What is your “style” in street photography? How can you make your work stand out? What makes your photos unique, and what do your photos say about you?
One of the things that I struggled for a long time was to find my “style” in street photography. And to be honest, I haven’t quite found my 100% unique vision (yet).
But ultimately, discovering your “style” in photography is discovering who you are as a human being. Your “style” is less about the aesthetics of your image (how your photos look), and more about what your photos say about you.
What do you find unique in the world?
How do you see the world uniquely from others? What are you trying to communicate through your photos?
What kind of statements are you trying to say about society and the world? Do you feel that when someone looks at your photos, they discover who you are as a person?
What kind of emotions do you share through your work? Do they show your outlook?
What do you decide to include in the frame, and what do you decide to exclude from the frame. Why?
A simple way to think about “style”
An easy way (if you’re starting off) to think about “style” in photography is to focus on the two things below:
- How your photos look (aesthetics)
- What you photograph (content)
In terms of how your photos look– it is whether you shoot consistently in color or black and white. Whether you shoot 35mm, digital, medium-format, or a smartphone. How your post-processing looks. The emotions you show through your photos through the aesthetics of your image.
For the content of your photo– it is about what you decide to photograph. This is especially important when you decide the content or subject-matter of your photos. This shows what interests you about life and the rest of the world.
When you have a consistent aesthetic combined with a project, people can easily identify your “style.”
Why is style important?
Honestly, I think “style” is a bit overrated in photography.
Why? Our style is constantly changing and evolving.
I feel a lot of photographers try to force themselves to have a signature style or “look.” They want to have an easily-identifiable style in order to gain more followers, to build more fame, get commercial deals, and sell more work.
However I think that focusing too much on your style in photography can hurt you. Rather, focus on what you are trying to say through your photos. And by focusing on making personally-meaningful photos, your style will speak for itself (rather than you trying to have a fancy artist’s statement).
Stay focused; work on a project
It is so easy to be easily-distracted in your photography. Social media tends to be more of a distraction than something that gives us focus and empowerment.
My suggestion if you want to build more of your style in photography is to work on a personal project. There are no “rules” behind a personal project. The only rule is that you photograph what interests you (not anybody else). It is better to work on a project that you are interested in and have find people like your work rather than working on a project you think others will like.
But how do you discover a project you want to work on?
You can use life experiences, tragedies, or happy moments in your life to drive forth your interest in working on a project. You can photograph a funeral, your loved ones, or even a birthday party. You can document the neighborhood you live in, or while you’re living abroad. You can focus on a specific subject-matter (people in suits, old people, children) or you can work on photographing a certain emotion or mood you feel.
Build a website portfolio
The reason why building your own website portfolio will help your style is because it will force you to edit down your photos into your best work, to divide it into projects, to add a legit “about” page, and for you to think about what kind of image you want to convey to your viewer.
Social media is fantastic but greatly limited in terms of customization and dividing your work into projects.
Paying for your own domain and website is a pain; but consider it an investment. For $10 a month (two Starbucks drinks) you can build your legitimacy and style as a photographer.
Who are you?
At the end of the day, just make photos. You can always edit down or discover your style later.
But once again, the only real “style” in your photography is who you are.
Make photos which show who you are as a person. The most ancient wisdom is “know thyself.” So through your photography learn who you are.
Another good piece of advice: “Shoot yourself.” Photography is a tool to discover who you are, what interests you in life, and what you find beautiful in the world.