Finding your style and staying consistent is something so many of us photographers struggle with. For some, it comes quickly, and for the rest of us, it can be somewhat of a slower process or evolution. There are so many photography niches out there, so many editing styles, and it can be overwhelming. Here, I will tell you a bit about how I came to find my own style and some tips to help with consistency.
Finding your Style
I believe finding your style is a bit like finding yourself in this photography world. With social media, there are beautiful images EVERYWHERE. We can be so inspired to the point where we can become so distracted we lose ourselves. What works for one photographer, may not work for you because it is not YOU. I think the most important part of finding your style and staying consistent - is finding your passion. Once you find what you are most passionate about photographing, I truly believe your heart will shine through in every image you take. Because it came from your heart.
So how do you find your passion or unique style? When I was going through a sort of “who am I?” phase, I got some great advice from a photographer friend of mine. She suggested I go through my own work and pick out my favorite images. Did they have anything in common? What stood out to me about those images? When I really sat down and picked apart my own work, I realized it were those small, tender moments of motherhood that I loved and that really moved me. I was also feeling burnt out at this time (photographer burn out is REAL). So to get through this hump, I did a motherhood model call. This model call changed everything for me and really catapulted my motherhood side of my photography business. It was the most tender and special session and played the biggest role in figuring out who I am as a photographer and where I want my business to go. It was about this exact time I picked up a film camera, and truly found my calling in this photography world. And confession, this was 9 years after I picked up my first DSLR, and 4 years after I started my business. My style was always there, but it took me years to truly develop and let my passion shine through.
Once I made this discovery about what I was truly passionate about, everything kind of came together. I wasn’t letting what I was seeing all over social media dictate the kind of photographs I took. I was shooting from the heart. I was shooting what I would want to remember as a mother myself. And I was shooting for feeling.
So once you find out what you are truly passionate about, what comes next? How do you keep your work looking consistent? Location & lighting, tones, gear, and editing all come into play here.
I consider myself a light and airy photographer. I love and get inspired by beautiful light and seek it out in every location I find myself shooting in. I love backlighting my subjects and creating this heavenly, dreamy glow around them. By shooting with light in a particular way, this helps keep my work looking consistent. Light is so important in creating your style. Because I love an abundance of light (maybe too much for some :) ), I try to only shoot in locations that will allow me to have this type of light. The background of your images really makes such a huge difference in the overall look and feel of your images. I want my images to portray a happy, dreamlike feeling, If I’m shooting in front of a dense line of trees, my background will be dark and my image will take on a whole other look than what I was going for. Since my style is bright and airy, I’ll stay in large, open areas, with lots of sky in my images. Or, I’ll look for a little bit of open shade with the bright sun filtered by a few layers of leaves to create some dreamy, light filled bokeh. It’s all about keeping a certain aesthetic with the light and background!
Gear is not necessarily the most important thing to consider when finding your style, but I believe it does make a difference in keeping a consistent style. I shoot both film and digital, but I shoot primarily with 1 focal length - 50mm, both indoors and out. That is just the length I prefer and am the most comfortable shooting with. I believe by shooting with solely a 50mm lens, my style remains consistent image to image.
And sometimes, it just takes a certain camera/lens to really ignite your passion and help find your style. When I picked up my Contax 645 about 2 years ago, that did it for me. That was my aha moment. I always knew what I wanted my images to look like, and film made it so much easier for me to create those images. Film has so much depth and handles light so beautifully, but also just has such a dreamy quality. I wanted my images to stir up emotions and feelings by the viewer, and film just has a way of doing that.
I feel like so many of us struggle with editing and go through editing crises all of the time. By jumping from preset to preset, our work will not be consistent. I can’t even tell you how many presets I bought before I found a set that looked like “me.” And once I found those, I stuck with it. For years now, I have used Refined presets, which are film inspired presets. Before I shot film I used them, and now I use them to match my film effortlessly. By sticking with one preset, my work will remain consistent.
I want my clients to feel their most beautiful, authentic selves in front of my camera. The images I create are 100% for them and them only. They aren’t to fill my portfolio or make up my instagram feed. The photos are their family heirlooms and that is so important to remember. With that being said, I do tend to attract clients with the same certain aesthetic as myself or ones that are drawn to the particular look you can find in my portfolio. Like I mentioned previously, my images are bright and airy and I’m drawn to soft, tender moments,. Wardrobe and tones do play a large part in the overall feel of an image, and the soft tones you see in my images help convey those feelings even more so. I have always been drawn to soft pastels and neutrals, pretty florals, and light texture, and that is what you can find in my client wardrobe which I offer to all of my clients. By sticking to that same tonal palette throughout my work, my style stays consistent from image to image. Not only do the colors stay consistent, but the tender feelings do, too, naturally.