It’s time for another edition of our monthly series “Ask a CMpro” here on the CM photography blog in which we give our CMpros one question and they dish. Their answers alone are always inspiring and this week we asked them, “How long did it take you to find your photography style and how did you get there?”
*image by Lisa Tichané
Pam Korman, Pennsylvania
I think finding your style is, to some degree, an ongoing process. Each time I think I have figured it out, I find I am challenged to grow in a new way and that experience hones my style a little more. I do think that it took me a couple of years of very serious shooting to even begin to narrow down who I am, as a photographer, and begin to get a sense of my style. For me, shooting very regularly, on an ongoing basis, was really the best way to figure that out.
Leigh Joy, Alabama
I hear photographers talking about finding their style a lot. Sometimes they are referring to the type of editing that happens after the shoot. For me a photographers “style” is a combination of many things. It includes the type of lighting you use, the subjects you prefer, posing, styling of the session, and the final processing of the image. Therefore, my style is constantly changing and developing. I find inspiration from many places and want to try new things. New lighting techniques, new poses, different types of editing, etc. So I guess I’m still finding my style as I continue to learn more and be inspired by different things. Even my mood can affect the way I shoot and what I choose to shoot.
Anne Wick, France
It took me a while to be aware that I had a style, and it’s still something that is for me in a constant evolution. I think one of the keys to finding your style is to shoot what you really love shooting. Shoot what makes your heart sing. Shoot what moves you and what resonates with you, rather than what you think people would love to see from you. It’s so easy to get lost in the temptation to follow the “trend”. If you stick to what you truly, profoundly love, your voice will grow stronger and your style will definitly show as an expression of it.
Lauren Ammerman, Texas
This was something I really struggled with in the beginning of my journey because I was always looking at other photographers work and thinking, “I love her pictures, that’s what I want my style to be.” Now I know from from getting out and shooting, shooting, shooting, that you don’t really get to [I]decide what your style is, instead, it sort of just, finds you! I also believe that style evolves and changes with our own personal and professional growth. A single woman in her late 20’s is going to have a different style from when she evolves and grows into a wife and mother of 3. It doesn’t make either style better necessarily, but the meaning behind her style has changed. So, the answer to the question: After almost 3 years of photographing subjects I’ve loved and not loved, I feel like I have JUST NOW settled into my style and what really makes my heart happy!
Laurie Yuenger, Illinois
I pretty much knew the style I wanted to shoot when I started out – but it took a few years for my photography to reflect my vision. My style showed more as I gained technical skills as well as having the confidence to shoot the way I wanted and not just how I thought the client expected me to. As I continue to grow my style changes a bit with me, but is still largely the same…. bright, clean and fun.
Jessica Gwozdz, Illinois
It’s crazy to say but I think my style centers around lighting. I am a pretty technical person, being an engineer by training. I like to be in control so working with studio lighting was a natural fit for me. I love that I can put the lights where I want at the varying intensities that I want to create the image I am envisioning in my head. I love using my handheld meter to see how the numbers work together – a little more light here, a little less light there. It’s like being an artist or a chef with utmost control.
Parikha Mehta, Pennsylvania
My style will always be evolving in certain ways, but as far as getting to the point where I felt comfortable knowing what was “me” and what wasn’t – I’d say about two years. During that time, I studied a variety of work that I was drawn to but wasn’t entirely sure why, and I also tried out a few of different processing and shooting techniques, to really get to the heart of what makes an image really resonate with me, personally. That’s not to say I won’t keep trying new things, though–as my personal perspectives change, so will my work, I’m sure. I think “finding your style” is less about permanently committing to a certain processing or shooting technique, and more about learning to articulate and analyze what you love about creating images.
Melissa Stottmann, Delaware
Have I even found “it” yet? For me, I found my main “style” about a year ago- something just clicked. It took me about two years- first I learned the basics of the camera, next came working with people and posing, then with the comfort of those two, I started to get creative and settle into my style. I am different today than I was yesterday and so is my work. Subtle changes are emerging and forming constantly.
Stacie Turner, Connecticut
Finding a style is an organic process that takes years and is never done. Every project will take you some place new and the evolution of your work should never end. You can’t decide on a style in the same way you decide on a pair of shoes; if you are working authentically your style will emerge and dominate your work whether you want it to or not. I’ve been shooting since before I hit puberty and working seriously and consistently for six years and while I hate to say I’ve “found” a style because I never want to feel like “oh, I can’t do THAT – that’s not ‘my style'” I think my photographic voice is stronger every year and what drives that growth is consistent shooting, being willing to take risks, and regularly asking people whose objective opinion I trust for feedback on my work and suggestions on things to work on.
Kim Kravitz, Texas
I think it took me almost 3 years to find my style and really dive into my niche. I got there with a lot of practice and repetition. It all finally clicked for me when I was photos from a family outing and I couldn’t get them all to look cohesive. I used to use so many actions and my post processing was all over the place. I got frustrated with it all and got rid of all of my actions and learned how to consistently produce a cleanly edited image. I feel like my style is constantly evolving with little tweeks here and there.
Caroline Jensen, Minnesota
My style found me before I ever picked up a camera. I am a huge fan of old movies and they continue to inspire my processing and compositions. It took a couple of years to get my ducks in a row, but hints of it were there from the beginning.
