Style is one of the most important aspects of fashion photography. Having a consistent portfolio of images that reflects who you are and your creative vision is really important when it comes to clients viewing your work. Many fashion photographers, including myself, have struggled with making their work stand out from the crowd. Here are a few tips from what I have learned about finding your style and visual voice as a photographer.
Many of us are unsure of which direction we want to go in and feel that defining our style can limit our opportunities. Making money often dictates what images we take; many photographers fall into the trap of capturing images that are popular on social media, rather than what they are passionate about and enjoy photographing. A strong emphasis is put on developing your style quickly, but the truth is, style is something that takes years to develop. It is something that should evolve over time and progress as your technique improves. Style isn’t something that can be taught. No one can tell you what your approach to your work should be; it takes a lot of time and trial and error to figure this out for yourself.
Find out What You Love to Photograph
To me, the most important part about finding your style is finding what you love to shoot. What really catches your attention and gets you excited to take a photograph? Think about what your passions are outside of photography and try to incorporate your interests into your work. Perhaps you love nature; you could have a go at incorporating landscapes into your fashion images. Or maybe you enjoy watching movies in your spare time; try and draw inspiration from your favorite films into your photographs. When you combine your interests in your work, you will quickly become more passionate about what you are shooting and at the same time express yourself through your photography. Your personality and unique identity is your greatest asset, so be sure to show this in your work somehow.
Take a Closer Look
Take a look at the work you have produced in the past year. Now place all of these images onto one page, so you can see them all at once. What do these photographs have in common? Take note of three to five words that all of your work portrays. The key to having a recognizable style is creating a cohesive portfolio. If you incorporate elements of your keywords into every image you take, you will soon see your style start to take shape.
Also try making a list of clients you dream of shooting for. Whether it be Chanel or a local brand, include clients whose style you adore and admire. This can help point you in the right direction and narrow down which brands or designers will complement you better than others. When I first started fashion photography, I would change my style for each shoot to suit the style of the magazine or model I was working for. As a result, I was producing work that I didn’t like and didn’t enjoy shooting; I had no creative vision of my own. It is really important to find out what client matches your style, so you can produce photographs that both yourself and your client are happy with. Say no to anyone who you can’t see benefiting your style. For example, you may get a request to shoot for a magazine that has a large following and could get you some exposure, but if they don’t match the direction you want to go in, say no. You don’t want to get known for a style that you don’t love shooting.
Trial and Error
In order to create work that you love, you first have to discover what you love to photograph. When I first discovered photography at the age of fifteen, I only ever shot what I was comfortable with. I would often use the same models, similar camera settings, similar locations, and the same editing processes. Because of this, I wasn’t really growing as a photographer, and it wasn’t until after I began exploring different ways of shooting that I began to realize what my style was.
This is the reason test shoots are so important, particularly at the start of your career. Set aside time to organize some personal work and let your creativity run wild. Try those ideas that you have had in the back of your mind but have been too afraid to give a go. Force yourself to try something new at each shoot. Experiment with a different lighting setup, try a new location, work with a different team. Not everything you try is going to work, but it will help you think outside of the box. You will quickly learn what you love and what you don’t like about each technique you try, which will assist you in finding your style.
It Doesn't Happen Overnight
Style is something that takes years to develop. You may look at your work today and think that you have found your style, but then in a year, compare it to your new work and you will notice how much your style has evolved without you even realizing. Style is ever-changing. The fashion industry is constantly moving in different directions, so it’s ok for your style to develop over time. The more time you spend photographing, learning new techniques, and improving your work, the more you will notice your style slowly improve and become more refined. It’s also ok to change your mind; your style isn’t set in stone, so don’t be afraid of modifying your work from time to time. If you decide that it's time to try something new or find that your interests have changed, its never too late to reinvent yourself. As long as you stay true to yourself and your personal taste, it is impossible not to create work that reflects your style.
Style is important when it comes to fashion photography, but don’t stress if you haven’t found yours yet. Focus on what you love to photograph, continue trying new techniques and developing your portfolio, and your style will eventually surface.