Style. The idea of finding your own voice and style has become an intricate part of growing as a photographer and differentiating yourself from the competition. It's not only a way to get work, but a way to be remembered in a field of talented artists. But, as a portrait photographer, I find that my need to make a signature image sometimes gets in the way of capturing the human being in front of me. I'm so concerned about making the image "cool" that it's almost as if the person in front of the camera doesn't matter. Today, that ends (I hope).
Lighting has always been a focus of mine, and over the years, I've learned a lot of tricks that I can pull out of a hat. The problem is very often those tricks aren't needed. I find myself wanting to light someone in a certain way, not because it helps something about the person, but because it'll add a little oomph to the image. I don't think there's anything wrong with that when done in moderation, but sometimes, I think it can damage the integrity of the image as a whole. Ask yourself: when people look at one of your portraits, are they saying, "Wow, that looks really cool" or are they saying something more along the lines of how the image makes them feel? Are they relating to your subject at all or just your lighting? Of course, ideally, they will synergize and you'll be right on the money on both counts.
Another bad habit I want to work on is my need to bring a bunch of gear to a portrait session. I want to focus on a lot more "man in the street" style work for a personal project. It's tedious and disruptive to bring 70 pounds of gear to a 10-minute shoot. Rather, I'm whittling down my location kit to a small speedlight, my 4x5 camera, my RB67, a light stand, and a large umbrella. Maybe I'll put a reflector in my trunk just in case. If I can't make a good image out of that gear, then I need practice, not more crap to lug around. I'm hoping that paring down my kit will get me up and running faster, enabling me to be much more prolific in the new year.
What are you all doing to simplify your process or gear? Has your ego taken some of the meaning out of your work? Sound off below! Have a happy and productive new year, everyone!