This is a summary of my YouTube Video, you can watch the whole piece linked at the bottom of the blog post.
At a surface level, finding a style and choosing a style might sound similar, but there are some key differences that I would like to address. These two terms may arrive at the same idea or destination, but the path to get there is very different, we need to flesh them out a little bit more before we can adopt them as our identity.
If you want to see some of my favourite photographs for reference before you continue reading, head to my photo gallery page here:
Finding Your Style Vs Choosing your Style
On one hand, we have the concept of trying different things until you find what you are looking for and on the other hand, we have the concept of choosing what you want to do from the beginning and sticking to it. Let's explore these concepts.
Concept #1: Finding Your Photography Style
This concept is based on exploration and trying new things. In this case, we are talking about street photography, however, it's recommended to try other types of photography and different styles to see what sticks, and what works for you.
Wedding photography, portrait photography, landscape photography, street photography, sports photography, you name it.
This is a good way to learn and to get experience in the process, but it implies that you don’t know what you like, that you don’t know what you want to achieve with photography. This is great for beginners, and people that are interested in getting started. But this journey is not for everyone.
So you embark on your journey of "Finding" your style and doing a whole lot of stuff that maybe be irrelevant but helps you learn and grow until you figure things out.
Sometimes it's clear, that you find a particular style because you enjoy it, it's obvious. But some other times you find your style by elimination. In some cases figuring out what you dislike is easier than figuring out what you like.
For example, there's no amount of money you can pay me to do wedding photography, it will never happen. If you like that type of photography, that's fine. If it works for you, that's great, but it's not my cup of tea.
Another way to find your style could be compiling mood boards of photos that you like, photographers and cinematographers that you admire and art that speaks to you, that at least makes things a bit more clear.
And last but not least, not my favourite method or suggested method, but you could try to copy their work and try to get as close as possible, however, this is not my recommendation or preference.
Concept #2: Choosing Your Photography Style
On a surface level, choosing your photography style sounds like it’s for people that already know what they are doing, people with experience. But that’s another misconception.
Choosing a style, only means that you have a rough idea of where you want to go. It does not mean that you already have everything figured out. You could be a complete beginner with an idea of what kind of photos you would like to take, bypassing the whole (shoot weddings, portraits, street photography, landscape and find your style).
However, things are not set in stone, you might want to change your course and do things differently down the road and you might want to modify your style. That's called refinement, well talk about that later. In my experience, this is the method that gets most people started and invested in the art form.
Refining Your Photography Style
Once you start working towards what you want to achieve, by either trying to find your style or choosing one, then you finally have something that you are working towards, you have set yourself in motion.
You might change your opinion later and set a different course, but by then you're not frankly finding or choosing a style anymore, you are refining your style. Refining requires a lot of self-exploration and active work. Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and not to who someone else is today.
The easiest way to do this is to review your work, some of my first Instagram posts are all over the place and it's hard not to cringe. But some of my latest photographs feel like it's an accurate representation of my style, and of who I am... Today
Right now I'm in the process of assembling and printing my first photo book, and that might feel like a great achievement today, or whenever the photo book is released, but I'm sure later down the road when I'm printing my 10th photo book, I will look back and see the flaws, but also see the growth as an artist.
So refining your work, requires honesty, and effort, but most importantly, requires being able to identify and articulate what you like, what you want, and areas of improvement.
If you ask somebody if they like a painting, or film, or a photograph and they say yes, and you ask why and they reply: "just because" that's boring. There's no dialogue there, there's no articulation, there's no feedback. So you can't do that to yourself, to your work, you have to articulate and be honest with yourself.
My Street Photography Style
For both finding and choosing your style, you need to put some effort into figuring out what you like, by either doing several things until you find what you like or doing some self-exploration and taking other aspects or elements of your life, like hobbies and preferences, etc.
I've mentioned this before, but I worked in the film industry for several years, working onset on larger budget films, and also making short films whenever I had the chance. So cinema truly informs my decisions regarding art, creativity, and my photography style.
The cinematography, writing, music and feeling of cinema, are something that I want to recreate with my photos. Some of these aspects are non-existent in photography, there's no music score or an actual script. But I still try to bring what I can into my photos.
In the film industry, you spend anywhere between 45 min to 1.5 hours setting up a shot, filming it and moving along to the next shot, you have complete control of lighting, the elements and the subjects.
In street photography, you have no control or the lighting, the subjects, and the elements, but I still try to make my photos look like a still from a movie. And that's just a personal goal I have, that's what makes me happy.
So when I started to do photography as a hobby, I already knew what I wanted to try to achieve, I knew what kind of photos I wanted to take. And moving to Japan, exploring and dedicating myself to photography was my way of focusing on that.
I certainly misjudged how much control I would truly have of everything going on in the frame, rain, wind, and missing focus, among other things, but that was part of the refining process, It was clear from the beginning about what type of photography and what kind of style I wanted to achieve.
And now, my photographs have a consistent look and style, I'm not saying the photos are good, I'm saying the photos are consistent because I was able to refine my work, but the goal is the same, it has not changed. From the very beginning.
You can watch the whole piece in video form, right here: