I am honored to have Glyn Dewis as this week’s first guest blogger. He is a UK based Photographer, Workshop Instructor and Adobe Community Professional specialising in Conceptual Portraits both location and studio based. An avid blogger, Glyn thrives on sharing his photography and editing techniques through his Workshops, YouTube Video Page and Blog. Follow him on Twitter.
When I was approached about writing a post for Tiffinbox I have to admit that at first I was a little stumped as to what I should cover. I changed my mind more times than I care to remember but that being said I always came back to the same starting point …‘Style’ and by that I mean ‘the unique, defining look to your photography’.
But when it come to style how do you get it? How do you develop you a look that makes you stand out from the seemingly saturated market of photographers?
I have my own blog that I update several times each week covering such topics as recent photo shoots, editing techniques, latest news plus hints and tips. In addition to that each month I interview prominent photographers from around the world; such names as Tim Wallace, David E Jackson and Matt Kloskowski to name but a few, and post the content of the conversation in full on the blog.
One question that I always ask is “How does someone develop a style?” and the answers always intrigue me:
Tim Wallace says “Your style is influenced by your life experiences and every time you press the shutter, in a way your photographing yourself.”
David E Jackson says “You don’t find a style…your style finds you.”
Trying to make your name as a photographer and have a style that is recognizable as unique to you is no easy task that’s for sure but one thing that is, is that the process is alot harder if you’re not picking up your camera on a daily basis.
So what do I mean by “having a style”? How do you define it or more to the point, how do you get a photographic ‘style’ ?
In today’s current climate where photography has become so much more accessible and people are setting themselves up as photographers almost as soon as they’ve unboxed their new DSLR, the need to separate yourself from the crowd and get noticed is more important than it ever was!
Now just to clarify, what I’m not saying here is that I believe your ‘style’ is set in stone, but what I do believe is that the more you use your camera, each and every day getting out and shooting something…anything, then your photographic style will evolve.
Up until a few years ago I used to compete in Bodybuilding Shows. For the life of me I can’t recall who it was said this to me but it rang so true …
“Photography and your ‘style’ is like your bodybuilding. You can’t expect to go to the gym just occasionally if you want to develop your physique to a level where you can compete. It takes dedication … training hard every day, putting in the hours and even when you’ve built your physique, continuing to train.”
Copying someones style is financial suicide.
Much like photography, it takes practice, constant practice to get good and even when you’re at the top of your game you still keep practicing. Look at Joe McNally, for example. He is without doubt amongst the best in the world but again someone who continues to practice, day after day and even attends workshops!
We’re all individual and we will all develop our own unique style. Going back to the bodybuiliding analogy, we could all start training doing exactly the same exercises, with the same weights, eat the same, get the same amount of sleep but still our physiques would look different; just as our styles will be different in photography.
Of course there are those that try to ‘copy’ to the letter other people’s styles. I remember a year or so ago when I was looking for a company to build my new website. Sure they seemed to do a great job with the design and functionality but what really shocked me was that in their ‘samples’ section, there were a large number of sites, all with slightly different designs but what seemed like all the same photos. Clearly there were/are a large number of people ‘cloning’ a style from photography training they’d received in the UK but weren’t putting their own ‘style’ into it.
Copying someones style is financial suicide. Our goal should be to attract clients that want us for our ‘style’ and quality of work but ‘copying’ a style will only lead to getting clients on a cost basis i.e. everyone is doing the same, so who is cheapest? Does that make sense?
Style is vital if we are to stand out from the crowd and attract clients, but don’t stress over it. Just get out and shoot more and more often and let your style find you. But the less you’re out shooting, the longer it’ll take and the more you’ll feel frustrated.
Talking of getting out and shooting more, some might say they would do but they have no one to photograph. Well in that case dare I say it, shoot for free! Get people in front of the camera on a time for prints basis; i.e they give their time and you give them a disc of edited images. This is something I did to build up a portfolio and is something I continue to do.
The big advantage here is that you can choose what you shoot and how you shoot it and those images can be used in your portfolio so you then start to get more of the same type of clients but who will pay you!
Just to finish off, this topic came up yesterday when I met up with a friend who mentioned something valid:
Your style won’t show itself until the technical side of shooting is second nature. Know your camera controls inside and out to the point you can change settings, and know why you’re changing them, without really looking at what you’re doing.
Do you feel like you have a defined style? If so, what is it? If you are struggling with it, do you think the steps Glyn has outlined here will help you? Chime in below in the comments section.