You've Got Style!

November 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

HondaHonda     Not very long ago, I spent a lot of time worrying about what my photographic "style" was going to be. It's critical to have a "look" that sets your pictures apart. Ideally, someone should see one of your photos and think, "Oh.. that's one of so-and-so's photos".

    I know a few great photographers whose photos I can look at and take a reasonable guess at who took them. Of course, creatives often step out of their "norm" so my guess isn't always correct. Since they're amazing artists, even then their work is usually appealing. But, overall, you can see it. I know a photographer (or two) whose style I absolutely don't like.. at all. Even for them, it holds true that I can see their photo and know who took it.

    I bought a ton of Lightroom presets (think.. Instagram filters) and went through them looking for "my style". I'm not exaggerating when I say I have, perhaps, 6000 presets. At some point, the difference between them becomes just the slightest tweak. But, out of six thousand presets, I did find 8 or so that I really like. Presets help me get out of my post-processing comfort zone. They give me a look that I may not have gotten to if I were tweaking my own settings. They're like borrowing a friend's shirt. Something you wouldn't wear normally but that looks good on you. Of course, none of these were "my" style. They were someone else's. For that matter, many of these may be a style that even the preset creator doesn't really use. Of the eight or so presets that I found, even they only worked on certain photos.. often only one. I decided that I would just use the presets as stepping stones. A starting point. I'd make my own tweaks to them and find my style.

    My photos themselves tended to fall within certain styles, usually varying by whether I was shooting motorcycles or scenery or what have you. There are elements and angles that I look for every time.

    One day, I was editing a stack of photos and it occurred to me that it was pretty monotonous. There are many, many options that I can tweak like color saturation, vignette, sharpness, etc. It's a long list. The combinations just might be infinite but I only usually touch a small handful of them on every photo I post-process. I hardly ever make drastic changes. Often, I try to make changes so small that it's almost a "feel" more than a "see".  That's something I learned from mixing down music. In music, if you can "hear" an effect, it's too much. (Of course, that's not that case if you're making dramatic changes for artistic effect like cranking up the auto-tune.) I tend to think the same thing about photos. Doesn't it make you crazy when you see a portrait and the skin is SO smoothed out there there's no texture at all? I'm good with smoothing. But I want skin to look like skin. Not like it's a swath of color painted on with a pain program. So I try to keep my changes subtle. But I digress.. as I was going through my list of "standard" tweaks and thinking, "Man, I'm always doing nearly the same thing on every photo", it dawned on me that I have a style. My style is in what I shoot, how I shoot and how I process the final look and feel of the photos.

    That might be another life lesson. A lot of people are searching for their style in a lot of areas of life. I know it's pretty common in the biker world that people think their style is the motorcycle they ride or the clothes they wear. One's image becomes something that can be put on in the morning or paid for with a credit card. Since we're all people, I'd think it's likely that there are plenty of other examples out there. But when it's all said and done, your style may be about what you do, but it's what you do because of who you are and how you see the world. Our style is easier to find if we bring us to the table. Being ourselves is also what makes us completely unique. Be you.. and you're likely to find that the rest is already in place.


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