As a photographer your signature style is your defining mark on your photography – your own unique perspective that you share with the rest of the world. Only a few things are more important than your signature style… clients for example… only joking.
The following sentence sounds nice and easy but it is perhaps the most difficult step:
Capturing photos in a way that reflects your own style and creative vision is the best way to set your work apart from everyone else’s – and quite possibly, the only way to create images that stand out.
Analyze Your Images
If you’re having a hard time discovering what it is that you’re passionate about, analyze your images. When you look at your best work, what do you see? What aspects of photography and which subjects or compositions really make you come alive? Analyzing your work can be an extremely beneficial exercise. The photos that you captured that have the most depth, interest, and emotion will show you where your interests lie.
Discover What Inspires You
What inspires you? What is it that motivates you to pick up a camera? While it’s easy enough to say that it’s landscape photography, portraits, or macros that you enjoy capturing, developing your signature style involves taking things a few steps further. Ask yourself what it is about landscapes, portraits, or macros, that you really enjoy. Is it the thrill of capturing a storm building on the horizon, or the way the evening light cascades across the landscape? Maybe you’re motivated to explore the minuscule worlds that are found in close-ups of nature. Spending some time reflecting on what it is that really interests you is one of the first steps towards developing your creative vision.
Learn Everything You Can About Your Niche
Once you’ve identified your interest, you’ll want to take time to learn everything you can about it. If you want to be a wedding photographer, for instance, you’ll want to make sure you know what’s involved with shooting weddings, and everything that it entails. You’ll want to make sure you know what you’re in for, and prepared to put in the work that’s involved. It’s also a great idea to learn from other photographers that are experts in this particular field – studying their photos, and seeing what works for them will help you to improve your own photography. This doesn’t mean to copy their style, but looking at their work will inspire you, and help you to make your own ideas come to life.
Cultivate Your Style
Each photographer has their strengths and weaknesses. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, we all have to specialize in something. The important thing is finding what your calling is, and working to capture your creative vision in your images. This doesn’t mean that you can never vary your photography, of course, but it does mean that most of your work should be in your style that you’re trying to cultivate. Not only will capturing a consistent type of image help you to become a master in your field. It will also give you a great portfolio of images, all of which reflect consistency and your personal style.
AVOID THE #1 CREATIVITY KILLER
Contrary to popular belief, reading more books and taking more classes does not always make you a better photographer. Don’t get me wrong; they can be incredibly helpful tools that help you learn and grow – to an extent. However, there is a point that most photographers reach where studying and learning stops being helpful and becomes counterproductive. How do you know that you’ve reached that point?
When you find yourself critiquing and criticizing your work more than you are simply enjoying it.
You might be thinking, “Now wait a minute. Hold on. Critiquing helps me to get better! That’s how I learn. I see what worked, what didn’t, and I can correct and improve.”
Yes, in an ideal world. And usually this works in moderation. However, I’ve seen more photographers shut themselves down long before they ever truly delved into their potential because of this #1 creativity-killer: perfectionism. They over-analyze all of the details of their photos, attempting to make everything in each one of them just right.
Photography is not supposed to be perfect. There are technical tools that we can use to improve our photographs, but they are only that: tools – not rules. Just like people, photos are technically imperfect – and yet that’s what makes them so beautiful. Each photo is an impression of a moment in time that will never again be recaptured. And only you, from your unique viewpoint, have the ability to take that picture.
Some of the most famous photos, considered by many to be the best of the best, have imperfections! In fact, most of them do! Not only that, everyone has different tastes. Something that one person might call a “problem area” might be the reason that someone else LOVES that exact same photo. Are you going to deprive dozens of people the enjoyment of your art simply because one person said “this part isn’t in perfect focus.” Screw focus! Seriously!
If you take the picture and you like it, then what anyone else says doesn’t matter. The “rules” are great to a certain extent, and then after that they start to hinder you. You may discover that you like those blurry abstract photos more than the ones in crisp, clear focus. And you might just find that there are a lot of other people out there who love this type of photography and would even hang it on their wall. But if you stop after that first blurry photo because some teacher or even just random person said that it makes it a bad photo, you may have just shut down the possibility of an incredible photography career because you limited yourself to the same box that everyone else lives in.
Stop trying to make your photos adhere to everyone else’s rules, and they will stop looking like everyone else’s photos.
The true “greats” in any field not only break the rules, but reinvent them for example free-lensing, Brenizer technique, Prism technique etc…
Take photos every single day
Most photographers believe that searching for the problems and imperfections is not just the best way to improve, but the only way to improve. I disagree. Although this can be helpful to an extent, it is way more beneficial to just go out and take photos.
In fact, this is the best way to get good at anything: do it. Over and over and over and over and over again. (But of course with some sense) By doing it, you train yourself to see the beauty in things and intuitively find the best angles. You get to the point where you don’t even have to think about it any more because it comes so naturally.
In this digital age, there’s no excuse not to take a photo if something catches your eye. With a digital camera, there are no negative consequences for filling up your memory card (unless you don’t have another one and still need to take more photos.) The more you take, the more selection you have to choose from. The criteria you use to select the best from hundreds of photos will help you in the future to reduce the amount of photos taken.
Don’t limit yourself. Yes, you can ask yourself as you are taking the picture, “How can I make this better? How can I frame this in order to enhance the features that I want?”
Try different things! Take the “technically correct” photo. Then break ALL off the rules! That’s how you step outside of the box and do new things.
People spend more time critiquing photos than they do taking them, and they’ve gotten so good at looking for problems that they see them everywhere.
Just because one person says it doesn’t mean it’s true. Don’t let yourself get discouraged.
Don’t worry if you “Miss” opportunities
Every photographer experiences those moments when we miss that perfect shot. That rare UFO (so to speak) flies over our head and we weren’t ready, or the exposure wasn’t right, or we got the shot, but it was blurry, and so on. I’ve seen a lot of people spend hours, and even occasionally days, agonizing over what they missed. Learning is a constant process.