Your Own Unique Style

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I got an email the other day asking me my opinion about how photographers find their own unique style of photography. Does one happen upon it eventually, perhaps even unknowingly after a certain amount of time behind the camera, or should one have a vision in mind and work to achieve it?

It’s a really good question, one that has come up a number of times, and although I don’t think there’s any tried-and-true way to approach it, I do have my suspicions. I know that over the years I’ve gone in and out of phases with my own work. I’ve seen my own preferences and personal tendencies ebb and flow like a creative tide. I’ve been both thrilled by my work and terribly disappointed by it. That’s only natural. But one thing is for sure: I absolutely, positively know that my most favorite images are those that come from shooting what I really and truly love.

Allowing yourself to shoot whatever moves you, regardless of the reason or the outcome, can help you to focus on what your true photographic passions are. You can feel when it’s right, when you lose yourself in your art. And, most likely, your photographs will reflect that undeniable feeling of shooting your bliss. I’ve found this to be true in my own work.

And, yet, if I really thought it was that simple, I’d just tell you to shoot what you love, and the rest will follow. I know from years of doing this for both a profession and a hobby, it’s not always that easy. Being an artist of any kind takes more than just passion. Even amid great satisfaction and unspeakable joy, there are nerves and frustrations, disappointments and self-doubts to battle.

Being a photographer takes time, energy, perseverance, patience and an internal force that drives you to want to keep going, keep challenging yourself, keep learning and keep expressing your own point of view. That stuff never goes away, and it can be very trying.

But, when we get down, we get back up again. We move from wanting to throw in the towel to using that towel to dust ourselves and our lenses off and return to shooting again, even when we feel uninspired or disheartened. We love what we do. We couldn’t stop even if we tried. It’s that kind of determination that, along with our passion, can keep us capturing the kinds of images that matter to us and the kind that are ours alone.

When you’re in your "photo-groove," you know it. And when what you get in return are the photographs that sing of what you absolutely, without a doubt love to do, you can’t hide it. That’s when you see your imagery shine, and that’s when you notice your own photographic uniqueness emerge.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Recognize Your Style
Your photographic style is more than merely your favorite subject matter. Observing how you use these five elements in your images will help you identify what sets your work apart.

1.?Perspective. Do you see a particular angle or unique point of view that you often use in your work? How do you most commonly see and capture your subject?

2.?Composition. Take a look at your entire frame. Do you tend to fill it with information? Color? Texture? Negative space? There may be a common thread between your images.

3.?Approach. Are you most likely going to use a wide-angle lens to create your photographs? Or maybe you prefer a macro? The tools you choose most will help dictate the look of your work.

4.?Lighting. Do you illuminate your subject with natural light or artificial? Flat light or modeled? Your lighting techniques can bring a cohesive feel to your body of work.

5.?Processing. Digital images can be creatively transformed and enhanced within the digital darkroom. Chances are that you process much of your work in an identifiable way. Paying attention to the end result, you may begin to recognize that certain style that makes your images uniquely yours.

SHUTTER SISTERS is a collaborative photo blog ( and a thriving community of women, passionate about photography. Shutter Sisters has a new book available, Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart. Photographer/writer Tracey Clark is the founder of the blog and co-author and editor of the book.

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