There are many forms that make up a personal style in photography. It could be the gear you use, the type of light, your post processing or film. Your style could be determined by the stories you are trying to tell, the philosophy behind your work, concept or message. These are a few of the things that can contribute to a unique style. But are you deliberate with your style? Do you go out of your way to get a consistent look with your photography?
I’ve been reading many books focusing on ‘practice’. From books like ‘Peak’, ‘So good they can’t ignore you’, ‘Grit’ among many more. They all touch on the subject of deliberate practice. This idea that to improve you must have a simple goal like enhancing your composition. Study and practice until it becomes automatic is the wrong way to learn something they say when it comes to developing your styles beyond the norm. The 10,000 hours of practice is not exactly true. You need to break elements down even more, like what composition specifically as an example. The authors suggest asking questions like, why aren’t you good at it now? How can it be improved? Is there a better way to approach the task? What am I missing? The list goes on, but the starting point is to analyse what you already now and improve yourself.
Deliberate practice is really just having specific goals that you can improve on to later achieve a larger goal, like becoming a master at black and white composition. But the books I have read suggest that you must do this consistently over a period of years or lifetime. Never letting yourself do it automatically, that you must deliberately think and improve on your previous achievements. So can you implement this method of deliberate practice to find your own unique style? The answer is yes!
A starting point is to find artists or influencers that inspire you. Ask yourself why you are drawn to these individuals. Try and break down their work to find specific elements that you like. Now take one of those elements and apply it to your practice. Do this till it becomes second nature, then add another element, and so on and so forth. Simple to say, hard to do. This is one of the methods I used to develop my own photographic style.
To give you a better example for developing a style I will use myself as an example. I was always drawn to monochrome photographers, so I chose to adopt this look into my style using only black and white photos. I loved the single camera setups from artists I was influenced by. So I implemented this and now only use one camera body and lens for a consistent feel and look to my images. I also loved how the photographers I was inspired by used natural light so I forced myself to only use available lighting. To get a consistent look during the editing process I photograph using Kodak Tri-X 400, be it film or a preset. These are some of the limitations that make up my style.
What I’m saying is you can have a deliberate style, all it takes are small goals that lead to a greater achievements and aspirations. Just be deliberate with every capture, never go into autopilot and you will get to your destination faster. I love to know what specific elements or limitations make up your photographic style?
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