What is style? Why do I talk about it so much? And how do you get it?
Style is universal to me. As a photographer it doesn’t matter what camera I use, what film or what post production product I use. Regardless of the tools I use I like to think that my work looks like my work. I was talking to a photographer about gear, their choice of conversation not mine, and they were talking about the “best” cameras out there. I will steal a line from Helmut Newton, the best camera for the job is the one in my hands. People are so fixated on the technical side of the camera that they forget who is making the image and what the image is about.
To me, style is the absolute most important thing a photographer should have. If I look at work of famous photographers I can pick out an Ellen von Unwerth photo immediately. If Terry Richardson shoots a magazine cover I can spot it on the magazine rack at the bookstore. I went to Photo LA and could spot the Horst right away same with the Helmut Newton images, some which I had never seen before! Their styles precede them.
There are some photographers who talk about style but honestly have no clue as to what it is. Or they think they know but it’s honestly just some basic technical stuff as to how they shoot rather than why. I could say I shoot with this lens and this aperture all the time but that doesn’t make it a style, it makes it a technique and these are two different things. So how to develop a style, I always say practice and never pat yourself on the back or be satisfied with your work. Keep pushing to do better and honestly critique your own work.
Also, take away the technical aspect of photography when you look at your work. If you are a professional photographer, or even someone who is looking to have photos taken of themselves, don’t look at the image and say “oh, well it is exposed properly so it must be good” exposure is easy. Look at the mood, what are the images saying to you? Do they draw you in or are they just pretty pictures? What do they do for you and how do they make you feel?
These are the things I look for when I create images. I care about my vision as a photographer and what type of mood I am trying to give with my work. So much emphasis is being put on equipment these days but nobody talks about the most important piece of equipment you can have. It is you, the maker of the image and your mind, your vision, your artistic impression. Without it you are just taking pictures, and I have always wanted to do more than just that.