Updated: Nov 9, 2021
“I love photographing. It’s that simple.”
– Stuart Franklin
How Do You Find Your Voice as a Photographer? is a question I have heard asked on many online platforms.
As with most questions posed online, there are always lots of answers and opinions, and many of them are helpful.
However, I prefer to use the term reveal rather than find because I believe that if we have been doing photography for any length of time, we already have our voice. It’s just a matter of uncovering that voice and letting it be heard; of having the confidence to believe in ourselves and our work, to know that whatever stage we are at it is ok to be at that stage.
Personally, I have found that when I began to uncover my voice as a photographer it helped me to have a greater sense of ownership of my work.
After spending some time getting to know my voice as a photographer, I find that my work has become more interesting to me, it has become more meaningful and ultimately more rewarding.
So, how do you, as a beginner photographer, uncover your voice and allow it to be heard?
Barriers to allowing our artistic voice to be heard.
Obviously, if we don’t speak our voice won’t be heard.
In photographic terms, if we don’t show our photographs, we won’t reveal our unique voice as a photographer.
Yet there can be a lot of barriers which prevent us from showing our work to others.
· We can be overly influenced by the comments of other photographers, particularly if we show our images on a photographic site where we will often encounter harsh critics.
· We can be overly focused on getting likes on social media, and if these are not forthcoming, we conclude that it’s not worth bothering to post our images.
· We can have an inbuilt fear that our photos are not good enough to publish.
· We can feel that we are not adding anything new, that our voice is too common.
These are just a few of the barriers to showing our images in public. I’m sure you can add some of your own.
What is important, if we want to discover and reveal our own unique artistic voice through our photography, is that we begin to break down these barriers, take chances, and let our voice be heard.
We will definitely be rewarded as a result.
How Do You Uncover and Reveal Your Voice as a Photographer?
1. Find connections in your work. One of the best ways to get to know your unique photography voice is to look back over your body of work and find what links your photos.
Do you normally shoot in a certain type of light?
Do you shoot similar subjects/themes?
Do you prefer certain genres over others?
Do you favour a particular focal length?
By ‘curating’ your image collection you will find links and connections that will help you discover the type of images you like to create and how you like to create them.
I love to photograph near water, especially when there is a boat around.
I like to try composition techniques such as natural framing, but not follow them slavishly.
2. Be inspired by others, but don’t copy them. I have recently become interested in woodland photography.
Initially I feared that I wouldn’t be able to get any decent images as all I seemed to see were chaotic scenes and tangles of branches. So I decided to look for some inspiration from experienced woodland photographers. This helped me to know what I should look for and to seek out better compositions.
I know I will never make images like those of the professional photographers, and I don’t try to. I don’t copy their settings as their cameras, lenses, tripods and filters are much better than those I have.
I make my own images, experiment with my own settings, use my own eye to observe and compose, and I am delighted when I come home with at least one image I like.
Finding inspiration in the work of others is part of creating steppingstones to discovering your own photography voice.
3. Take lots of photographs and show them to others. As I said above, if we don’t show our photographs, we won’t reveal our unique voice as a photographer.
There are numerous ways in which we can let others see our work.
We can create our own portfolio website, use an established photography website, or create a gallery of images on a blog as I have done here.
Social media sites such as Instagram are also great ways to allow your photography to be seen, or you can enter one of many photography competitions or take on a photography challenge where you have to capture an image according to a particular theme and post your image for others to see.
4. Shoot what you love. Find your passions and capture those things. Branch out and discover new passions. Don’t be too influenced by what others like or try to impress your ‘followers’ on social media. Follow your own instincts, your own inspiration. Get other voices out of your head, particularly those that tell you what is right and wrong and how things should be done. Listen to your own creative urge that brings new ideas and new ways of reflecting your own personal perspective in your work.
If you follow photography channels on YouTube you will discover that there is a wide diversity of photography styles among professional photographers, and even among photographers working in the same genre.
In landscape photography, for example, some photographers will shoot hand-held while others will only ever use a tripod.
Some like to include human made elements in their images, such as buildings, walls or fences, while others will only include the natural landscape.
Some photographers add a human element, often to introduce a sense of scale, while many don’t like to include people for any reason.
As beginners, we can experiment, take inspiration from others, find what appeals to us, and begin to form our own unique way of working in our photography.
5. Take creative risks. If you only take photos in places that others shoot from, and use common viewpoints, you will end up copying the voice of others rather than developing your own unique voice. Take risks on behalf of your photography.
Try new things.
Change your viewpoint, alter your perspective.
Constantly ask yourself, can I try this another way? How can I make this image more uniquely mine?
Recently I have begun experimenting with Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). It may not appeal to everyone but I intend to continue exploring this type of photography to see where it leads.
As beginners it can be hard to discover and reveal our unique photography voice. There are many barriers that prevent us from doing this and many influences which convince us that we should keep our voice to ourselves. But I believe that if we are going to progress in our photography, we need to have the confidence to let our voice be heard.
We need to put our work forward without fear of judgement.
We need to see each photo as part of the unique way in which we see the world and be proud to share this with others.
We need to let go of the need to please others and reveal our true creative selves.
And that’s when the true enjoyment will begin.
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