You make your photography style out of lots of different ingredients. From the camera and lenses you use, and the lighting and your colour palette to the subjects you choose, the emotions they evoke and how you edit your photos. They all add up to the recipe for finding your photography style.
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All of these ingredients are in everybody’s photos, but your unique mix will be the recipe for your own photography style. Your photography style tells a story about who you are, and a story of your vision through the images you create.
Don’t rush your style
When you’re starting out with photography, it’s hard to figure out your unique style, but that’s how it should be.
Don’t be in a rush to find your photography style. You can’t force it. It takes time to develop and often it’s only in retrospect, when you look back over your photos, that you’ll discover your style has already taken shape.
During my recent workshop with Carla Coulson, she shared her story from when she packed up everything in Australia and moved to Italy to go to photography school.
Her style came about almost by accident as she was shooting from the heart and taking the pictures that she loved.
Carla’s photography style features her world: love and emotions, movement, a passion for religious iconography, elegance and travel, with touches of humour, and black and white photography.
It’s not something she could consciously define at the beginning, but now when she looks back, that’s how she describes it.
What I’ve found
After spending a week with Carla shooting in Italy, I really felt my vision develop and though I’m still working on it, I can see elements starting to really stand out in my photos.
My style is influenced by my love of starting conversations with locals as they go about their daily routines. My passion for the water and coastlines, and my love of architecture and my eye for details also play a huge part in my style.
During the workshop, I mentioned to Carla that I enjoyed the conversations more than the photos I was taking. I liked to speak Italian and help others facilitate their photos because I enjoyed the stories more.
Later, when I showed Carla my photos, she told me to keep pushing through. She said that I was at that point where my photos didn’t match my taste, but I had a skill for conversation, so I needed to keep going.
This photo of my new friends in Monopoli in south-eastern Italy is one of my all-time favourite shots – but it’s also just the start of developing my new photography style. I’ve got the ingredients for my own personal style recipe. I’ve just got to keep mixing!
Check out our video here on 3 tips for developing your photography style and keep reading to find out my own secret recipe for photography.
Like any good recipe, you’ll be able to easily adapt it to suit your photography style and take your photography to the next level.
Recipe for finding your photography style
The ingredients in my photography style
– My camera – the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
It’s important for me to carry a camera at all times and I love the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It’s a compact mirrorless camera that allows me to get close and start those conversations without intimidating my subjects.
The vintage look and design of the camera puts my subjects at ease and although it looks small, it’s just as powerful as a large DSLR camera.
– My lenses
When shooting people, the 45mm captures the most gorgeous colours without getting too close and the 25mm is beautiful for shooting the whole story.
When I’m not sure what I’ll be shooting, my most trusted lens is the M.Zuiko 12mm-40mm F2.8 lens. This is an absolute workhorse of a lens and I took it with me everywhere in Italy.
I want to know more than just the visual story and I love getting to know people. It means it can take me a long time to take the photo because I end up getting caught up in long conversations.
It’s like when I ended up watching a football game in Luigi’s workshop or when we were brought into Flavia’s kitchen to play with her dog. But these are the memories that I treasure and that I tried to capture and share with you.
– Finding the light
I don’t like using flash so for me natural light is where it’s at. I look for the light and follow it to get the best shots. Don’t be scared to ask your subjects to move to where the light is either, like I did with these nuns.
– The water
Whether it’s lakes, rivers or the coast, the water is where you’ll find me. All my travels involve the water and I love the stories of people working around the water’s edge. I started chatting to the fishermen and the weavers and spent hours around the beach.
Travel is obviously my passion but even when we’re at home, I try to see my own hometown with a tourist’s eye. It gives everything a fresh perspective.
Method to finding your photography style
Now you have the ingredients to your photography, you need to know what to do with them. Here’s the method to complete your own photography style recipe.
1. Shoot every day
The only way to get through that painful growth phase is to keep practicing and shooting everyday trains your eye.
2. Get to know your camera
I love that I take my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with me everywhere, it fits in my bag. And during this course I’ve been shooting completely on manual. Once you know your camera and you understand the functions, it allows you to put the focus back into your subject and to your vision.
3. Self Critique your work
I check my photos at the end of every day but I also like to go back and review photos every time to see your style develop. This isn’t a time to be too harsh but just to critique your work with a more objective eye. By thinking more critically about your work in a constructive way, you continue to improve your photography.
Finding your photography style
You don’t need to go to the other side of the world to find your photography style, just make sure your camera is in your bag every day, and take it out when you start that conversation and record that story.
Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, has a great quote about storytelling through images.
In essence he says your taste develops before your skill, so you can really dislike the work you create to start with because it doesn’t match up to your taste. And although it’s painful, you have to push through and keep creating bad work until your skill improves to create the work that fits your taste.
I always keep these words in mind when I come home disappointed with what I’ve photographed because it’s only through constant practice that you can improve.
Check out our other posts on photography here for more inspiration to help with your photographic journey:
And make sure you check out the Olympus hashtag #OlympusInspired on social media for inspiration from some seriously talented photographers.
What are the ingredients in your photography style?