You have found your style when you can’t do anything else. It’s your default, your normal, your nature. Style comes when imitation and influence perish. It’s something that becomes one… you, yours. Defining your style or finding your style is a life’s journey. I hope you are always evolving and changing, never stagnant when it comes to your style. But at the same time hold on to its structure, its roots, its essence. So where does one begin? How does one create a photography style?
There are a few steps to understanding yourself and your taste that influence your style. Figuring out what you are drawn to and what appeals to you aesthetically. Then there is what motivates you, what stories resonate with your soul. And finally, who you are as a person.
These three things are the cornerstone for finding your photography style. So let’s begin.
1. What do you like?
Digital, analogue, landscapes, people, objects, places, events, issues? What do you like about other people’s work? What is the main theme that you look at most? Figure this out and then ask yourself the question: “Why?”
I love the convenience of digital, but love the aesthetics of analogue film and being in the darkroom. So I shoot digital using an analogue preset and print my photos in the darkroom. This is my medium.
I’m drawn to landscapes, objects and places. People don’t interest me much, so I’ve found my subject matter. I’m personally drawn to black and white photography from my darkroom days. In short: I shoot digital, print in the darkroom, and I capture mainly objects, places and landscapes.
2. What appeals to you aesthetically?
I cannot tell you what you like, what appeals to you. Only you know that. But I can give you some ideas by sharing what I like. But consider your favorite artists, style, movements, eras, books, films, whatever—nothing is off-limits here.
I personally love black and white. I love the artistic movement minimalism. I’m also very influenced by Japanese culture. I like things to be as simple as possible. I love abstract and expressionist art. Artists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack. Photographers like Fan Ho, Ralph Gibson, Masao Yamamoto, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Huang Jing, to name a few. All these elements I find appealing. I love looking at them and so I can’t help but let them influence my work.
3. What drives your curiosity?
What drives you? What compels you to take a photograph? What are you trying to say or leave out of the story or frame? Are you taking images of the opposite sex because you’re attracted to them or are you interested in the human form? Do you want to give voice to people that don’t have a platform? Are your images self-portrait, a reflection on your mental health or thoughts? Do you just want to have your ego stroked or appeal to the masses? Whatever your reason, it’s vital that you figure it out.
For me, I’m drawn to wabi-sabi: the Japanese phrase for acceptance and entropy. I love the imperfect. A damaged ceramic cup, a book with pages folded at the corners and spine bent. The imperfect. I’m also drawn to less-is-more, minimalism and negative space. I prefer quality over quantity. If I’m to buy something, it has to be the best and last me a lifetime. I’m interested in tactile things, holding, touching. I’m interested in Japanese culture. I also love reading East & Western philosophy.
Put all these curiosities together and you have what drives me. This is why I have to not only take photographs but share, print and hold them as items in their own right.
As you can see, 1,2 and 3 combined together make up your drive, your reason, and the soul behind your photographs.
- What do you like?
- What appeals to you aesthetically?
- What drives your curiosity?
This might not tell you how to take the a photograph but it will tell you why you’re taking it. And over time your reason will reveal your style, your natural default.
The path your subconscious knows and your eyes see will eventually align. One does not create a photographic style, one reflects who they are through their images. Knowing who you are and what drives you is far more important than any preset or lens choice. Because how you see the world is everything. It’s your perceptions, your own unique viewpoint, that becomes your photographic style.
About the author: A.B Watson is a New Zealand photographer based in Auckland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, head over to his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.