I’ve been a photographer for most of my life. As a kid, I had a family member who was very into cameras and photography, and she put cameras in my hands even as a baby. As a teenager, I was gifted a hand-me-down film camera and the curiosity took over. I wanted to learn everything I could about the camera, the film, and how it became photos.
I fiddled with that film camera and different types of film; just trying to teach myself how to use it all. At that point, I hadn’t developed much of a style, but most of my effort went into just figuring it out.
Throughout the learning, I was also learning about my own style. I had phases of just trying to blend in with other photographers that I admired. I researched styles and portrait looks, and tried to duplicate what I liked. At times, I was paid to do exactly what I was told – shoot a sporting event, and get what the editor wanted. Within those boundaries, I was gradually coming into my own style.
Photography styles are so diverse and unique; with each set of eyes behind a camera having a unique way of seeing a scene. My wife is also a photographer, and we frequently find ourselves aiming our cameras in the same direction towards a scene, but we come out with two totally different photographs. Despite looking at the same scene we will see it in two totally different ways.
As a developing photographer, I was happy to blend in and try to just make what I liked. As I learned and grew I wanted to evolve my style to be something unique to me. I went through phases – at times liking dark, moody photos, at other times liking bright, airy style. Shooting film has especially let me see things in the style of the film I’m shooting. For instance, Ektar is for bright, high-contrast outcomes. Portra is for more muted, soft looks. Black and white is a different look altogether and can be adjusted with filters and lighting, each changing the style of the photo.
It’s interesting to look back over several years of photographs and see how the looks have changed, within my own portfolio. From learning, to getting comfortable, to exploring different films, to present day… my own styles have shifted over time. Embracing those changes is part of growing as a photographer! I might laugh at some of the photos I thought were my best work even ten years ago, but appreciating those photos that may be horrible to me now is part of growing as an artist.
While I’m more settled my own styles now, it’s still important to push for growth and new ways of seeing things. Perhaps trying different film, or adding filters, or just editing photos a little differently. It might by trying new angles, different lighting, or just trying to see the world around me in a different way. Get closer, get lower, go higher, back up… little adjustments that give a new idea. Styles change, without a doubt, and for me, part of staying excited about photography, is also staying fresh and finding ways to photograph things uniquely and with my own signature.
There are so many niches within photography – macro, landscape, portraits, journalistic, abstract, and more! Trying out these different niches is a great way to learn, and to discover your own personal approach to photography. Sometimes, going through phases – maybe macro flowers in the springtime are just the most exciting thing, but when winter comes, and the flowers go… so trying something new, with the changing seasons, can be a great opportunity to develop new skills and new vision.
Most importantly, learn to appreciate the seasons of life, and the changes that your art may go through. It’s a natural path, and often presents an opportunity to see the world in a new and different way!