4 Effective Exercises To Develop Your Photographer's Eye

4 Effective Exercises To Develop Your Photographer's Eye

Having a recognizable style helps you get hired for the right job. So how do you develop your style? The truth is that it’s not that difficult, but it does require consistency and patience. In this post, we’ll be looking at some practical ways to develop your style.

Let’s jump in.

Learn the Fundamentals of Your Camera.

It’s critical to understand the technical side of photography to properly utilize it and develop your style. If you’re still not sure what f-stop, ISO, or shutter speed means, pick up the manual. If you don’t feel like reading the manual, here’s something that worked for me: throw away the manual and just start shooting. The camera won’t break, and you won’t ruin the settings. Just start playing with it and learn how to read lighting. There is no such thing as bad lighting, but understanding the fundamentals of light can open up a new perspective to your stylistic decisions. As an exercise, take a look at your hand right now. Really, take a look. Do you know how many light sources are hitting your hand? Where’s the key light? How is it effecting the shadows? Here’s a helpful lighting guide to get a quick breakdown of lighting.

Visualize Your Shoot with Mood Boards.

You’ve heard it before: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” The quickest way to grow your signature style is to study your favorite photographer's work and how he or she approaches lighting, perspective, subject matter, and composition. Author of "Steal Like An Artist," Austin Kleon, says it best: “Don't wait until you know who you are to get started.”

The first step is to visualize your shoot in the form of a mood board. This can easily be done with Pinterest. Just create an account and search for a specific type of photo (i.e. “women color gel” if you plan on experimenting with gels). The trick is to be as specific as possible. Here’s what it looks like:

After you’ve created your mood board, the next step is to organize a shoot and try to reproduce the look. Chances are that you won’t even come close, but that’s not the point. The goal of this exercise is to push you to tackle areas of subject matter, lighting, and composition that you’re unfamiliar with.

Naturally, your taste will change, and you’ll want to experiment with different types of shoots. So don’t hold back.

Organize a Collaborative Photoshoot.

After shooting hundreds of food photos for the past few years, I had a yearning to expand my portrait work. I gave myself a goal of shooting at least one personal project per month -- primarily portrait based.

As an exercise, I decided to create a GAP-inspired lookbook and started planning accordingly. I created a mood board, hired my crew through Model Mayhem, created a shot list, and created and sent out call sheets with StudioBinder.

Be patient, but persistent.

The truth is that there’s no amount of studying that will speed up the development of your style. Nobody is born having a style, so the trick is to steal someone else's style and make it your own. Learn how to read light and keep on shooting.

Your style will continue evolving as your taste develops. As long as you’re open to experimentation, you’ll continue growing as an artist. What are some techniques that you’ve found useful? Let us know in the comments.

Shant Kiraz's picture

Shant Kiraz is a professional food and portrait photographer based in Santa Monica, CA. He is also the co-founder of StudioBinder, a project management solution for photo agencies and photographers. You might spot him star gazing in the desert or going for long walks on the beach with his partner in crime, Plato.

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Wonderful article Shant ..:)
"Nobody is born having a style, so the trick is to steal someone else's style and make it your own." Loved this line. :)

As I !

I'm happy it resonated with you Arun!

Stealing from artists is inevitable and there's always been unnecessary shame associated with it. The funny thing is that the second you copy someone's style, they would have already moved onto something else.

The ultimate goal of this exercise is to continue evolving as an artist and not stick with your "bread and butter" for life.

Exactly...Art is a continuous learning and evolving process. So is life. The moment we stop evolving or learning we perish. :)

I would love to master the controls of my Canon 5D III. I've got my A-1 and F-1 down pat, but the number of controls with the various menu options on the 5D overwhelm the number of controls on the A-1 and F-1 combined.

Totally! There's a zillion features on the mark iii. What helped me learn the controls was by watching a handful of youtube videos + testing it out myself. After learning them, I actually did use most of the features.

But yeah, I wish every camera was as simple as my Canonet ;)

Stealing is stunting. You were born with a style because each of us is unique ... instead of stealing, spend the time and do the work required to enhance the style you were born with.

We're all shaped by our experiences but I do think that an effective starting point is to copy someone else's work, as a starting point. Nobody likes to admit it, but I believe we all do it whether it's a conscious decision or not :)

Well for those who slate stealing, it actually came from Picasso "Good artist copy, great artist steal" as the Bull said.