Developing A Personal Photographic Style

A month or so ago, I was asked about developing a personal style with your photography. I had to stop and think about it. Over the years, I've grown as a photographer. I think my eye for composition and subject choice has improved. My technical skills with my camera have gotten better. My post processing approach has fine tuned itself.

Shoot what you can’t help but shoot.
— Gregory Heisler

Had I consciously set out to craft a personal style? To be perfectly honest with myself - no, I don't think I did. But, does that mean I haven't developed a personal style? No, I don't think that's true either. Here's a few thoughts on what has shaped my style. 

  1. Shoot What You Love.  I've always been a landscape photographer, but given a location choice I will always choose to shoot at the ocean. Several people over the years, some photographers others not, more than suggested I shoot something other than the ocean. A couple of years ago or so, I watched an interview with Gregory Heisler. In it he said "Shoot what you can't help but shoot." That really resonated with me. It was liberating to hear Gregory put into words what I'd been feeling. It was validating in a sense. Now, it's no surprise that seascape photos are what I'm most known for.
  2. Don't Be Afraid To Change. Photography is a journey. Your skills will improve and your tastes will change. For me, I think the first part of my photography to change was composition. Once I got better at it, my photos were stronger. That led to changes in how I post processed. For me, when a photo is well composed, it needs less post processing work. My earlier photos were... heavy handed... shall we say. :-)
  3. Style Is Subconscious. I think you realize you have a style when you stop and think about it, or look back at a body of your work. Somewhere along the way, your style developed. You just didn't know it.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice. It's an old adage for a reason. There's no substitute for practicing your craft. Keep shooting. Every shoot is a learning experience and, whether you realize it or not, keeping your hands on your camera will help shape your style.

Your style is an extension of yourself. And that's a great thing because nobody is better at being you and you. And yes, I know how cliche that sounds. Yet gear choices, camera angles and processing techniques can be (and are) mimicked. You, the individual, that's unique. And the singular common thread throughout your photography journey.