Style, it’s how you can tell who made a photo. It’s how you can separate a Henri Cartier-Bresson photo from a Garry Winogrand photo, a William Eggleston photo from a Saul Leiter photo. Style does more than just tell you who made the photo. Every photographer has their own style. But what is style?
Style is a lot of things, it’s more than the way a photo looks, it’s your subject, how you make your photos, it’s how you process your photos, it’s what your photos are made with, the format, film, digital, it’s how you use your gear to make your photos, it’s how you use colour, how you use light, and many other things. Not every element of style needs to be used to define your own style but it is something that you should be aware of.
Working on cultivating your own style is important for a number of reasons. First it will cut down the time you spend editing photos in post production which will give you more time to do what you really love: making photos. It takes me less than five minutes to edit a photo because I know what my style is so when I make a photo and know it’s going to be a B&W photo I know the look I want to achieve and how to achieve that look using the tool that I use to process my RAW files.
Secondly people will hire you, buy your prints, buy your books, attend your exhibitions for your style because it’s unique and different to everyone else’s’, because you have a different vision, a particular way of seeing the world, a different and unique way of producing images. If you have a unique style people will remember you for your style.
So how do you come up with your own style? I can’t tell you how to define or make your own style but I can tell you how I discovered my style in one word: books. My style has evolved and I have discovered my style through looking at books, discovering street photography, and photographers that I liked and disliked that practised street photography and other genres of photography. It was by looking at photos from master photographers that I came to discover styles that I liked. I borrowed an element or two from this photographer and that photographer and combined different styles to come up with my own style.
Style is just one of many things that you can learn from looking at photos and photo books. Spend your money on books, not gear, books can and will teach you more than any gear will.
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