On Style: Personal Take
This morning I followed a link on Twitter to a website devoted (supposedly) to helping photographers learn to be better photographers. The name of the post was something along the lines of “12 Super Awesome Ways to Make Epic Images” or something similar – and no, I am not going to link to that post.
Because it was terrible. The advice was terrible. The instruction was terrible, and the examples were – even worse.
So I decided to go at it with a snarky post about how we now have people who are actually not good at something teaching others to be not good at it as well.
But I thought about it again, and decided instead to talk about something more positive.
It just seems better to me.
I have been struggling with my work for a while now. I want to do something different.
I can see what I want through a mist sort of. I work on writing it out (journals are lovely to work with) and I keep shooting. I need to shoot more, but I have dedicated a lot of time this Fall for creating new images and just being behind the camera.
In search of a style? Not really… more like in search for personal inspiration that allows the style to be revealed.
Because that is how I believe style happens with a photographer… it is revealed while making photographs. No book, audio, PDF, class, podcast or best buddy with a case of Corona can reveal it. It flows from photographs.
It is revealed with choices.
BigAss choices like what you photograph.
Big choices like how you light it.
Choices like composition and color.
Subtle choices like cropping, POV, angles and details that are personal and small and oh-so-important.
So I have been shooting and writing and journaling. A trip to West coast, a trip to the East coast, a trip to Midwest and a trip to the Pac Northwest coming up. Lots of new shots.
Lots of stuff I don’t like.
And some stuff I do like… a lot.
Surprising images and safe images and pretty images and challenging images.
I wanted more. I still want more.
But it is a process. A process that is both disappointing and exhilarating.
I am seeing some things that I can tie together, making more of a ‘body of work’ instead of disparate imagery, and I can feel something emerging that is a mix of my old work, current work and the new, shiny, cool and still ethereal work that I can sort of see in the distance.
There are many ways to find the style and lighting and post production mix that gives you images that please your eye, and make you want to do more of them.
Finding that mix can be a journey of discovery, or simply recognizing you are there.
It shouldn’t be a difficult journey, but an exciting one.
It shouldn’t cause angst, but instead create joy.
It should reveal itself with a self confidence that overwhelms all feeling of inadequacy (inadequacy is also known as “photographer” too often in our own minds,)
You should love doing the work, and when you find that moment when it all starts to come together, let it. Let it come together.
Get the hell out of your own way, and let it all come together. Turn off the voices of doubt, fear and concern over what some guy on 500PX will say.
Don’t think it to death.
Don’t question it to oblivion.
Don’t let it be trashed by people who shoot their laundry and kitties.
Don’t second guess it by how many Flickr comments you got.
Then defend the work. First to yourself, then to others by simply showing it. When challenged, and you will be, you will know if you love your work by simply feeling it to be right in spite of the challenge. If the challenge upends your world, maybe you were shooting for someone else instead of yourself.
No one can please every one. No. One.
When you hit on that stylistic approach that makes you like looking at your own images, then you may have arrived at a small plateau. Plateaus are simply resting places before the next climb.
And you can also get some kudos from peers and fans and others.
Don’t bask in it and think you have ‘arrived’.
Just smile and accept it and keep doing more of it.
Keep shooting the images you want to see.
Tolkien wrote books that he wanted to read.
Take photographs you want to look at.