As creative people, we all know one thing to be true: everything we create is a reflection of ourselves. Each photograph that we take holds a tiny piece of us within it – our experiences, our perspectives, and our personality. What makes each and everyone one of us unique is exactly the same thing that makes the photographs we take unique, too. And it is within this uniqueness that you will find, and define, your photography style.
Now, this may sound obvious at first, and I know what you’re thinking: “Of course my style is a reflection of who I am, how could it be anything else?!” But have you ever sat down and really tried to define what that uniqueness is? How it motivates your creativity? And how it shows up in the photographs you take? Even coming up with three words that define who we are as photographers can be daunting. And I struggled to find this very definition while I was building my confidence with photography, and eventually with my business ventures. Who was I within the space of my photography, and who did I want to become?
The beautiful thing about defining your photography style is that style is inherently dynamic. It shifts and changes with you as you grow and develop into the photographer you’ve always dreamed of being. But in order to support this growth, you need to know where you want to go first.
Now, I want to get really honest with you for a second. My journey to finding my own photography style was NOT easy. In hindsight, I can look back at that younger version of myself and laugh endearingly at the ups and downs I endured to get to where I am today. But guess what? It was really hard. And that’s okay, because it’s supposed to be. Afterall, as the saying goes, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.”
When I started my photography career, I knew I wanted to shoot people, but I wasn’t completely sure about how to get there, or what style I resonated with. So, I tried shooting all kinds of different styles, and edited my photos all kinds of ways with crazy colored shadows, highlights, and yes selective color was my BFF. It wasn’t pretty.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at these photos below – would you believe that these are some of the very first photographs I took as an aspiring professional photographer? Now, if that isn’t proof that hard work pays off, I’m not sure what is! We all start somewhere, and for me it happened to be in a field, with my best friends attempting to turn us all into Americas Next Top Model contestants. And yes, I even watermarked my images.
Before I really found my photography style, I was having a hard time getting work with clients that I was excited about and at first I couldn’t figure out why. That is until I slowly started to realize that the lack of cohesion in my photography style and portfolio was confusing potential clients. My style was all over the place, and people weren’t booking me because they weren’t clear about what they would get back from me in return.
So, how did I go from taking photographs like those to where I am today? By defining exactly what I wanted my style to be, and bravely pursuing it, allowing it to change and grow with me along the way. And guess what? Once I began focusing on who I was and what style I wanted to offer to my clients (and trust me, it didn’t happen overnight), I finally started to attract the very type of clients I had been looking for.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few great questions to ask yourself when trying to find your photography style:
- What makes you unique?
- Which pieces in your portfolio reflect the kind of work you love shooting most?
- What three words describe how you want your photographs to make people feel?
- Take a look at the first photograph you ever took, and the last one: what has changed the most, and why?
Defining your style takes time, and it isn’t always easy. But it’s especially important to try to develop your style early on so that as your build out your portfolio (you know, the thing that you will be showing people in order to get them to hire you!), it accurately reflects the kind of work you love doing the most. That way when someone hires you to shoot something for them, your portfolio will have accurately set your client’s expectations for what you’ll create for them and you’ll be able to continue developing the style you love. This not only creates a loop of trust and confidence between you and your clients, but most importantly between you and your art.