What’s Your Photographic Style?

It’s not a highbrow subject, but this rustic sign made me laugh out loud. Shortcomings? We all have them. The owner of this sign has come to terms with her body image, and reveals she still wants to live large.


Self-Deprecating Rustic Sign

The persons who never bring up their flaws are simply ignoring a core part of their nature. If you want a chance of improving, the best way to start is to list your deficiencies or weaknesses. Then begin to work on that list. It works the same way with one’s photography.

Recently someone asked me to describe my photographic style. That’s a simple question, isn’t it?  The answer should be easy, especially if one wants to market his or her photographic services. Your style is already there. You need to excavate and discover it, so you can tell people what it is. 

If you don’t have an answer that resonates within you and makes you happy, then photographically speaking, it’s time to perform an audit of your work. By owning up to what you are creating, and figuring out what you want to be creating, you will identify the variables you need to fine tune, to close the gap and reach your goal.

Do you know your photographic style? Do you want to change it? How will you get there?The gap could be in needing more technical skills training, greater familiarity with your equipment, stepping out of what’s been comfortable or easy (or pleasing to others such as customers).  Have you figured out your image-making style, and know it when you see it, but have trouble putting to words what it is? Invest in some self-awareness and follow-up with artistic self-development. Open yourself up to vulnerability and constructive self-critique. Examine your personal work in a photographic audit.  

Carve out time to try this excercise:

  1. Select 20 recent images you have photographed and processed.
  2. Spread them out on a desktop (virtual or real).
  3. Turn them upside down. Squint your eyes while looking at them. Do any of them stand out as not “fitting” into the majority of others in the group? Are there compositional choices that stand out? Exposure settings that are outliers? Different subjects captured? Remove the outliers; we will come back to them later.
  4. What are the common threads among the choices that were similar? What emotions do they convey?
  5. Do you see a similar style, or components, or subject choices in the majority of them?
  6. What do these convey emotionally? What feelings do these depict? What words describe the feelings evoked? Try and list them.
  7. What are the visual components in the frame? What subjects or backgrounds were used? What words describe the elements in the image? Try and list them.
  8. Write a few sentences that articulate the sense and qualities of your photographs.
  9. Now go back to your separated outliers and perform on them steps 4 – 8. Were these images the ones you want to make more of? Or are they representations of images you are trying to move away from?
  10. Look at the words you used. A gulf between what you wanted to say and what you did say about your image style represents the area for your artistic, and hence, photographic development.
  11. Be your own change agent: get started to close the gap. Assign yourself a personal project  where you will meaningfully engage with the artistic cycle that is in constant evolution: DISCOVERY-> REALIZATION-> DEFINE-> REFINE->EXPERIMENT. Repeat.
  12. One brave step further would be to find others who are in the craft of photography and wish to perform a group audit,too. Take turns conducting steps 1-8 on each member’s selections.  Take notes on what the others share about your work. It could be illuminating and reveal facets about your work you hadn’t previously considered. You might hear that “one word” or idea concept that pinpoints or perfectly describes your style; and that was previously elusive and beyond reach on your own.

Knowing your style comes out of the ever-evolving artistic process. A personal photography project offers you the “sandbox” space where you can whittle down the gap of shortcomings. Naturally, it will give you an opportunity to create new images that can go into your portfolio: a curated reflection of your current, desirable photographic style.


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