Would you say that you have an identified photographic identity? Do you think it is important to even have one? Photographer Joe Edelman talks about this subject in his video. He talks about how having a visual identity is essential and gives us tips to find ours.
Finding a style can be an obstacle to a number of young photographers, and it can become a frustration in their creative process. First thing to understand: stop giving a damn. Don’t define your style before it defines itself. Joe highlights an important point when he says that it’s not photographers that discover their style, but the people looking at their pictures.
A distinct style is something hard to figure out at the beginning of a career. It comes after years of experience when you can identify the most common choices in your work, such as the type of lighting you prefer, the use of some lens in specific situations, the subjects, etc…
Here is a little summary of Joe’s advice:
Find what you’re passionate about
Think about the reason why you picked up a camera in the first place. Remember the pictures that caught your attention before you started photography. This will help you feel the passion you had at the beginning and move in a certain direction. If you cannot identify the passion that drove you to photography, then you have a bigger issue than defining your style.
Forget what everybody else is doing
Like a lot of other fields in life and art, photography trends change all the time. Young photographers have the tendency to imitate more experienced photographers’ trends. They’re confronted with what trends they like and in the end, they capture a picture similar to a thousand other photographers.
This will make you a visual artist that only imitates. Forget everything you know, believe in yourself. It is the best way to find your style.
Practice makes you better
Reading about photography, watching videos and tutorials on Youtube is great, but this will not make your pictures better. So once you are done learning the technical side, make sure you go outside and practice what you’ve learned.
Focus on your project (not your gear)
You heard this sentence a couple of times I am sure: “Cameras do not make the picture.” You don’t need the latest toys, but to understand what you can do with what you already have, and what you need to obtain good results.
Technique is important
Progress of technology made photography more accessible to the masses. So if you want to be a photographer different from others, technology is not enough. You need to understand how the light surrounds a subject, how the triangle of exposure works, how to compose your images and more. Technique should feed technology, not the other way around.
Know how to solve problems
Good photographers know how to solve every issue quickly. Everytime we have an idea to create a picture, we simultaneously create new issues that we need to solve. We need to find the best way to put our knowledge in practice and to solve problems that come with this picture. The kind of light, the lens, the shutter speed, the best angle, etc…
Pay attention to detail
According to Joe, good photographers are control freaks that worry about every little detail of their picture. The list is long- you need to plan ahead of your shoot, think about the light, the background, the place of your subject, etc… The situations where you will not be able to plan (concerts, events, street, etc), you will have to practice patience, utilize your knowledge, and control your gear.
Learn how to edit your pictures
There is only one good picture, and it means it was taken at the right moment. If at the end of a shoot you end up with more than a 1,000 pictures, you need to choose the best one, the one that catches the eye and will make your friends say “wow!”. This advice seems simple to do, but I know photographers that consistently chose their worst pictures.
Learning how to edit your photographs is an art that every photographer should work on to find their style.
Follow your feelings more than your reason
When you look at the work of masters, most of them break the rules of composition, lighting and so on… But what they all have in common is emotion; people connect with a moment captured by these photographers. You should let your feelings guide you, so you can capture the most touching moments that will provoke emotions from the viewers.
Look at your old work
After all of this, after taking a hundred thousand photographs, do you finally know your photographic style ? A very good way to find it is to go through your old work, and these pictures will tell you. You need to learn from others, read about the technique, discover the work of masters. But you also must follow your own path, and tap into things that inspire you and give ideas. Of course, it is important to solve issues, learn and adapt. But don’t forget to stay faithful to what you feel, otherwise you will end up with a style that is a mere clone of what already exists!