When I worked at a newspaper in the 70s an editor told me that she always knew when I’d photographed one of her department’s assignments.
“It’s the way your photos look. They. are different than all the other photographers. I can always tell without looking,” she said referring to the photographer’s name rubber-stamped on the back of the print.
Standing out is as crucial as capturing the story. Your photos are not just recorded images; they are narratives, emotions, and perspectives. Developing your style is essential if you’re looking to leave a lasting impact with your photos. Here are a couple of the steps to create a signature look for your photographs, helping you create a distinct voice.
Understand Your Influences
Before carving out your unique style, it's important to understand and acknowledge your influences. Study the works of photographers you admire. My primary introduction to photography was Family of Man, a collection of photos curated by Edward Steichen. That collection resonated with me. The use of light, composition, action, expression, emotion, and the way the photos captured human emotions. Studying your influences is not about imitation, but rather about understanding the elements that appeal to your aesthetic sense. A major color photo influence was Ernst Haas, especially In America.
Master the Basics
A strong foundation in the basics of photography is crucial. Ensure you have a solid understanding of technical aspects like lighting, composition, and camera settings. A well-executed photograph, regardless of style, stands on the pillars of technical proficiency.
Experiment with Perspectives
Your creativity can dramatically alter the story a photograph tells. Don’t shy away from experimenting with different angles and perspectives. Sometimes, a bird’s-eye view or a worm’s-eye view can add a unique dimension to your narrative.
Develop a Theme
Consistency is a powerful way to develop your style. Whether you're drawn to more personal human-interest stories, conflict, environmental issues, or sports let passion guide your work. This thematic consistency will not only refine your style but also give your work a recognizable voice.
Pay Attention to Post-Processing
Your edited photos can become a significant part of your style. Whether you prefer high-contrast images, monochromatic tones, or a particular way of balancing colors, consistent post-processing techniques can become the hallmark of your work. However, remember the ethics of photojournalism; your edits should enhance reality, not distort it.
Every picture needs to tell a story. Your style should enhance the narrative you're trying to convey. Be it through the emotions you capture, the moments you choose, or the environments you frame, your style should add depth to the story behind each image.
Seek Feedback and Critique then Evolve
Engaging with other photographers and seeking feedback is invaluable. Constructive criticism can offer new perspectives and help refine your style. Be open to the viewer’s reactions. They can provide insights into elements of your style that are most impactful.
Developing a style is an ongoing process. As you make more photographs and follow these ideas, your style will evolve. Embrace the evolution. Evolution can be a lengthy process.
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