Megan Dill, New York
Style is dynamic. On the most basic level, I believe it is shaped through one’s experiences, attitudes, and interests. Knowledge and self-awareness provide refinement. As these elements evolve over time, style follows suit. That being said, it has taken a lifetime to get where I’m currently at—and it is exciting to see where the journey will lead.
Rachael Boer, Washington DC
It took several years before I began to realize that I didn’t really love the images I was shooting. I was going for the vintage look, shooting babies in buckets and girls in pastel dresses at golden hour, and little by little I started to realize that I didn’t actually like that look at all. My style started to emerge when I discovered that the images I most loved were the images that reflected who I am as a person. I’m outgoing, optimistic, and passionate, and that manifests itself in images that are vibrant, joyful, modern, and full of life. I think the more you can hone in on who YOU are as a person, and make sure your images reflect that, the more quickly you’ll find your true style and be a happier artist as a result.
Sophan Theam, Florida
It took me two whole years to finally find my photography style. I would constantly change the way I edited photos and would redo my entire online portfolio at least once a month until I finally got it right. What triggered my constant change of mind was the result of comparing my work to other photographers’ styles and feeling discouraged about it. After taking some time to contemplate, I decided that my work was going to be a reflection of my personality and the things I love. I am a country girl at heart. I love nature, the sky, the ocean, rolling hills of green luscious grass, and the look of airy clouds. My photographs are soft and romantic, dreamy and light, just as the ocean and skies are blue and bright. These are the things I absolutely love.
Jenni Jones, Texas
I struggled for some time to figure out who I was and what style represented that. I was all over the place for a while, then I worked on clean processing, and slowly I started finding a shooting and processing style that felt like home – and that was about a year and a half into my journey. But I don’t know how long it’ll feel like home. As I continue to grow and evolve in my work, I am comfortable with my style evolving as well.
Tara McGlinchey, New Jersey
Finding my style definitely took years for me. The first couple of years were spent working on the technical aspects of photography. The next couple of years were spent learning to apply these skills to bring out the best in my subjects under all sorts of circumstances. At that point I was able to relax more and focus on making stronger connections with my subjects. My style is happy, fun, light and love. Having relaxed clients is essential to achieving this.
Willie Kers, The Netherlands
My style has changed over the years and it is still changing. I guess It has to do something with growing older and hopefully a bit wiser. It depends also on the mood i’m in. I know now that when i have a very busy schedule, i make moodier images. That way i create some space in my head and give me some rest. When i don’t have a busy schedule, i feel that i am more drawn to colourful and airy images. My editing changes with my mood. There is one thing that never changes and that is that i want to see children in my images. That makes my heart sing and is definitely a huge part my style. No matter if my images are dark and moody or bright and airy.
Erin Bell, Connecticut
After going prop crazy for a few sessions and preset crazy for a few more- about a year into my photography journey in 2007 I found my style- the same style I still shoot today. I combined what I loved + what my clients seemed to love + foresight into the industry- trying to imagine what kind of images would stand the test of time. That recipe lead me to develop my modern classic style that I still love today.
Katy Regnier, California
It took me several years and unnecessary photoshop action addictions to realize that in reality my style has nothing at all to do with the way that I process my imagery. My style isn’t something that I learned or decided upon, it’s just the visual expression of the way that I see the world. I was only able to see myself in my work once I had practiced enough that I beat the technical issues out of my head. I have shot so many images that any physical manipulations of my camera are literally subconscious. When I pick up a camera I don’t have to think about how I am going to frame or expose my image, the camera is an extension of myself and my mind. My style is simply allowing others to view the world exactly as it looks my point of view.
Jessica Holden, California
I’m still not confident that I have a style, but I DO know what I like and what I want my work to show. I want it to be full of light and joy, luminescent. But I struggle with consistency in displaying one style across the board. My travel work is sharper and more “clean” than my portrait work, which tends to be softer and more processed, and I wonder if that is a bad thing. I don’t think that someone could look at an image and just KNOW it’s mine, and that makes me feel like I’m not “there” yet. But I am trying really hard to just sit back and enjoy the process of my style developing and evolving over time. I don’t think an artist (or her style) ever really stops evolving, just as you as a person never just stagnate. I am hoping that over time more consistency will emerge, and since I’m a hobbyist, I have the luxury of playing around without needing to be confined to the particular style a client hired me for.
Courtney Keim, New Jersey
i go back and forth with this so often. i feel like i have a style that ‘fits’ my clients and their ideal photo. then i have a style that i adore to have of my family and it reflects in the non-perfect emotion-based photos. i am still trying to find a happy medium between my style when shooting for business and family.
Rebecca Spencer, England
I’m a one subject shooter so I think I’ve had it a little easier when it comes to finding your style, most people seem to recognise my work as my little lad Theo is in pretty much every image. I am very inspired by the world around me and including the surrounding environment in my images is part of my style, I love the opportunities this gives me to try something a little new everytime I shoot. I am sure that if I lived in a different part of the world my style would evolve into something quite different.
Winnie Bruce, California
I think I’m still developing it, and I’m in my 4th year, so I’m still a baby in this career. I know what I want to achieve, but how to achieve it is still a challenge. I think as artists, we never really are fully satisfied with it, and it’s a great thing. We keep wanting to grow and develop. One thing that I am happy with is I have found my recipe for the light I want, and the framing I love. I have found my comfort zone, yet I am willing to move out of that to experiment and develop new points of views.
Thanks to our CMpros for sharing with us! Have a question of your own for our CMpros? Make sure to check out our “Ask the Pros” section of the CM photography forum!