In a recent conversation, the topic of photographic style came up. More importantly than style however, in my opinion, is following our own path, casting our own shadow, by knowing ourselves & our strengths.
“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” Aesop
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.” ~Author Unknown
When it comes to style, whether in my writing or in my photography, I’ve grown into my own style. It came from plenty of practice and experimentation. I also consider it an ongoing learning & development process. With my writing I was never tempted to emulate or try on someone else’s style. With photography there has been that temptation from time to time. It is helpful to have an artist we are inspired by or admire their unique style as we seek our distinctive path. When finding our own style, whether it’s writing, photography, gardening, designing, or anything we grow into and develop, it’s essential we are true to ourselves. Otherwise, we are simply cloning someone else’s style and using it as ours. Much better that we are unique and let it show.
With my photography, although my subjects are as eclectic and varied as the hair of a calico cat, my style has a central focus (pun may or may not be intended!). My primary style is for crisp photographs with a light hand when it comes to post processing. (That being said, I am thoroughly enjoying stepping out of that comfort zone by teaching myself various new techniques including a number of post processing applications.)
Other photographers may go for the extremes such as the HDR extremists (the extreme sports version of post-processing) or the real current trend to blur everything (LensBaby addicts) or mask every image with textures. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of those, but that’s not my personal style. I admire those who can create magical atmosphere to their images by adding textures or by adding just the right amount of blur with their LensBaby. In photography, post processing and certain lenses are tools but tools should not be relied upon to be the main event. My view is that tools should be part of the process to enhance or when necessary for a desired effect. Even if building a house or repairing a car, the exact same tools are not used for every purpose all of the time after all. (Would you use your secaturs to aerate your soil, weed out dandelions, and stir the compost tea?). Different tools for different purposes.
I love to experiment and to learn new things. It’s gratifying to experiment with differences in depth of field; conversion to black & white or sepia; shooting into the light to create flare; in creating focus with bokeh; practicing with negative space; learning to do selective desaturation; and other exciting visual treats. I’m also really enjoying learning more in the ‘digital darkroom’ doing post processing. I can see where the digital darkroom can become almost addictive. Lots of tools for experimentation.
All people following their creative pursuits find their personal style by using a variety of tools, experimenting, and playing whether they’re crafters, gardeners, writers, photographers, or artists.
What matters is not that you follow someone else’s style or what is popular, but rather to forge ahead of the crowd with playful experimentation to find and develop your unique personal style. Be bold, be brave, and be confident.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell
Tell me, or show me (leave a link), how you cast your own shadow!