Message from the President
I hear a lot these days about how photographers need to have a signature style to their work—a specific lighting pattern, look, color palette, gear, or whatever. Apparently, we’re supposed to be able to look through our work and find what we do most often and refine it.
Okay. But, why?
"Experts" say it will help define your work and make it unique, to give it your look.
That’s all good and well.
But, I personally think a lot of these people are putting the cart in front of the horse.
Trying to go out and build your style has some massive pitfalls attached if you go about it the wrong way.
For instance, new photographers have a tendency to pick the current fad in the photography world, copy it, and call it a style.
Similar to this is to copy the style of an old master and call it a style. If you do this you haven’t found your style, then you’ve probably found what you like or what you think will be popular.
Opposite of this is to just do everything under the sun once or twice and wait for some omnipotent spirit of the arts to reveal your style. By going down these roads, you are apt to find a lot of frustration.
The problem is, I think you must go down these roads.
An acquaintance of mine has a deep knowledge and study of music—especially jazz.
He likes to equate photographers finding their style with trumpeter Clark Terry‘s “Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate”, which is saying that finding your signature is a process—not an event.
I think this really holds true.
You have to try to recreate what you love, incorporate it into what you do, and let it grow into something unique. Do this and you have a style.
What no one can tell you is how long this process will take.
It’s not like you take a semester of Your Style 101 and you’re done. You really have to do the work. It will most likely take years unless you’re just a photo-savant. Those people are rare—very rare.
You have to do the work to get there.
Unless you really have a passion for the work, it’s going to be hard to do. The closer you get, the harder it is to keep pushing until you evolve into something new.
Simple formula, hard to execute.
~ John Kleb, 2011 HPS President