First of all; what is a photography style? This is the way I define the difference between a vision and a style. Your vision is your personal filter through which you see the world. This filter has been under construction your entire life. The experiences you had, colour the way you see the world. It colours the way you perceive certain circumstances. Let's say that you were a child who loved to swim, you swam in gorgeous spots, your parents took you to the beach and you have such fond memories of this. But what if you almost drowned in the sea at one point and you had dreadful moments in the water. This event will affect the way you look at water. Also, your personality will definitely make up a large part of your filter. If you are the careful and introvert type, perhaps big crashing waves are something you feel less attracted to. If you however are the thrill seeker, you might see a promise of something great in large crashing waves, where the careful type might see danger.
Your way of seeing the world also greatly relies on your likes and passions. The little things that you really like and have perhaps always liked together, will make up your vision for the largest part. Finding out the reasons behind those likes and passions and connecting the dots will lead to you being able to put your vision into words. This is hugely helpful in then conveying it into something wordless again like photography . (I know this sounds weird, but trust me, it really helps)
A personal style however is the way in which you convey this vision consistently throughout your photography. It is sort of a signature that tells people that it is your picture. A style can consist of several things like a specific point of view (like a super wide angle view of the world), it can even be a specific type of lens (like the Meyer Optik Trioplan lens that creates a soap bubble bokeh), it can be a set of colours or conditions that continuously come back in your work (like a photographer who only photographs in rainy conditions), it can be the type of scene you take pictures of, but usually all of these things are then combined with a unique way of editing that makes this style completely your own.
A personal editing style comes with time. You try out several things and at one point you will notice that you keep going back to one specific workflow that will make your work look and feel like yours.
So, the first thing you need to do is to find out your unique vision. This lies hidden in your likes and dislikes, your passions and dreams. To give you an example....I have always loved the magical side of nature and this earth. I was totally captivated by minerals, fossils and caves. So, the things I liked were the stones, the colours, the crystals, but the connection with many other of my likes was the magical side of reality. This is how I look at this world. I just love to be enchanted even by the smallest things.
When you find out what your personal vision is, you need to find out what subject matter suits this vision. In my case nature and the forest was an obvious choice. You need to find out what will capture your vision best.
Then before you take the picture you need to stop and ask yourself if you are really taking the picture that you want. What is attracting you to this scene? What is it exactly that you want to capture? Is your point of view the best to capture it? What lens would help you tell your story better? What aperture and shutter speed would help you tell your story? Are these the best conditions for this picture? The best season? What kind of light do you like in this scene?
(why do you think I opted to take this picture in the winter instead of in the summer?)
Let's say that we are looking at the sea and it is quite tumultuous. If you love the drama, you opt for a fast shutter speed to capture the textures of the crashing waves. If you love the sea because it makes you feel calm inside and this is the story you want to tell, you choose a long shutter speed. This is the way you can start taking decisions that will tell your story better & convey your vision more effectively.
You take the picture and perhaps re-take it if you spot an even better way of capturing the scene. Try out different settings to see what works best for you and also take a look at your white balance. I always try to get my white balance spot on when I take the picture, because I really don't like looking at a picture on the back of my camera in colours that are different than what I am seeing in reality. I can change it later, but then I don't know exactly how it looked anymore and how I wanted it to look.
After you have taken your photos into Photoshop, Lightroom or the editing software of your choice, ask yourself what you like about the image and what you don't like ,write a little review like I talked about in this blog post
When you figure out how you would like your picture to look, you can work your way back in your mind and see the steps you need to take to get a picture to look like it is truly yours. The way this works is like I did with this picture... (this is the unedited raw picture converted to a jpeg)
The fog was incredibly dense, so I want more contrast. I decide how I want to add contrast (and some ways are way better than others). The dense fog also flattened the scene a bit too much, this means that there is little depth in it and I want to add that back in as well. This has to do with the use of a telephoto lens which compresses the fog a bit more, making it look more dense than it is in reality, which can sometimes be extremely useful (if there is little fog and you want to emphasise it). I also think that the picture now lacks colour a bit too much. Fog is like a grey layer, it adds grey to colours and the more fog, the more muted the colours will become. I know that the colour of the original raw file is not as warm as I like it to be. These decisions are the starting point of my post processing. By having tried a lot of different things, you learn why things work and why other things don't. This is incredibly useful, because when you know why something works, you know when to use it and this will speed up your workflow tremendously and take a lot of trial and error out of the process. I obviously had some dust specks on my sensor that I also had to clean up in Photoshop (sensor dust shows up immensely in very foggy pictures)
Once I have laid my personal preferences over the image in post processing, it now looks more like a picture of mine. If you consistently choose ways of editing that represent your taste and preferences, this will develop into your own style. One extra tip.....wait a little while before you post the picture on social media. Look at it again a few days later and see if you still like it as much. Reviewing really is the best way to speed up the process of developing your own style.
PS The entire editing process of the picture above is described in my upcoming photography class (available by the end of this week).
Finding your own vision and expressing it in pictures that have your name written all over them, is something I deeply care about as it is so incredibly empowering to be able to trust your own way of seeing and make an idea become reality. My class Your Vision, Your Story helps you to create from your own vision with confidence and makes it crystal clear how you can best express yourself in your pictures