When I was just starting out in photography, I really looked up to other photographers who had a lot more experience, because I realized right away that when you looked at their work, you could easily recognize that it was their work, because they had a sense of style.
And I was really, a little bit jealous of this, because I wanted to be so good that people automatically recognized that a picture was mine.
And if you feel that way, I think that’s perfectly normal. I think that’s been the experience of almost all photographers. Now, I wouldn’t go out there and try to contrive a style, or to emulate one person in particular just because you like their work. I would just let it happen naturally. Because that really is how that works.
You know, I started looking at photographs that other photographers took, in particular their lighting, and I started reverse engineering those photos and trying to replicate them on my own. And over time, as I kept doing this, I kept learning more about what things I was drawn to and more about how to technically execute the work that I wanted to create.
And through that process, over time, I think I developed my own style. And if I had to describe it, I would say that it’s using multiple lights to create contrast so that people are drawn to my subject’s face, rather than other parts of the frame, but also keeping everything in harmony whether it’s colors or backgrounds or what have you.
I also know that propping is fairly important in my work, and I think that’s mostly it. You probably have a different vision of how my work looks than how I think about it, and I think that’s totally natural, too. I think that we’re all going to be our own worst judge of our style and our work in general.
And that’s why I would encourage you to reach out to others, and talk to them about your work and their work, and seek feedback.
Because none of us know a hundred percent of what we’re doing, and a little help from other people can go along way
Now, as a commercial photographer a lot of the time my clients will come to me with an art direction in mind, and ask me to execute it or maybe put my own spin on it.
It’s important to recognize where they would like the work to go, and then just put your own artistic aesthetic on top of what they would like you to capture.
Now at the same time, you need to also recognize that they’ve come to you because they’re confident in your abilities, which will include your particular style of shooting things. So, try to take in what they are asking you to do and try to put a little of yourself into it.
Another type of photography that I do often are actor and model headshots. And I’ve sort of struggled before figuring out how much of my own personal style to put into those images.
When you look at the standard type of images within this genre, almost all of the time they’re about selling the subject and they’re not really an expression of the photographer’s artistic abilities.
What you see are the same type of pictures. They look like they’re taken with one light—it’s very simple, it may be available light. The feeling is fairly raw. And so, I have felt in the past that I needed to adapt my work to fulfill the requirements of the genre. At least how I perceived them to be. Because I wanted my clients to have images that fit within the confines of what was expected, but had a little bit of my spin on them.
And as I work with my clients over time, I realized that they were coming to me because they wanted images that look like me. Not because they wanted images that look like all the other pictures that models and actors have in their portfolio.
And that was really truly an honor. I think if you’re sitting there today and you’re trying to emulate the work of other people, you’re going to end up competing against a bunch of photographers who are just creating a commodity. But if you let your own artistic expression develop overtime, and if you deliver those images to your clients, then it is far more likely that people will start to come to you, because of your work, rather than ask you to bid against nine different people.
Now, the is one caveat as you develop your style—just know that you are not the greatest photographer in the world. So, don’t override what any client wants you to do because you think that you are so awesome and amazing that what you think should be overbearing on the entire situation.
Sort of what I heard how Robert Maplethorpe acted in a documentary I saw a few years ago.
I’d love to hear what you think about the idea of putting your own sense of style into your work and meeting your clients expectations and needs. So, please let’s have this discussion in the comments below.