It’s one of the most common questions new photographers have. When starting out, we’ve all asked, we’ve all wondered: How do I find my style? At the heart of this question is a deep desire to find our place in this industry. In a profession that is so saturated, and in markets where everyone else seems to know what they’re doing, this question is a completely reasonable one. We all want to know where we fit, if we fit, and how to produce images that not only speak to us, but speak to others enough that they will actually hire us. If you’re wondering how to find your style, these tips are for you.
The journey of finding your style as a photographer will be unique to each person. There is no easy answer. No formula. I hear a lot of photographers ask how you “choose” a style, and to that I would answer: You don’t. Don’t pick a style. Let it find you.
What does that even mean?!?
If you are picking a style, that means you are out shopping around in what already exists in the photography world and choosing something that belongs to someone else. That’s called replication. Your authentic style will be personal to you. Sure, it may absolutely draw on elements of inspiration from others, but don’t confuse someone else’s style with your own. I want to encourage you to take the time to explore, dig deep, and find the style that is already inside of you. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Shoot What You Love
Maybe you’re taking jobs that aren’t exactly your ideal client because you need the money and the work to grow your business. That is completely ok. But don’t forget to make time to shoot what you do love. Make it a point to get out there and shoot for you. Chances are you first picked up a camera because something inspired you. If you don’t stay inspired, you’ll be on the fast track to boredom and burnout. Develop a plan to begin marketing to your ideal clients so you can fill your days shooting what you love for clients who love it too.
The art of great photography is so much deeper than mere replication. Trust yourself to create something great.
One of the best things you can do when you’re trying to find your style is to shoot regularly. I’d even go so far as to recommend shooting daily. Shooting often will refine your skillset, and will force you to begin seeing things in a creative way. When you’re ready to take your photography to the next level, shooting regularly will develop in you the discipline of seeing your surroundings with your lens in mind. That discipline will go far in anchoring your style into something that is deeply rooted, instead of just being a short-lived ride on another bandwagon. And, by shooting regularly, you can…
Observe patterns of what speaks to you when you shoot. For a period of time, take a break from viewing the work of other photographers, and just examine your work. What photos do you really love? Which ones speak to you the most? Once you have those selected, compare them. What do they have in common? Are there patterns or themes that you can find? For me, it’s relationships, light, and capturing candid, true to life moments and emotion.
We discussed this above, but I’ll say it again: your style will not be an imitation of someone else. That’s simply duplication. If there is someone who’s work you admire, evaluate what you love about it, and seek to grow in those areas, but don’t copy. The art of great photography is so much deeper than mere replication. Trust yourself to create something great.
Let it Evolve
Finding your style truly is a process. It won’t happen right away. But if you will put in the time to explore your own work and inspiration, your style will come to the surface. You will begin to see more and more of it developing in your photos. It may not be a fast process, but it’s a worthwhile one. And don’t be surprised if your style continues to evolve more and more over time.
The common thread that weaves through each of these tips is this: Be true to YOU. Finding our style is a journey each one of us takes. It looks different for all of us, but by following these tips, you will be well on your way to uncovering your authentic style.