5 tips for finding your photographic style

I’m naturally a follower, not a leader, and it’s so easy to get caught up trying to fit in with the crowd. Sometimes it can feel like I’m floundering around in this big world of photography not really making my mark on anything, not owning a unique style.

I decided to start my own photography label but then I had a problem. What do my photos look like? Will people look at them and know they’re mine?

I’ve come a long way since then and here’s what I’ve learnt, in a nutshell:

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This is mine and I’m so proud of where I am now <3

FIVE TIPS to help you find your style:

  1. Stop comparing every aspect of your business to other businesses. I know they’re all beautiful and wonderful but so are you. You are unique, you have a unique style, you just need to unleash it.
  2. Create a Pinterest board of photos you’ve seen and love. Assess them – what do they all have in common? Are they all dark and moody and filmy? Or light, bright, and clean? Are they shot with natural light or lots of flash?
  3. Spend time getting to know your software – do you like skin tones to be quite vivid? What settings can you tweak to make them look that way? Google will help you here!
  4. Create presets from your best edits. If you edited a photo and it’s looking pretty awesome, save the edit as a preset and try applying it to different photos. Does it work in lots of different situations?
  5. If you’re a wedding photographer like me then find a bride who will model for you and shoot, shoot, shoot. Take darker moody photos, light bright photos, and see which ones really captivate you when you’re editing.
  6. Bonus point #6: Remember this is all about YOU. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, be the photographer you want to be and your dream clients – the ones who love what you are – will come.

Don’t…

  1. …find your style and think it’s not unique. It is. It just doesn’t feel unique because it’s so familiar to you.
  2. … stress. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen if you stick at it.
  3. …mess up on a job and use the excuse that it’s your “style”. Cutting feet off, producing bright orange skin tones, and delivering blurry photos are not your style.
  4. …chop and change too extremely. Remember that clients hire you a year or more in advance based on your work right now and they need some consistency. Don’t suddenly go all dark and moody between now and their wedding.

If you want to read a little more of my story, here you go…

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I was very new to the industry and I thought I’d had a brainwave – I’ll find a photographer I like and just copy* (*not, like, plagiarise, just, like, copying their style… and ideas… and stuff…) and then I’ll be successful. Don’t judge me for this – I was young and stupid. Trying to copy someone else’s editing is frowned upon but you can draw as much inspiration from their work as you like.

My problem is that every photographer is different and anyone who knows me will tell you that when I’m faced with a decision I have a nightmare of a time choosing. My mother takes pride in telling my friends that she once took me to the dairy to get an iceblock but I couldn’t choose. We stood there so long that I had to leave with no iceblock, for fear of choosing one and making the wrong decision.

So I opened my wee business and decided that I should be super professional and awesome and perfect right from the start. I would come across a successful photographer and love their work so that’s who I would try and be.

But then I would see another one and be like “Oh, that’s even cooler, I’ll try and edit my photos like her now.” My work was all over the place.

I spent money on Lightroom and Photoshop editing classes, I downloaded actions, (I tried to find sneaky ways to get free Photoshop actions – not something I’m proud of but, hey, I was poor), and I spent hours gushing over other people’s work without really knowing where I was heading.

It’s a frustrating place to be.

I can quite confidently say that I’m well on my way to having my style nailed now – it just happened one day. I decided to take matters into my own hands and I bought a set of Replichrome actions. Mainly because Jasmine Star uses them and I went to a course with her which was fabulous and amazing, but I digress. I opened up the action set and tried them ALL. I didn’t like any of them.

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I found the one I hated the least and began tweaking things. The skin was too orange, the shadows were too faded, the noise was too heavy… It took me months to get it the way I liked it. And then one day I looked at a photo and went, yup, that’s how I like it. And so my colour preset was created!

I still have this wee problem where I see other photographers post really great work, maybe with heavy film filters, and I gush over it. My mind still flashes with thoughts of changing my style to look just like theirs. But I’m forcing myself to stay put for now.

Keep on swimming, it’ll happen 🙂

If you’ve got any more questions about things I’ve learnt along the way, fire them below in a comment or click here to find me on Facebook 🙂

I’d love to connect with you on Instagram – @nicolegourleyphotography

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