DEFINITION OF STYLE ; In Webster's, I found two definitions that seemed to apply:
1) A particular manner or technique by which something is done, created or performed. An example; the classical style of dance.
2) A distinctive quality, form or type of something. An example; The Greek style of architecture.
Fashion fades, only style remains the same.
Style is that which indicates how the writer takes himself and what he is saying. It is the mind skating circles around itself as it moves forward.
One man's style must not be the rule of another's.
This week while looking for 7 blogs to choose for the "Versatile Blogger Award", I was struck by how many really interesting blogs are out there. There are so many with many different "styles" of communicating their feelings. Some use fact, some use humor while still others use words to let us feel deep human emotions. It is like a box of candy. All the candy is sweet, just choose the flavor or texture you want today.
As I was thinking about the different styles, I wondered if we realize our own style. Are we aware what our style is? Do you try and develop "your own style"or do you just wander through different styles? Is style the opposite of pornography: you know what it is but you don't know it when you see it? I think that style is something we develop as we grow into our particular field of art. It is much like a muscle. As we work on it, our style becomes more defined, more easily recognized. In today's era of branding and marketing ourselves, we need to stick out from the rest of our fellow artists. If I ask you, "WHAT IS YOUR STYLE" could you answer? If you cannot, then you're not taking full advantage of your skills. You're not developing your art to it fullest.
When I first started out as a photographer, I read all the great photographers books that I could find. I was mostly into nature back then, so the photographers were some of the photographic gods (at least my gods): Adams, Rowell, Porter, Muench and Shaw. All great photographers that I did and still do look up to. Some of my early film work tried to capture their style. Not a bad thing but I just mentioned five distinctive photographers and I was knowingly and unknowingly copying their work. I do not mean I went to the same places and tried to find the exact spot where they stood and set the same readings on my camera. What I mean is that I would try to use their influences to shape my work. This is not a bad learning tool, I am not saying it is the wrong thing to do. What I am saying is that you eventually need to take ingredients from the greats and from all other areas of life to make your particular style, sing.
For years I really could not answer the same question I asked you. I really didn't know my style. How do you define your style? How do you create your own style? Heck, at times I was just trying to learn the science of photography; how to get a proper exposure, how to insure a sharp image, is the lens cap off? Believe me, I was just trying to get an image that was in focus, properly exposed and interesting.
Photography, (painting with light), is a mixture of two distinctive fields: science and art. These two fields do not usually seem to go side by side. But in photography, you must master both sides. If you master just the science part, you will get sharp, well exposure images. But they will not have any soul. They will not hold the interest of the viewer.
Have you ever eaten in a restaurant and after say to the person that ate with you, "The food was okay. It was cooked just the way I asked and seasoned alright but I'm not really in a hurry to go back." The person who prepared your meal was a cook but not a chef. He fed your stomach not your soul. You would eat their food if you were starving and none other was available but you would not even think about going back to the same restaurant again and spending your money. It is the same with your photography, and other art, If you do not learn the art, if you do not have "it" in you, then your images will never quite have what people will want to see over and over again.
On the other side, if you "see" the world through the eyes of an artist but do not learn the science of photography, you will have the same problem, maybe worse. You might compose an image that no one else saw that particular day, even though they were standing next to you, but if your exposure is way off or your image is blurred then people will not ever "see" what you saw.
You might ask me, what's your style? Do you know what it is and what influenced it in you?
I think I do. My style is based in three parts;
Composition, Color and Sharpness. Let's take them one at a time.
COMPOSITION; I realized over the last few years that I tend to compose my images, both in camera and in post production, in what I guess would be now called 'letter box'. Did I just develop this when that style TVs were introduced? No, it started way before that. When I was a young boy I loved the movies. Like many young boys, I particularly liked westerns, especially John Wayne westerns: movies like the "The Searchers" and " In Her Hair She Wore A Yellow Ribbon". These movies were shot in the western United States and the imagery included the beautiful full expanse of many of the western canyons and prairies. In the "Searchers", directed by Jon Ford, parts were filmed in Monument Valley Arizona & Utah. I did not realize till years later what an influence these films had on me. The "Searchers" in particular, I believe influenced my early years in many ways. It is a wonderful complex film. Ford depicts racism in the way the Indian are portrayed. The lead character, Ethan Edwards (Wayne) searches for his niece who has been abducted by Indians. So many emotions are going on in this film below and above the surface. I honestly think it helped shape my feelings on racism. In later years, I would move to Arizona and visited some of those same valleys. It is an area that is still very dear to me.
A few years ago, I noticed that I was composing many of my images in a cinematography style heavily influenced by this and other films of the era: the wide letterbox view. Why do I like this so much? I am not entirely sure. To me it is like asking, why do you like the taste of one sweet over the other? Maybe I like the full story it tells. Maybe I like having a person or animal in the forefront of an expanse of scenery but showing the viewer what the person or animal is seeing.
I think this young women is the most interesting part of this image. Cropping it this way allows her to be the focal but you get to see where she is, what she is seeing. It tells a story.
This is the in camera crop of this egret. I liked it but I "saw" it a little different.
A very subtle difference but I think it brings more focus on the egret, eliminating some of the water.
This was cropped in camera, I could have used a different lens, come closer and made the bride & groom the main focus. But they really were not the story I was trying to tell, what the story was is having all their family and friends there to celebrate with them. The wider angle accomplished that.
If you have seen many of my images, you know that I tend to see in color. I love black & white and use it but mostly for me it's color. I love rich deep colors. Maybe that comes from the movies also. Technicolor was a big label in the movies. I love rich, deep colors and I tend to include them in most of my images. The key to this is exposure. You have to have your exposure correct. What is correct is somewhat up to the photographer. I tend to underexpose by a 1/3 to 1/2 a step. I feel that this gives me the rich colors I want. I also will give the colors a boost in Lightroom if I feel it is needed. (You can find a link to this great tool in the carousel right to the left of this post).
I love the deeply saturated blues in the umbrellas and water contrasted against the white sand.
In this image I underexposed by a 1/2 stop. It helped to saturate the blue of the sky and the refection. It also warmed the orange/red clay of Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona
I want tack sharp images most times. The ways to help insure this is by using an exposure time as fast as you need and is possible due to light, using a tripod in low light and knowing how to sharpen in post production.
This was taken in full sunlight my readings were 2.8 at 1/8,000 exposure time, a very fast time made possible by the bright sunlight. This was hand held, as the birds are flying around and it is pretty difficult to trail them on a tripod. Again the high speed makes it possible to hand hold, I did brace myself on a railing. You can also see the deep blue sky, again a product of correct exposure.
This image was taken outside at 11PM using a low light source. I needed the couple not to move and I could not have any camera shake. I used the tripod for this shot and a remote. Again, I could not have any camera shake at this speed. I was very happy with the results.
Okay, so there you have my style. If you like my images now, you may know why. If you do not like them, well you won't be back and at least now you know why.
Ask your self this question: What is my style? If you do not have one or know it, this might be the point to start thinking about developing one.
Some additional info. I always shoot in Raw. I feel I can take most advantage of my images in raw.
I use Lightroom and PhotoShop for most of my post production work. Someday, I'll discuss in a post my production work flow.
Thanks for reading. Now start developing your own style in whatever art you practice.