Creating a cohesive photography style
this post I wrote not too long ago - one of the replies I got was from Giulia, asking me how I managed to get all my photos look similar. First of all, thanks so much for saying that, Giulia!
It’s always hard for a photographer (or probably any kind of artist) to see cohesiveness and a certain style in their own work, but it’s definitely something we all strive for.
So, when I first thought about it I had a bit of a hard time figuring out what it might be that makes someone’s photos look similar, and what you can actually do to create a cohesive style.
What helped was thinking about all the years I have been photographing for, and the process I go through when taking photos.
When I think back now, three years ago, or even one year ago, I sometimes cringe at the kind of photos I took, or the way I edited them. It’s a bit like the phases you go through during your teenage years - did you have that time when you only wore black clothes, loved skulls, had belts with rivets, and wanted to dye your hair black? I certainly did ;) (And I’m glad I never dyed my hair black btw).
So, think of it the same way in photography. You have to ‘grow up’ first, and in order to get to the point where you feel like you’ve discovered yourself and what you like, you have to go through different phases. You’ll experiment, imitate other people’s style, try something new, etc.
As I said, I went through exactly the same. And in fact I believe I am still going through this, just in a different way. I’m sure that this will be an ongoing process, as we find inspiration in so many things and people, we’re constantly exposed to new visuals that influence us and our style, we’re evolving, and we always want to improve.
The second thing is the process you go through when taking photos. And just as developing your own style (what I just talked about) takes time, this one does, too. It takes patience and a lot of learning to perfect your production process.
Here’s an example: In the very beginning of my photography journey I only shot JPEGs. When I did my internship at a photography studio I learned about RAW, and have been shooting in RAW format ever since. I used to only save my photos as JPEGs after editing. Again, that changed and I now save them as TIFFs or PSDs (and then later JPEG for web use). I had to figure out a system of filing my photos - that took time, too. And I never renamed my photos and had a bunch of images called ‘IMG_1234’. I didn’t use to keyword my pictures until not too long ago, either. And then of course there’s the part where you have to fill in the metadata (copyright etc.).
And again, I’m sure this journey of learning and refining your process will never end. Which is good, as it means we’ll keep challenging ourselves and we’re constantly improving.
Now, of course the process I just described is quite technical and hasn’t got anything to do with the style of your photos, it seems. It does though - just as you have to learn how to properly file your images, you’ll have to be patient and learn about your camera, learn what perspectives, what visual techniques you love applying (even if subconsciously), and find a way of editing your photos that you like. As you become more confident with the technical aspects of photography and your post-processing, you’ll also become more confident and conscious of what your style looks like.
I can’t quite pinpoint what I do when I take photos - it just comes naturally to me. I see things the way I see them, and capture them in a way that feels right to me. That’s why it’s so interesting to see different people’s view on things, and what attracts their attention. It’s different for everyone.
When I edit my photos I usually adjust the exposure, white balance, contrast, and colours. With that said, I stay flexible and just do what makes each photo look best in my opinion.
I know this might not be the perfect, quick and easy guide to ‘creating a cohesive style’. That’s because I believe this perfect guide doesn’t exist. I do hope though, that this post gave you an insight into the learning process of a photographer, and encourage you to keep going, and over all to keep taking photos - because that’s the only way of learning really. You have to practise. (If you do want a few more on-hand ideas though, have a look at this post and this one).
And you should also know that I’m never totally satisfied with my photos, I always feel like I’m not quite ‘there’ yet, something’s missing, or I just don’t like my pictures as much as I like other people’s work. And I doubt the people I look up to are 100% happy with their work. I guess this is natural, so don’t stress out or worry if you’re feeling the same. You’ll always get closer, and the best thing you can do is to stay ambitious, keep learning and challenge yourself.
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