You would think that photography would be an easy thing to find a style, a signature with. You just take pictures a certain way, or have certain poses, or certain locations you turn to time and again because they are just you.
For some, finding their signature may be easy and quick. For me, it has been a long process. One where up until a little over a week ago, I still didn’t see much progress on. And then a light bulb turned on (hence, the start of this periodic series…the Light Bulb Files where I share my aha and learning moments).
Photography has been a long road for me, a slow process. There have been times the progress was quick and times where, in the middle of things, it felt like I was going nowhere. Looking back there was always learning and progression, but it doesn’t always feel like forward movement in the moments of frustration.
I never felt like I had a signature style though. I felt like I was trying out everyone else’s signatures. Working on up close shots or trendy poses and shots. And they were pretty and I like them. But they weren’t mine. I was signing other people’s names.
For the Rising Tide Society Summit I participated in recently we had daily challenges. One was all about finding your signature and showing that. I didn’t know how to do that…I didn’t know what my signature was.
So I started by going through my shoots from the last two years and picking the one or two photos that just stood out to me most, the ones I loved the most. No rhyme or reason, just the ones that spoke to me. One by one they went in a folder, and at the end I looked at my collection. And there, staring at me and smacking me in the face was my signature.
Consistently, my favorite shots are the ones where I’ve pulled back, having the subjects small within their environment. I love these shots! I love the emotions they convey to me. To me, these show a whole different view of the story of the day and of the moment.
More recently I’ve done fewer and fewer of these shots during sessions. They aren’t typically people’s favorites, and they do take some running back and forth. So I changed my signature to mimic more of the “normal” and “expected” styles. Those styles aren’t bad, or wrong. And I love including them in my shoots. But I was neglecting my signature. I was burying what helps to make my work different. What makes it my work.
So now my goal is to include at least one, if not a few, of these in every session. I want to work on developing my signature and making it truly mine.
Breaking through fears is big. For many photographers, this is our art. This is one place you can find pieces of our hearts. We want people to love it. But, not everyone will love every shot. That’s how art is. We have to be brave enough to be who we are and to show the art that speaks to each of us. As we do that, as we let our craft and our art reflect who we really are, and not just reflections of trends and “normalcy”, our work will be full of life, will attract those who speak the same “language” of heart, and we’ll feel more fulfilled with our progress and our art. We have to be brave enough to sign our own names to our work.