3 tips for finding your style
I get asked often how I "found my style". To be honest, this question kind of stumps me a lot. Half the time I feel like I'm all over the place and my images aren't cohesive. Anyone who asks, I am always quick to say that I don't feel like I have a style, per say, but they promise me that my style is unique and identifiable. I don't think there is a simple answer to this question of "how to find your style". But while I feel that my style is constantly evolving, there are some things you can do to try to "hone" in on what you like best and what direction you might want to go,
1. Take a look through your photos
Spend one evening scrolling back through your photos. Not those everyday iPhone photos or selfies (unless those are your fave and you love that style), but maybe a collection of photos from your past few years....your instagram feed, blog posts, printed photos, photo books, gallery submissions, etc.... Look back through those photos and create two folders on your desktop. Label one "Love" and the other "Like". As you look through your images, the photos that jump right out at you and just feel "right" - copy and paste them to the "Love" folder. Ones that you catch your eye, but don't give you those warm-fuzzies - copy and paste those to the "Like" folder. Ideally, you should keep doing this until you have a decent number of photos - maybe 50 or so - so you can scroll through these folders and analyze WHAT it is you love about each set. Once you have your set, take a look at your images and see if you can determine a common theme.
If I were to do that, my set would likely show images that were light + airy, were well composed and included a bit of negative space (for example). Light, negative space and composition all make my heart go pitter-patter, but it took me a while to figure that out. Maybe I always considered it mentally when I shot, but it wasn't until I sat down and looked back through my images to find my faves did I realize what I loved most. That being said, though....I have come to realize that NOT every image is going to be in backlighting or have a perfect composition. I strive for these elements when I'm shooting, but our everyday life doesn't always allow for that. There are so many "in between" moments that I love JUST as much and will definitely capture, even though they may not be in perfect lighting or have the perfect composition. Finding your style isn't about "perfection". It's finding what speaks to your creative heart and then running with it.
2. Stop comparing your "beautiful" to someone else's "beautiful".
This should be made into a poster and distributed to every person who creates an Instagram or Facebook account. My "beautiful" will be different from yours. My life is different from yours. How I look at our life through the lens will likely be different from how you look at your life. That's totally ok. The worst way to "ruin" your passion is to compare your work to other people's work. Photography is an ART. Like painting. Or writing. Or drawing. There may be technical aspects that are similar, but the end result will almost ALWAYS be different. Remember that and don't compare your beautiful to someone else's beautiful.
Instead of comparing, analyze your favorite artist's work. What is it about that person's work that you absolutely love? Is the light, use of color, composition, lines? See if you can pinpoint WHAT your favorite aspects are and then look back through your folders from above and see if you have those same elements identified. It's likely you do!!
Another HUGE thing to remember here is that people typically choose to post those "beautiful" aspects of their life. I don't post selfies. Ever. I might add them to my Instagram stories, but they never make it to my Instagram feed. I take them with my kids all the time, but those photos (while I save and print every single one because I think they are important and tell our story), don't speak to me on a creative level. My Instagram feed is curated of my very favorite photos. Photos I love. Photos that make me smile. Photos that typically have those elements that define my "style". You don't have to apologize for being selective with what you post!! It's your feed and you can make it whatever you want!
3. Explore and experiment.
As I mentioned above, I still struggle with whether or not I even have a recognizable style. I think the biggest reason I continue to struggle is because I am always trying to improve my skills and learn as much as I can about this art. I truly don't want to be "stuck" to a style. I have elements that I love, but I am always growing as an artist and hope to never stop. I don't want the pressure of feeling like every image HAS to be perfectly composed. Or every image I post HAS to be taken in backlight. In my photographic dreams that would be awesome, but it isn't realistic. I love trying out new lighting and compositions and techniques and I really love getting creative with my lenses and attempting manual focus, free lensing, prisms and more. By experimenting and thinking outside of my creative box, I continue to push myself creatively and that's what I love most about this hobby!
So that's my "finding your style" soap box. I think it's good to try to identify what you're passionate about and what makes your creative heart tick. Knowing what inspires you will continue to push yourself to be better and better at this art!