As a photographer, you’re attracted to everything that catches your attention, which sometimes leads to a very disparate amount of files. When you observe your portfolio, you can’t get a sense of coherence from it. Here are three tips that might help you identify a pattern in your photography and find your style.
What Do You Like?
Before defining your own style, it may be informative to consider your visual tastes. To characterize it, research which photographers you like. And try to analyze the reasons why. Is it the themes addressed, the aesthetics, or the technique? Search for a common point. There must be a thread that links your whole aesthetic collection.
Don’t limit yourself to photography. Embrace all art and review all the artists you feel close to, whether it’s in cinema, painting, music, sculpture, or literature. Examine, for example, how books become movies or the friendship between Rodin and Steichen. Mixing the arts is often a source of artistic growth.
From there, try to reproduce the artwork you appreciate and recreate the process. On the way, find your own approach and feed it with your personal background.
If you use Adobe Lightroom, the software has a powerful tool that you might be ignoring: the statistics. It’s available under the Library tab. There, on the top of your central window, next to Text, Attribute, and None, on a gray background, you’ll find the Metadata tab. Once selected, it develops a submenu that lets you get the data for your gallery.
If you click on each default column name (date, camera, etc.), you are able to refine your sorting. There are multiple choices: lens, aperture, and focal length (in the case of the use of a zoom). How do you exploit the result? It’s quite simple.
First of all, find which lens or focal length you used the most, according to what you were shooting (portrait, landscape, urban, etc.). Next time you shoot in the same type of circumstances, take this lens only. You’ll get more and more accustomed to it; you will get to know its best aperture and its limitations, in terms of autofocus or distortion, for instance and more importantly, its angle of view.
The goal is to see the result before checking your viewfinder or back screen. You will then develop an eye in accordance with it, which will contribute to building a personal vision.
Another Pair of Eyes
It’s often educational to have another person take a detailed look at your photos. We sometimes don’t see what someone else might perceive. Of course, it’s better to get a sharp eye from someone who is versed in the visual arts.
That’s why it’s always good to maintain relationships with fellow photographers. I don’t mean anybody who has a camera on social media. You don’t need another "Great picture!" Rather, welcome a communicative colleague or another member of a photo group, even from a field that is not yours, to seriously have a glance at your portfolio. You might also be surprised at how insightful the opinions of people who are not into photography but are receptive to the arts are, provided they are sincere and straightforward.
It’s not a mystery that editing is arduous. And we all have our favorite shots. It’s necessary, though, to "kill our darlings," as writers express it. There might be a picture we cherish, but that doesn't fit with the rest of your work. An external opinion will convince you to dismiss them. Don’t delete it; keep it for another use.
A style is something you build over time. There is a conscious part that defines it. But the core is fairly unconscious. Thus, once you use these tools and tips, you’ll hopefully find the direction that leads you to find your own personal artistic way.