Tony Brown Photography
How to Find Your Personal Photography Style
Establishing what your own, unique photography style is, will greatly help you improve as a professional photographer
Many of the greatest photographers had their own personal photography style. Some of the greats such as Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson — their styles are so distinctive that the viewer is in no doubt as to whose work they are looking at. Leibovitz in particular developed her trademark style of bold primary colours and unexpected poses, while working at Rolling Stone Magazine. Her highly styled fashion and celebrity portraits bear her signature in every detail. But how do you, as a possible amateur photographer, find your own personal photography style? Well, here are a few of my thoughts on how you can decide on yours, and find it in record time.
What Defines a Personal Photography Style?
A personal photography style is more than an editing or photography technique. It’s a combination of every decision you make as a professional photographer. One of the best ways to discover what your style may be, is to look for patterns in your behaviour, and work.
Take a deep look at your tastes in food, travelling, socialising, and so on are. These, plus many more cultural markers, play no small part in making up who you are. These tastes and styles develop as you learn more about them, and discover their differences in other cultures and preferences. Photography is no different. Look for patterns in your techniques, compositions, and favourite photographers. You may find that you already have a photography style that complements your personality. All you have to do is let it awaken and emerge.
Make a List of Photography Genres That You like and Experiment with Them
There are many types of professional photography styles out there. To find yours, you need to expose yourself to different genres. Start experimenting with them. While you're out and about, start taking pictures of buildings that interest you, and see whether architectural photography interests you. Or maybe, while you're with friends or family, ask if they wouldn't mind posing for a portrait session. These exercises will give you experience in many genres, which is very important in the long run, and will provide you with a better idea of your personal photography style.
Collate Inspiring Photos to Help You Understand Your Creative Taste
We all have specific foods, outfits, and places that we like more than others. In a way, those are our styles. And even if you’re not aware of them yet, you have similar styles in photography.
To find your personal style, you'll need to start looking at different photographs, and photography within a genre.
Choose a genre that you like and browse images of it online. If a particular photo stands out, save it in a folder, or create some Pinterest boards. Instagram can also be a useful tool.
Start with 20-50 photos that inspire you, and then think about them as a whole. Why did you choose them? What stands out the most? Write your answers down, and see if you notice any patterns. The better you understand your photography taste, the closer you’ll get to discovering your personal photography style.
Share Your Work, and Get Feedback About Your Style
Your friends don’t have to be professional photographers, although that's always helpful! Your goal isn’t to ask for constructive criticism, just things that you’re unaware of. Like the first things that they notice about your work, if they see any patterns or felt there was something missing.
It's always good to get out of your head, and look at your photos from a very different perspective.
Your friends could give you feedback that you wouldn’t have been able to find on your own. And they might see patterns that will help you understand what your personal photography style is.
Start a Daily Photography Project, and Flex Your Creative Muscles
One of the best ways to develop your style is to practice, regularly. If you can only dedicate one hour a week to your personal photography, you won’t be able to improve quickly, or find your style fast. Even if you’re busy, you can help your style evolve a little every day. All you need to do is start a photography project. A daily or weekly task that will ensure you spend as much time with photography as possible.
This could be something like the 365 project, or maybe the 52-Week project.
For the 365 project, you have to take a photo every day. It doesn’t have to be outstanding. The point is to spend a little time with photography every day. Whereas the 52-Week project is a weekly project with a theme. Every week comes with a new topic, which is often fairly abstract. This is meant to strengthen your creative muscles and help you think outside the box.
You can share your results online to get constructive criticism and to inspire others to do the same.