Cindy

Stand Out: How to Cultivate Your Own Personal Photography Style

Some ideas on how you can stand out as a photographer and cultivate your own photography style:


plant

PHOTO+GRAPHY

  • Photo: Light
  • Graphy: Drawing

Photography is the art of using light to make drawings-pictures.


Why do we need a camera?

When I was a kid, I liked to draw, sketch, paint. As I got older, I stopped (not sure why). Perhaps I got the art beaten out of me, so I could focus on more ‘serious’ pursuits in school. Or perhaps I got addicted to TV and video games. Not sure.

Anyways, I like to make pictures. I like to make drawings. I like to make art-works.

I still remember the immense concentration I had as a child, focusing for hours on end, drawing in details in my drawings. I would be so on the zone, that hours would fly by in minutes.


contact sheet Cindy portrait

In photography, I also get the same thing. When I’m taking pictures, I’m in the zone. I keep clicking, and suddenly I disappear. Time disappears. I achieve a zen-body-mind connection with my camera, and I disappear into the flow of making pictures.

Cindy


We need light and reality

The challenge for us photographers:

We are dependent on reality and light in order to create our art-works.

A painter can sit down in a chair at home, and paint whatever is in their imagination.

A photographer must leave the house to take pictures (or perhaps take pictures inside the home).

I think the challenge of the photographer is that we are hunters, explorers, and discoverers. We need to identify and see interesting things to photograph.

Or if you’re a portrait photographer, you must direct your subjects and interact-engage with them.

The task of a photographer is a difficult challenge.


But this is also the fun of photography:

You can take ordinary, everyday things, and make interesting photos.

The most important as a photographer:

Seeing things to photograph.


Can you see?

I forgot the photographer who said this (perhaps it was Dorothea Lange) who said:

The photographer is a professional “see-er”.

Thus if you want to improve your photography, build your ‘visual acuity.’ You do this by spending less time looking at your phone, and more time wandering around with your camera, looking for things to photograph. Or letting your eyes get bored, which allows your eyes to wander — in order to identify interesting things to photograph.

Dots bubble rain drops macro


Building an artistic vision as a photographer

Macro

Photographers are artists. I think it is our goal to see more “artistically” — which means,

Strive to make beautiful images.

RICOH GR II, shot with Flash in macro mode

  1. To start, you must define your own aesthetic tastes. What do you find beautiful, and what do you find ugly? This is personal– only up to you. Only you can determine this.
  2. Basic idea: Do you prefer color or black and white, or both? Under which situations do you prefer monochrome, and when do you prefer color? And on top of that–how do you like your photos to look? How do you want to process your photos? What kind of presets do you want to apply to your RAW photos? Or do you prefer to shoot JPEG? If you like to shoot film, what kind of film do you like, and which film format?
  3. Editing: Which photos do you end up selecting? You must “work the scene” when you see interesting scenes.

Also having an artistic vision is this:

Listening to your own gut, and trying to create images you consider beautiful. Not looking at others for approval to say your photos are good.


Do you see the brush-strokes in your own photos?

Ricoh GR II in macro

Franz Kline is a great painter– you can see his soul in his paint-strokes:

Similarly, as a photographer– you want to see your own brush-strokes in your photos. This means,

Do my photos have a certain aesthetic style, in which I could see my soul in my pictures?

A super basic idea:

Stick to one camera, one lens, and one post-processing style.

RICOH GR II x ERIC KIM WRIST STRAP

For example, my photos below (with high-contrast black and white, ERIC KIM MONOCHROME 1600 PRESET) on RICOH GR II, RAW, with a flash:

Or these pictures below, shot on film Leica MP, 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens, Kodak Portra 400 35mm film:

Essentially this is a basic idea:

For a certain photography project or series, keep your aesthetic look consistent (same camera, lens, gear, equipment, film, etc).


3 Takeaways

  1. Determine what kind of photos you consider beautiful. Strive to make beautiful photos (in your own eyes).
  2. Don’t seek to impress others with your photos. Seek to impress yourself with your own pictures.
  3. Allow yourself to change and evolve as a photographer through your life. But for certain periods, stick to a certain style. But don’t force yourself to stay consistent for the sake of it. Follow your gut.

SHOOT ON!
ERIC

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