Updated: Jun 3
One of the main things I have learned since coming back to photography is just how much there is to learn, and I realise I will always be learning.
Photography is a skill that I will never perfect, but that’s ok because for me the real joy is in learning, not just learning photography, but learning about myself as I make this journey.
I have mentioned in other posts how I have come back to re-learning photography after an absence of many years. This brought its own dilemma –
I wanted to learn properly and be as good as I could be, but I knew I was never going to be an expert photographer.
I didn’t want to invest in expensive equipment as I wasn’t sure how much use I would make of it.
I knew that potentially I would be dis-heartened when comparing myself to other photographers, even to those from whom I was learning.
These three ‘dilemmas’ have come together to help me realise that if I am to progress with my learning, continue to build my confidence and not become disillusioned by comparing myself to others then I have to develop my own style of photography.
What is style in photography?
Some people would describe photographic style as relating to the genre you prefer; whether you like to photograph landscapes or portraits, whether you prefer street photography or taking macro shots, or whether storytelling through photography such as photojournalism is your preference.
I think that individual style goes further than photographic genre. As you make more and more images you come to realise that you make decisions based on how you want the image to coincide with your photographic vision.
I think your style is a combination of all the decisions you make on a photo shoot; decisions such as what your focus will be, how you will compose the shot, what you will include and exclude, what angle or perspective you will shoot from, what lens you will use, and so on.
Your style is about your preference as to how your final image should look and it will become apparent that you have a particular style to which you adhere.
I love to photograph reflections in water, often with a foreground, which could be a flower, a rock, a hedge or some grasses
How do you realise your photographic style?
One way to become aware of your style is to look at lots of photographs and get to know what appeals to you and what doesn’t.
Your taste in photography will inform your own style.
Another way to think about style is to look for patterns in your own image collection.
When I look for patterns, I find lots of images of parts of objects, old or un-used things, unusual trees or even dead plants or trees. I have many images of hidden landscapes and places off the beaten track. I love to show subjects through a natural frame or create a blurry background.
My subjects tend to be similar yet treated differently on each occasion.
Style is related to your vision for your photography: your vision is what you want to create, your style describes the way you bring that vision to reality.
Why is it important to develop your own style when learning photography?
I have identified 7 reasons why I think it is important to develop your own photography style, particularly in the beginner stages.
1. It helps build confidence in your work
All learners need confidence building to help us persevere on the not so good days. On days when I compare myself unfavourably to others, I need to remind myself that my photographs are unique to me, that they express my vision and intent at the time of capture, and for that reason they are worthy of my regard.
2. It gives you freedom to experiment
Being true to your own style means that you are free to create the images you want to create. You are creating for yourself, not for anyone else, so you are free to experiment, to go where you want to go and to do what you like to do. I love to have this creative freedom and it feels particularly good on a day when I come home with images that may not be so good in themselves but that have provided a learning experience and a motivation to do things differently next time.
3. It gives you ‘tailor made’ learning experiences
There are so many photography teachers, lessons, tutorials, tips and learning tools, particularly online, that you can become overwhelmed by all the learning that is on offer. I am constantly being offered ‘all I need to know’ type articles but since I have managed to distil my preferences to a few specific areas I can target my learning more accurately.
I am currently viewing landscape videos by Nigel Danson and Simon Baxter, whose work and photography style I admire, and iPhone landscape photography lessons given by Clifford Pickett. Another time I might learn from a photographer whose tips for improving photography are easy to follow and achievable or follow the Instagram accounts of certain photographers.
Being able to identify my own needs and tailor my learning to meet those needs has been helpful in keeping myself motivated with the right amount of challenge.
4. It helps you understand your own tastes
Developing and becoming aware of your own style of photography is a step towards self-development as a photographer.
Before I became aware of the style of photography I liked to practice, I was taking pictures randomly and I had no sense of satisfaction with any of them. As I developed a style it helped me understand my tastes and directed me to the right locations to do my photography.
As I defined my style, I became more aware of what I wanted from my photography and more motivated to constantly try to improve my images in line with my photographic vision and style.
5. It helps you develop your strengths
We all have our strengths in photography. I find portrait photography difficult because of the time pressure and the expectations that are involved. I like landscape and nature photography in particular because when I can take my time, relax, enjoy a location, and identify a subject that I want to photograph, I find that I can easily follow the guidelines that I have learned.
My style of photography is relaxed. I enjoy taking a mindful approach to photography, spending time on my own, choosing when, where and how I make my images.
By not trying to meet the expectations of others or produce images on demand I believe I can build on my strengths and improve at my own pace.
6. It helps to develop your creativity
I have written several articles on the importance of developing our creativity and on how photography can enhance our creativity. When you establish your own style in photography, you begin to realise that what you create is uniquely yours, a result of your unique vision, something that only you can create.
Creativity involves your process; it involves the decisions you make and actions you take to create your finished product.
Your creative process is about doing something in the way you want to do it. When you embrace your own style, you are embracing your creativity.
7. It increases your enjoyment of what you do
I believe that the biggest barrier to enjoyment in anything we do is having to meet expectations that put us under pressure to please someone else.
When we are acting on our own behalf, when we are comfortable with what we do and remain true to our own vision and style, it is much easier to enjoy what we do.
I love to watch clouds and try to photograph interesting cloud formations. As I was admiring the view on this beautiful day I spotted a cloud coming across the sky. It almost looked like a plane coming in to land. I got out my phone and took the image before it moved off
Developing your own photography style can be a daunting task, particularly as a beginner. Yet if we don’t listen to our own inner voice, if we don’t pay attention to our own likes and dislikes, even if they change occasionally, then we won’t be able to produce creative work that we are proud of. So it is worth getting to know your style, learning what it is that makes your images stand out as uniquely yours.
You may be photographing the same thing as others but you do it your way, and that is what will make a difference to your photography.
Have you discovered your photography style?
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You might like to read an earlier article I wrote on a related topic https://www.wildwillowways.com/post/composition