‘Finding your own style, your own unique voice’ – I remember hearing about it a lot. Starting out as a photographer, I followed many workshops, courses, podcasts, you name it, and many of them briefly touched this subject. They told me it was important to find my own style, to carry out uniqueness and to make sure my ideal client would fall in love with my work in a heartbeat. How to reach that point however, remained unclear to me. And I get why. It’s one of the hardest things to achieve as a photographer, let alone teaching it. In this blog, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how I find my voice, my style in photography.
I started photographing about 6 years ago. Not with the intention of making a career out of it, just for fun. I soon noticed how I really liked photographing people and when my photography became (just a bit) more serious, fashion photography caught my eye. I had fun, learned a lot but also came to the conclusion that the fashion world wasn’t for me. In the mean time, some wedding photographers caught my eye. Fine art wedding photographers they would call themselves, and they made wedding pictures in a way I hadn’t seen before up to that point. Romantic, bright, non-cliche and oh so beautiful.
My first steps as a wedding photographer were mostly as a second shooter. After I felt like I knew what I was doing, I went on and photographed 6 weddings on my own the first year. Marketed myself as a wedding photographer and found myself photographing 35 the next year. The time in between season was dedicated to developing myself as an entrepreneur and photographer and the journey to my own style began.
And let’s be honest, especially in those first years, I was constantly looking at other photographers wondering how I could make my work like theirs. I searched for ‘Style me Pretty’-like perfection, photographed bright and airy, searched Pinterest for posing inspiration and basically wanted my work to look like that from somebody else. And when that didn’t happen, I felt lost at sometimes. Wondering if I were good enough, if my work would ever be good enough.
It wasn’t until I looked within myself for my style that (in my eyes) my work became good. I decided to not play by the rules that I had made up in my head, but really create something that was me. That resonated with who I was, or am. Film became my preferred medium, but only in combination with digital to get the most out of every shot. My style became less bright, more colorful and I focused more on storytelling instead of only ‘styled / pretty’ pictures. I came back to what it is all about: capturing someone’s story, capturing one of the most beautiful days in someones life and doing so with an artistic point of view.
How this happened? It takes time honestly. And my style will keep growing as long as I’ll photograph. But I do believe there are some things you can do to help the process along. A few of the things I (try to) do are:
- Finding inspiration outside of my field of photography: fashion, landscape, conceptual, basically everything I can get my eyes on ;-).
- Finding inspiration even outside of photography: in paintings, poems, books, movies, music. Feed that artistic soul you guys!
- Creating free work, the perfect time to experiment and make things close to your heart.
- Visualize: before a shoot, I visualize what it is going to be like. Even if I don’t know the venue, I imagine what it could be like, which story I want to tell and which poses would work.
- Dare to reflect: maybe on your own, or better yet with other photographers. Some of the most valuable realizations about my style came from a portfolio review during a workshop. Things that were hard to hear during the review, turned out to be the biggest things I could work on within my photography.
This blogpost is not intended to make you feel like there’s something you really need to do about your style, it’s also not about telling you how I got it all together. Trust me, I know there’s so much I still need to learn. It’s just about celebrating uniqueness in our photographs, and maybe to find some encouragement, tips, incentives to keep developing yourself as a photographer. Because being happy with your own work is something we all deserve.
PS: Are you a Dutch Photographer?
As you may have noticed, I love sharing ideas and knowledge about this subject and a lot of other things. In May, I will be hosting my first ‘Find Your Voice’ workshop with Wianda Bongen. Click here to read all about it.