Developing Consistency and Style in Photography

If you are just starting out in photography, and you are like I was, you just want to photograph everything. You want to photograph your kids, your dog, your yard and everything around you. You will soon find yourself taking photos of your food and maybe try to get your first wildlife photos. As you add new lenses to your kit, you will try other styles and types of photography. And then the day will come when you will start using light modifiers such as reflectors and off camera flash. I was amazed at how much better my photos of people looked using bounced or off camera flash. And if you continue in photography there is no doubt you are going to start viewing and reading tutorials on all kinds of photography – tutorials on portrait photography, landscape photography, food photography, wildlife photography etc. There are endless tutorials on techniques and genres of photography and if you are like me, eventually you will start to gravitate towards a couple of types of photography. For a while, I got into wildlife photography. I have hundreds of photos of wildlife. Then I took a real interest in food photography. I took photos of everything I cooked. Then for a while I got into sports photography.
Now this might not happen to you but at one point I decided that I would like to specialize in one type of photography. I wanted to become known for a particular genre of photography. I wanted people to say, Oh yeah, Steve Perry that portrait photographer or that food photographer.” Now in my case, I decided that I wanted to specialize in headshots and fine art portraits. Does that mean I won’t take photographs of anything else? Of course not but it does mean that most of my time will be spent on learning about portrait photography.
Now if you are going to specialize that means reading books, watching tutorials, maybe taking an online course or two, attending a few live workshops and studying the works of other photographers. And if you are going to specialize that means you are going to want to achieve consistent results and develop a consistent, identifiable style. But how do you develop a style let alone a consistent style?
I read a book recently by Glyn Dewis called, Photograph Like a Thief: Using Imitation and Inspiration to Create Great Images. “In Photograph Like a Thief, photographer, author, and retoucher Glyn Dewis embraces the idea of “stealing” and recreating others’ work in order to improve as an artist. By stepping inside others’ images, you can learn to reverse engineer their creation, then build an image that simultaneously pays homage to that work and is also an original creation itself.” (Amazon) Dewis states, “When I talk about “copying” the work of others, I’m talking about figuring out what it is you like about the artwork and photographs you’re drawn to and trying to incorporate those elements into your own work to make something new—photographing like a thief.” (Dewis, Glyn. Photograph Like a Thief: Using Imitation and Inspiration to Create Great Images (p. 7). Rocky Nook. Kindle Edition.)
In my own development as a portrait photographer I have studied and looked at the work of Glyn Dewis, Joel Grimes, Peter Hurley, Yousuf Karsh, Dan Winters, Annie Leibovits, Mark Seliger, Joe McNally etc. I also follow quite a few headshot and portrait photographers on Facebook and Instagram. I have looked at the lighting setups, and looked at the post development techniques of many of these artists and how they achieve their final image. As I work on my portraits, I am slowly starting to develop a consistent style for my fine art portraits and my headshots. There is no doubt that from my portraits you can identify the artists that have influenced me the most. And as I grow and develop as an artist I am sure that my style will evolve as I learn new techniques and get new equipment.
I believe consistency in style is important no matter what type of photography you do. Robert de Wit in his online article “So you need a new headshot…” lists consistency as one of the factors to consider when looking for a headshot photographer. “Is the portfolio consistent? If not, what exactly are you buying? Look for a consistent look and feel between all the images – look at skin tones, how the person is framed, how close you are to the person and how the person is lit. You are looking for a clear consistent sense of the product.” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/so-you-need-new-headshot-robert-de-wit/)
So if you are starting out and want to get more serious about your photography, decide on the type of photography that interests you, and work on developing a consistent and identifiable style that will represent you as an artist. Feel free to leave your comments below.

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