We get a LOT of questions from you guys about how to find and define your signature style. And believe me, I’m always the first to say “hey, if you figure that one out, be sure to let me know.” :) It’s a tough business, this figuring out who you are as a photographer and what you want your photography to look like. But it’s also important business. Because it’s the kind of thing where if you can nail down what that is exactly and stay true to it consistently shoot after shoot, it will change your whole business. Because what we know, is that the people who want your exact style of photography will know that they can’t get it anywhere else. And that makes you irreplaceable.
Great, I wanna be irreplaceable. So how do I get there?
Well, like we said…this is tough business. And we certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. We spent a good bit of time drifting when we were first starting out, just trying to be like everyone else. To look like everyone else. To want the same things from our images as everyone else. And that of course, just made us a bad copy of everyone else. We kept sacrificing everything we thought photography could be for the sake of what someone else had already said it should be. And we were really unhappy in the process. It wasn’t until we started to ask ourselves the “Why” questions, why do we want to do what we do in the first place, that we really started to get a handle on the “What.” What do we want our images to look like and stand for?
So because this topic of finding your signature style is so HUGE to begin with, we decided to break it up into two parts. This first part will be about starting with your Why and boiling that down into a filter for how you shoot. This is a big part of what we just talked about at PartnerCon. And then the second part (coming soon!) will be about how you go about defining and marketing that signature look.
So let’s start with the hard part, shall we? Sit down in front of your computer. Turn all distractions off. Take a deep breath. Now type what is in your heart: Why do you want to do what you do in the first place?
Tough question, right. Well after much soul searching, here is what we came up with:
We recognize that what we do is about preserving life, preserving love, and preserving history. To provide the very proof that that love existed in the first place. Therefore, in reverence for the gravity of that which we do, we choose to exercise the restraint to only tell those stories through the veil of authenticity and to capture the meaningful images that will record that history for the generations yet to come.
Whew. Heavy stuff, right? But important stuff also.
Now once you have that Why written out in paragraph form, proper punctuation, I want you to boil it down into 3-5 words that you want your images to stand for based on that Why. This will become your filter.
We all know that on the wedding day, we are faced with a million tiny minute by minute choices. Where to hang the dress, how to pose the portraits, to speak or not to speak, to get the shot or to get out of the way. And in the flurry of the day, it can be very easy to lose sight of the Why. To lose sight of how you want to shoot. And to just shoot and pose the way you just saw someone else do it on their blog. But if you can use that Why as a filter for everything you’re doing, then it will just keep bringing you back to the type of images you really want to create.
For us, our Why boiled down into the filter of AEIOU. We want all of the choices that we make on the wedding day, and therefore the images that we create, to be guided by these things. We want our images to be: Authentic, Emotional/Enduring, Intimate, Organic and Universal. (Unversal in the sense that anyone, even if they weren’t there on the wedding day, could look at those pictures and feel like they were there.)
And because of this filter, we make very different choices with our posing, lighting and photoshop than we might otherwise just by going by what everyone else is showing on their blogs. We make choices that define our unique, signature style.
And here’s the really great thing about Why’s and filters: ours don’t have to be the same as yours. You may have a completely different Why from ours that requires completely different choices on the wedding day. And those choices will create a signature style for you very different from ours. Good. That’s the idea. That’s what makes you unique. That’s what makes us unique. And that therefore makes us both irreplaceable to our clients.
So step one is to start with the Why. And then once you have it, to never lose sight of it.
** HUGE thanks to Jeff Youngren for rockin out these shots for us of our PartnerCon talk.
Ok, contest time. Leave us a note in the comment box with your filter, your 3-5 words that your Why can be boiled down to to guide you when you’re shooting. And then, since they sponsored our Platform at PartnerCon, we are going to be picking one lucky winner to receive a $100 gift card to Adorama! Contest ends tomorrow at 5pm EST!