Developing your photo style is a topic with many discussions. In this installment we will talk about why finding out what you like in others photography is so important to developing your own style.
Do you think that you need an "eye" in order to excel at photography? You might be frustrated that all of the time you have spent with your camera stuck to your eye has yet to result in an image as good as one that a friend made during a trip to the market. We agree...it is very upsetting to watch someone just casually snap a few pictures that look mind-bogglingly good while your hard work is just not paying off.
Do you know what the "problem" is? Most likely, the answer is that you haven't yet discovered "what you like", or more accurately, your personal style. Digital photography is like any other type of photography, and is a direct reflection of your taste, perspective, and preferences. If you love sea green, make it the subject of a shot. If you love the lines that shadows are making, those are good subjects for your personal photography style.
You are probably still composing images with what everyone else thinks is good, cool, attractive, etc. in mind. For example, you go to the seashore for a brief vacation. While there you visit a few lighthouses, and you spend some time lining up the iconic shots and making lots of traditional images. What you see on the LCD display is "okay," but it just doesn't feel as if your photography is making it to the proverbial next level. You know...to that place where people stop and say "oooh! I love that photo!"
This is because you need to create your digital photography style. You have to figure out what you prefer rather than what you think everyone would like or approve of in a shot. You are probably even totally unaware that you are doing this. So, what you should start doing is consciously collecting images that you really love.
Your Assignment...Should You Choose to Accept It
How do you do that? One of the coolest ways to begin learning about the images that appeal to you is to actually hunt for them wherever you are. If you see packaging you like, put in your collection (or take a photograph of it). If you like the way the light looks on your toes and flip flops...take the shot and figure out why it appeals to you. This all goes to finding out what drives you artistically and what you pay attention to.
You should visit websites that are about nothing BUT imagery. For instance, head to Pinterest. This is a website that works like a scrapbook or bulletin board for your favorite "looks", photos, and more. You can easily spend hours discovering the style that you gravitate towards. You can also look at online or real world magazines, photography websites, and the work of other photographers.
Once you have a good assortment of ideas, you can simply assess your favorite ones to understand just what it is that you like about it. Then, you apply this to your own photography.
Returning to the Scene of the Crime
Here is what we mean: let's say that you head back to that same seaside destination a year after your first trip. This time you head to those lighthouse locations with YOUR preferences in mind. This time, you say to yourself, the photography is going to be an accurate reflection of my style.
So, instead of framing that classic lighthouse shot, you head to the base of the tallest building and you shoot upwards with your wide angle lens. You get the saturated blue of the sky and the sun soaked colors of the brickwork...whatever it is that you wanted to capture, you will now know how to do it.
Never stop looking for examples and inspiration. Photography is something that you should be doing with your mind's eye as well as your camera. If you see something that appeals to you, and the camera is at home, make some notes because you will have recognized yet another part of your own personal style.
Here are a few photos from Eric Von Lehmden's portfolio. His style is to try to tell a story with clean image that concentrate on the main subject.