Finding Your Photographic Voice
How do you determine your style?
This question represents where most of us photographers fail. We don’t spend enough time assessing what we want to shoot, so we aimlessly walk around with our camera shooting whatever we can. At the age of too much information, we can get caught up with the new way to make money in photography.
This happened to me in a Sue Bryce training course on Creative Live. I love Sue Bryce, but once I was done creating an entire website (of what I now call Chris Bryce), I realized none of my work was what I really wanted to do. The thought of having to market something I wasn’t truly passionate about was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
So now my goal is to create the “Chris Floyd Effect” not the Dave Hill effect. I will study what works and what doesn’t. I will document the workflow so that my successes can be shared with you. I will be your crash test dummy!
Let’s take a look at a few websites featuring the look of the photographers I admire. We’ll generate a list of images and use them to define my photographic voice – and possibly yours.
Erik Almas discussed in his acuities tutorial that when trying to figure out your photographic style you should select no fewer than 100 images.
- First, focus on your photographers of interest then start including other photos you can find online to fulfill a 100-image complement.
- Put all the images in front of you and start writing down what you like about them.
Think about your gut feeling – color, fog, fall, light, mood – not just physical descriptors but emotional ones as well. Some of the words you may find yourself using include:
Use the spreadsheet to assess each of the images in all of the following categories.
From the list, you should see a pattern of what you like to photograph. Use these helpful descriptors to finalize your photographic voice.
It’s not an easy task. As I write this I am doing my photo evaluation. I have a pain in my stomach and thinking that I will never find my photographic voice and create what I want. I am relying solely on what the pros say to do.
I mean, after 25 years taking photos you would think that my work would be consistent. I find myself drifting off and worrying about the what-ifs: What if this doesn’t work? What if I don’t ever create anything people like?
I have so much work to do it feels overwhelming. If you feel the same way, don’t worry. Just plow through the emotions and trust in your ability to create the portfolio you have always wanted. You will find the way.
This process took a couple of hours, but the results were well worth the time. It forced me to define who I am as a photographer: I shoot a soft warm or cool light cinematic style images sometimes with models or fashion element. Creating something dramatic with a unique sense of adventure in each image.
Finally, I’m ready to answer the all-important questions: What do I like to photograph? And why?