If you’ve ever wondered how you can uncover your personal photography style, this article will help you get started. It’s a super fun and creative process, so let´s jump into it.
When you are new to photography, its normal to feel that finding a personal style is a mystery – that it´s something unreachable. You might even think that personal style is only for those who have “made it” and already have a thriving photography career.
The truth is, all photographers struggle with the concept of personal style throughout their career. Why? Because personal style is less about photography technique and camera settings, and more about YOU; your personality and your life story.
And we humans change all the time – therefore your style will also change with you. When I think back at times and phases in my photography career, I feel like laughing. Yes, I did have a personal style back then – but it´s not the same as the one I have now. I have changed, and my style has changed with me. And it will change for you too, as you embark on your journey into the world of photography.
It’s a process getting to know yourself and developing your personal style. And once you find it, you will enjoy it for a period of time, and then suddenly one day, you will feel a need to change it or tweak it – because you have changed. It´s normal. It’s part of the growth process.
Change is constant. Change is life. We are constantly evolving, and life is always moving in a new direction (change can move slow or fast – but its moving and nothing ever stays the same). And that´s why photography is so exciting. You really get to express yourself and be super creative. Your photography will be the evidence of your personal development. It´s just a fantastic feeling!
When it comes to developing a personal style what matters most is finding out who you are, what you like and dislike and what you want to do with the time you can devote to your photography practice. In other words, it´s you becoming an artist and not just a photographer, and your style is an extension of that.
3 Steps To Uncover Your Personal Photography Style
No matter what level you’re at in photography you can always use the following steps to develop your style, tweak it or change it. These are steps I still work with to improve my style, and if you´re up for the challenge, I´m sure you´ll get some excellent results.
STEP #1. MAKE A MOODBOARD
When you embark on the journey to find your personal photography style, an excellent place to start is by creating a mood board. But here´s the critical step; it´s not just about collecting photos you love. You got to curate what you include. Meaning that you carefully handpick a small collection out of all those images you like. You pick those images that are most important to you and that represents a style you wish to experiment with.
When putting together a mood board, think of yourself as a curator rather than a collector, and try to introduce meaning and threads from one image to the next. It makes for a more natural interpretation when you will start creating your own photos.
If you pick too many photos for your mood board chances are you will get paralyzed with overwhelm. Being inspired by many things and styles isn’t a bad thing, but it is if you get overwhelmed. Just make a small board with 6-10 images that look beautiful together and have some kind of red thread. Then use that board for inspiration for your next 2-3 photoshoots or until you finally get something that you like.
The trick when trying to find your photography style is to focus on the one thing that inspires you the most. If you’re not sure what that is, listen to your heart. No doubt it will tell you right away. Pick the one thing that really moves you and focus on putting that into practice.
And keep in mind that you are not making a mood board to copy the images, you make a mood board to remind yourself of the creative direction you wish to practice. Let yourself be inspired by the colours, the tones, the light, the props, the shooting angle and the composition – but never try to copy an entire photo that you´ve found on Pinterest or Instagram.
There is a difference between making a copy as part of the learning process and making a career out of imitating another photographer’s work. I believe that personal style is the extension of your personality. Your personality is presented through the photographs that you take. If you copy someone else’s style, you´ll never become a happy, fulfilled and fully booked photographer.
To find images for your mood board go to Pinterest, Instagram, Google Images or look at Magazines and Blogs.
STEP #2. MAKE STYLE DECISIONS
Now that you have your inspirational mood board ready, it´s time to set up some creative rules for yourself. These rules will be guidelines for how you style and shoot your photos. If you have never tried to make strategic directions for your creative work before, this will be a new way for you to execute your ideas.
The guidelines or rules, are not there to limit your creativity – they are there to help you narrow down a specific style and mood. I like to call it “making style decisions”.
Making style decisions is an art form – it´s a skill you will develop over time, and it will help you tremendously in creating a signature style. I would go as far as to say that the art of “making style decisions” is the number ONE skill that makes some creatives stand out and become masters at what they do.
It´s about knowing what you LIKE and what you don´t like. What you want and what you don´t want. It´s about experimenting and understanding what works and what doesn´t work (which is a skill that you can only develop from trial and error and a whole lot of practice).
No matter if you´re a florist, an interior designer, a photographer or artist, you need to make style decisions. Doing so will take your creative work from a hot mess to professional mastery.
Okay, so let´s go back to your Moodboard. Look at the photos and study them carefully. Write down what makes all of the images unique, and what you love about them.
Next step is to plan your actual photoshoot. Decide what you will be photographing, based on your Moodboard and by making the following style decisions:
Decide on Mood: What mood are you going for? Romantic, dark and moody, bright and airy, colourful, artistic, rustic, urban, country style, authentic, elegant, dramatic or simplistic? Or perhaps a mixture? A good question to ask yourself is this: what do I want the viewer to SEE and FEEL when they look at my image? For example, If you want a bright and happy style you wanna avoid choosing dark props in muted tones as well as a dark setting. Instead select a white environment, with white walls that will reflect the light and pick props with cheerful colours.
Decide on Light: What type of light you choose to shoot in will affect your style tremendously. If you shoot in the golden hour or bright daylight when the sun is out, your photos will be more fresh, bright and happy than if you shoot on a cloudy/grey day with little sunshine available.
Decide on a Color Palette: I always recommend that you pick a simple colour palette with just a few colours. The more simplistic your colour palette, the more professional your image will look. The colours should complement each other and help you get a sense of balance in the composition. If one colour sticks out and takes too much attention – take it out or put something in the scene that matches that colour to balance it out.
Decide on The Story: Sometimes photographers get so caught up in making a beautiful styled image that they forget to consider the story – the message. It can actually help you a lot if you consider the story you wish to tell. The story doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be straightforward. Like the story of morning coffee in bed or fresh handpicked tomatoes from your garden. Consider how you can make your story authentic. If you pick tomatoes from your garden, you might have some dirt, some fresh leaves or a scissor than you can include. If it´s about morning coffee in the bed, your bed might be messy, and your coffee cup might have left a coffee spot. How you decide to tell the story will be an essential style decision.
There are many, many more style decisions to be made, but for now, I don´t want to overwhelm you. If you start with just these four style decisions, you will end up with a helpful, creative frame to work within.
Stick to your decisions in a number of photos and see if you can create a small series of images based on the same style decisions. This is a great way to practice finding your personal style.
If you wish to learn more about making style decisions I teach this in my photography and styling workshops.
STEP #3. PRACTICE
Now, that you have some guidelines to help you begin the journey of developing your personal photography style, it´s time to put it into practice.
Just looking at pretty pictures on Instagram and Pinterest won’t get you into action. You got to plan your shoot. Make time for it. Prioritise it. To really become good at something, you must put many hours into it.
Excellence doesn´t come from just practising an hour once a week. It takes time, effort, passion and determination. But I promise you if you make the time to practice, if you don´t give up and give in you will find your unique photography style.
Are you ready to get started?
Here’s a quick sum up:
1. Make a Moodpboard. Curate and select only a handful of photos that truly inspires you.
2. Make style decisions and set up specific guidelines for your workflow and photoshoot.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Don´t get angry with yourself when you have a bad day…after all, it´s just a bad day. Next time you try, it might be the day when you create your masterpiece. Never give up! Keep going and put learning before perfection.
I wish you all the best with your creative process, and I hope you will tag me on Instagram if you use this process. I would LOVE to see what you create.
You can find me on Instagram here; @christinagreve.