous blog post, asking how to find your unique style as a photographer. This process can be incredibly hard, especially if you have just approached this form of art and are not comfortable with your tools and software. I have been photographing for a moderate time and still am on the process of defining an ultimate style, which I can call exclusively mine.
Lately, I have decided to make photographs, devoting most of the time to my real passion – street photography – and defining a style as unique as possible. My ambition is that when people will come through one of my images, they will be able to recognise it as mine. I know, this is quite a pretentious dream but I am sure you would like to achieve something similar too – otherwise you would not have approached this article, I guess.
I would like to share a few tips that I have learnt and might be useful for you too. Remember that those ideas are very subjective, so you should adapt them to your personality and style in order to benefit from them.
Photograph at a Specific Time
Many photographers, who have just approached the medium, might not master editing software such as Lightroom and Photoshop, to name a few of the most well-known. This might prevent them from using presets, which help making sure that all photographs follow a similar style – at least chromatically.
However, if you think about it, photographers have been shooting for a long time before the advent of such software. Still, we are able to identify a Capa’s, a Cartier-Bresson’s or an Erwitt’s. Surely, there are several reasons for this.
Something I found incredibly useful as I first approached photography was to shoot at a consistent and specific time of the day. Indeed, light changes as hours pass. You will notice how the light is soft and warm at dawn, harsher during the central hours of the day, warm again at sunset, cool during the blue hour to then vanish at night – when we rely on artificial light sources the most.
By photographing under a consistent light situation, you should be able to achieve more consistent results. This is even more important for some genres than others. For instance, I have been using this tip for landscape and cityscape photography extensively. Street photography might seem different at first, but you shall not forget that light plays a crucial role in the latter genre too.
You might be thinking that this not apply to you, as you mostly photograph in black and white. Well. I have realised that this tip applies to you as well. Indeed, the whites, blacks, contrast, highlights and shadows will be rendered quite differently under a soft light condition rather than a harsher one.
Learn From the Masters
I know that many of you will not like this point. Nevertheless, I think that it is quite important to share it with you. Many photographers approach the medium as a hobby, so they want to relax when photographing. However, in photography, as in any other disciplines, studying and researching is incredibly important. This means that you might find much more beneficial to purchase books, prints, attending workshops and courses, rather than investing on the latest gears. Indeed, the former will help you learning from the best and being inspired by them, while the latter will just reduce your bank account.
Over the years, I have been purchasing many photography books, course books and photography collections. I can ensure you that this type of investments has returned me the highest benefits. I was able to access phenomenal work from all around the world at a fraction of the cost of a lens. This means that I could take the best photographers of a specific genre as a reference point.
However, often this is not enough. If you want to make your style unique, you have to absorb what you can from the masters and transform it into something new. This is the highest expression of creativity to me.
Creativity is learning from the masters while expressing yourself in a unique way
This step is a bit like mastering your gears. You cannot photograph at your maximum potential if you are not confident with your camera setup. Similarly, you cannot express your creativity if you are not ablebalk to reinterpret the teachings of the great masters.
Specialise in Few Genres
Recently, the competition in the photographic industry has become incredibly hard. Therefore, it is much more difficult to emerge and stand out from the crowd. This process might become even more difficult if you photograph multiple and uncorrelated genres. Surely, by taking this approach you will make people more confused and increase the chance of being ignored.
Think about your social networks. If you post a landscape photography today and a product photography tomorrow, it is quite difficult that your followers will be able to link both genres back to you. However, if you are consistent in the choice of a genre, your followers will expect that photograph to be yours.
I have been photographing three genres for a long time: street photography, landscape and cityscapes. This is not a bad combination, if you think about it. Indeed, street photography and cityscape are relatively correlated close – from a location point of view, at least. While, cityscapes are just a branch of landscape photography. However, I am trying to focus more and more on street photography and cityscapes, while photographing less landscapes.
For the ones of you, who are more tech savvy, I would recommend to edit your photographs as consistently as possible. Several software offer a wide selection of presets and the possibility of creating them on your own.
Surely, this discussion would take much longer than a paragraph or two. So, I will write on this topic soon to guide you through the steps to use and create your unique presets!
I think that defining your unique style is one of the most important aspects to emerge in the overcrowded photography industry. Surely, this is not an easy process and takes lots of time and training. So, even if you new to the photography world try to photograph under a consistent light situation, learn from the best and make their styles yours, specialise in a few correlated genres and use your post processing software carefully.
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