Developing Your Photographic Style

Finding your personal photographic style is a critical endeavor for any serious photographer. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Finding your personal photographic style is a critical endeavor for any serious photographer. Two flashlights, 15 seconds @ f16, ISO 200, Canon 50mm Macro lens. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Do you have a photographic style? A unique way of looking at the world that results in photos that only you could take? How does one go about developing a photographic style?

This issue is at the heart of any serious photographer’s development. Over time, with work and then more work, your style will emerge. Here are some ideas you can use to help you focus on this core process.

Read lots of photo books.

Studying the work of accomplished photogaphers is an important part of any photographer's education. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Studying the work of accomplished photographers is an important part of any photographer's education. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Not so much the how-to books, but books by and about photographic artists. Not only will you learn how other mature photographers came about their way of working, you’ll also get plenty of inspiration to get out and shoot.

Go to art museums.

Art museums will open your eyes to all forms of creative expression. (Flickr photo by Ralph and Jenny)

Art museums will open your eyes to all forms of creative expression. (Flickr photo by Ralph and Jenny)

Not just to look at photography, but painting, sculpture, mixed media, etc. This will open your mind to all manner of creative expression and you’ll find it subtly rubbing off on your shooting.

Study a master photographer, in depth. Pick someone whose work you admire and learn all you can about that shooter. Research the background, education, show history (if they have one). Look at as much of their work as you can find. Try to see some of it up close in print form, if this is possible (you may have to search for it in local photo galleries, find out what museums might own pieces by the photographer, etc). The point here is to really try and identify how this photographer approaches what they do and how it translates into the images you find attractive. In the process of doing this, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your own photographic predilections.

Pick someone whose work you admire and learn all you can about that shooter….Look at as much of their work as you can find.

Now organize your own photography around themes.

Look for themes in your work, things that have been successful that you want to develop further. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Look for themes in your work, things that have been successful that you want to develop further. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Can you go back through your last year or two of shooting and come up with a few themes that stand out? Is it portraits or self portraits? Landscapes? Maybe some gritty HDR work you’ve done?  Whatever it is, look for areas where you feel like your shooting is strong. Try to edit these themes down to just a handful that seem to be working for you.

Now make some prints of your best dozen images.

Printing photographs, as opposed to simply taking them, is a commitment to that particular image. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Printing photographs, as opposed to simply taking them, is a commitment to that particular image. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

This part is hard! But I think it’s really important to go through this process. It helps if you have access to a decent printer, but even cheaper prints can serve this purpose. Alternatively, you can simply tone your images and collect them together in a folder on your computer, although I believe there are some interesting and profound things that happen when we get away from the computer screen and generate actual prints.

Once you have your dozen prints, find at least three photographers to show them to, in person. Buy them a cup of coffee and pull out your photos (or your laptop). Ask them to give you their honest opinion about your images. I promise that as hard as this may seem at first, having a few sit-down, face-to-face critiques can be a truly mind-expanding experience. You may discover things about yourself and your shooting that you didn’t even know as you see how others react to your work. Were there any reactions that your reviewers shared? Images that all of them liked particularly?

Now go out and pursue your strengths! This will require self-discipline if you want to improve, but hey, whoever said getting really good would be easy? Pick one of the areas you are strong in and come up with some self-assignments in that area. WRITE THEM DOWN. Make a list! Give yourself some type of deadline to get going on this new project. Hold yourself accountable!

Your style will emerge, with work. This will be a life-long process, one that will continue to change and grow as your work becomes more and more closely aligned with your own unique personality.

Good luck and happy shooting!

self portHi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Related articles on the web:

Your Photographic Style at YourPhotoTips

How to Establish a Personal Photographic Style at Luminous Landscape

A Few Thoughts on Photographic Style at Photofocus



Posted in: Inspire

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

11 Comments on "Developing Your Photographic Style"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. great read and very true. Developing your own style that distinguishes you is so important to developing yourself as a photographer so that people can eventually recognize your work by simply looking at it . Its definitely a tricky process though. It took me a while before I finally decided on the style I wanted for my work. It just takes expirementation and a little curiousity and eventually you’ll go with what suits you.

  2. Kelly B says:

    Great read but the bit about finding at least three photographers to show your work to isn’t that easy as I have found out they are either too busy or simply just not interested unless you pay THEM loads of money good idea though in theory.

  3. Nice tips. I believe that one way to be more creative is by exposing to other works of art. By trying to visit to galleries will give you more insight and inspiration to your work. Where in , every work came from an inspiration.

  4. I completely agree, Melissa. Photography is a branch of a larger art continuum, all linked together and relevant. Great comment!

  5. What a great read! I agree, it is important to find your own identity in photography. With a zillion photographers in the market these days, being known for a certain style can definitely win you lots of new, as well as loyal, clients.

  6. Really great post about finding your own style, as this seems to be one of the hardest things for photographers to do. I see lots of copy cats out there but very rarely see something that I say, “that is unique”. Do you think that digital photography has helped people to create there own style more ofter or just spawned more copy cats?

  7. I think digital has dramatically shortened the learning curve for a basic photographic skillset. Beyond that, it still takes years of shooting to develop a personal style.

Post a Comment