Friday, October 03, 2014

Personal Styles: Creation or Evolution?

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Photographers sometimes talk about personal styles and the importance of developing a personal style, one that is somewhat identifiable, unique or individualistic to various degrees. I've mentioned this as well, a number of times... you know, for the benefit of newer (new-ish?) photographers.

I'm sometimes told I have a recognizable personal style.  I posted the triptych of the model above on a photography forum this morning and someone, almost immediately, mentioned how those three images are *so* Jimmy's style.

I'm occasionally perplexed by comments like that because I don't think about my personal style much, whatever it might be, nor do I recognize it as being particularly unique to me. It just is. (Is what it is, that is.)  I never went out of my way to develop it that I'm aware of. There was no develop a personal style strategy I undertook earlier in my career. Like most everyone's personal styles, mine has been heavily influenced by other photographers' works and styles. We all tend to mimic what we like whether we're consciously aware we're mimicking or not. Perhaps "mimic" isn't the right or best word to describe the process? How about words like moved, shaped, or swayed?

For most photographers, personal styles aren't stylistically static. Rather, they're dynamic. I believe, for just about everyone, personal styles change via an ever-evolving process. (Even if that evolutionary process is slow and barely noticeable over the short term.) Whatever my personal style might have been a decade ago, it's not my personal style today. There are probably elements of my former personal style still found in my current style but, overall, my current style has changed evolved. I'm guessing ten years from now my personal style will be different, changed, and evolved as well. I won't set out to make my style different, leastwise I don't believe I will, but it will likely be different nonetheless. Same holds true, I'm pretty sure, for most shooters.

I'm pretty sure, for the most part, personal styles change rather slowly and not deliberately. I don't recall any sudden or abrupt changes to my personal style in the past, consciously undertaken or otherwise.  I definitely don't think I've ever had a style epiphany of any sort. If I did, it was a sub-conscious epiphany... Wait. Do sub-conscious epiphanies count as actual epiphanies?  Probably not.

Unlike the evolution of species, I have no hard, scientific evidence to prove my theory about the evolution of personal styles.  I am, however, convinced that I'm correct in my evolution of personal styles assumptions and observations. That's right, I believe personal styles are evolutionary rather than the product of some creationism process.  I also believe personal styles evolve as a result of natural selection of small and cumulative variations that increase a photographer's ability to compete, survive, thrive, and excel in their chosen shooting environments, businesses, or most-often-pursued genres. You know, much like that other evolution some people argue and fight talk about.

Does that make me the Charles Darwin of personal photographic styles theories?


So, what kinds of things make up a photographer's personal style?  Oh my! (®George Takei) There are so many factors involved. Here's a few of them, certainly not all, just a few and just the big ones:

Lighting: Preferred or often-employed lighting techniques can be a huge component of many photographers' personal styles. I think it's a fairly major component of my personal style, leastwise when I'm shooting pretty girls as well as other sorts of portraits.

Composition:  Again, this is one that's often a big part of most photographers' personal styles, mine included. I tend to compose images, via viewfinder framing, cropping, or a combination of both, in similar (and thus personally familiar) ways. You might do the same and it's likely you often do, even if you're not doing so consciously.

Poses, Expressions, Attitudes, and More: When it comes to glamour photography, make that portraiture in general, I have preferences, go-to poses, expressions, directorial attitudes and more that I often call on with my models. Because of that, I think the manner in which my models generally project themselves in my photos represents a big part of my personal style. (Coupled with their own personal modeling styles, of course.) Again, this is something that's probably the same for many of you whether you're aware of it or not. I'm probably aware of it because I think about this kind of stuff often, me being a photography blogger and eBook author in addition to a working photographer.

Shooting Environments, Wardrobe, Props, etc.: Many photographers have definite preferences when it comes to things like shooting environments, suggested or directed wardrobe, use of props and that sort of stuff. Example: Some photographers prefer shooting outdoors to shooting in studio or in interior locations and nearly all their work seems to reflect that preference.

There are certainly more components to our personal styles than those I've listed but I think I've covered the big ones, i.e., the most obvious and identifiable components of most photographer's personal styles.  By the way, you know how some shooters talk about shooting outside the box?  Well, in my estimation, the only boxes most of them are shooting outside of are their own personal boxes -- which may also represent their personal styles -- not some universal box or style which metaphorically represents an inhibiting box that encompasses all photography in general.

Here's another snap of model, Ash, featured in the triptych at the top. This one from later on in the same set after most of her wardrobe had somehow magically disappeared.

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