When we look at photographs on the internet or in magazines and newspapers sometimes some photos instantly grab our attention. ‘Something different’ we say. In a world where millions of photographs, maybe more, are taken every year and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in terms of subject matter, editing styles, finding inspiration and so on. So, how do we stand out? The answer is in finding your own creative style.
Master the basics
One needs to learn how to walk before they can run. The basics are the foundation to photography. Before getting all philosophical and artsy about creative styles and everything else, a photographer needs to learn the basics like framing, composition, using a DSLR, depth of field, ISO, shutter speed, aperture etc. How does that help, one might ask. The simplest explanation is comparing a human being from the early 1980s and a human being from 2017 trying to do the same task on a smartphone. The person from the present will be able to do it much faster and efficiently- in fact the person can have more time to do the job at hand and also some other things in the stipulated time given. This means that if a photographer knows the basics of photography he or she can concentrate on the creativity, take more number of shots from different angles etc without having to guess the shutter speed, aperture and all. The basics should be on the edge of your fingertips, so that for all kinds of lights – be it natural, ambient or artificial set-ups, you can instantly guess the correct camera settings and start shooting right away. Photography being a mix of science and arts needs special attention and care, and mastering your basics will help you do just that!
Now that you have learned the basics well and can shoot without having to keep on calculating and guessing the exposure in the back of your mind try to go on the field and start shooting. Try out every genre and see which one attracts you. If you feel the need for different equipments for different genres then ask your friends for a lens that suits your needs. Don’t invest a lot of money to shoot one genre before trying out everything as you might lose interest in the genre after a little while. Once you have extensively shot for all genres, and known the genres in and out you, can make a decision then. When you start feeling good about a genre, start getting involved in it. Learn about it, work on it. For example, if you feel you feel good shooting wedding photos then start shooting for weddings professionally. Intern from a well-known and experienced photographer in the field. It is the best and also the fastest way to learn from the best.
Analyse your image
Just as shooting an image is important, analysing the shots later on is important too. Make sure you do not chimp while you shoot as there is a high possibility that you will miss out on a few frames. Analyse your images and look for mistakes. Look at the composition, the framing, the exposure, the moment and try to ask yourself how you could’ve made it better and made the photograph stronger. Do not just analyse if the image is good or bad. Go into the details and try to understand how it would have been better. From imagining adding foregrounds or a different background, to considering a shallower depth of field or changing the angle. Learning from your own mistake is the best way to learn. Remember that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from it. You can only analyse your images if you know the basics well. You can always break the basic rules of composition as long as you can justify it with a valid reason. Try to work on a series of photographs and test yourself. Shooting single images is good but shooting a photo essay will improve your storytelling. See if your content is strong or not, try to find extremes. For example if you are doing a story on the visually impaired, find an interesting angle like the village in Maharashtra where a large percentage of the population is visually impaired. Since photographs are a visual medium it is always best to find extremes.
Find your inspiration
Many great people have worked hard in every field and have set examples for people to follow. Photography has also seen some forefathers who have paved the way for people to follow. Finding an inspiration is a good way to not lose hope when, at one point in your life, you will face a creative block. Look at photos in your genre of interest which are shot by masters. Try to look at their composition, their framing and their ‘treatment’ of the image so to speak. In the age of the internet it is extremely important that you surf the web and see what other photographers in the genre are doing – both so that you can get inspired by them as well as you know what other styles contemporary photographers have adopted. Do not try and imitate them as you will just become a clone of the photographer. Try to draw inspiration and make your own style. We will talk about what a ‘style’ is in the next pointer.
Style of shooting
What fonts are to words is what style of shooting is to photographs. It does not necessarily affect the content of the photograph but makes it more appealing and adds a little bit of personal touch to them. Your style of shooting is what will separate you from the rest of the photographers. Emulating other people’s style is not going to work as your body of work will start resembling other photographs. Try to find your style of shooting – whether playing with colours is your thing, or playing with shapes, patterns, repeating a certain object or idea in every frame. Make it relatable so that the common people understand. Storytelling should be straightforward. If you want to be contemporary then try to be different in that as well. It’s fine if others are shooting staged portraits and you feel one of your stories require that. Keeping the base idea similar, it is okay as long as your approach and your final output is not eerily similar.
Style of editing
Another important aspect of finding your own style is the post processing. Professional photographers often employ other post processing professionals to edit their photographs. But for a beginner or a new professional who is just starting to find their own style of photography and discover the different aspects of it, post processing your own photographs become extremely important. Keeping the style and tone similar for all photographs can be beneficial in a sense that people who look at a photograph can associate you with it. It becomes like a signature, which is unique for everyone. Try playing with your photographs in Photoshop or any other editing software and see which editing style best suits you. The correct amount of shadow, highlight, mid-tones, contrast, offset etc in all your photographs will definitely create that signature that you were looking for!