Defining A Style

It’s interesting how, as a photographer, you stumble upon a way of shooting…be it a camera you fall in love with, a lighting formula that looks sweet…whatever it might be that makes you look twice at that particular shoot and say “I’m going to do that again.”  Then, you shoot that way for a little while.  Then, your clients start hiring you based on that particular look.  Then, you discover something else…something that’s even cooler than the other thing you were doing.  Then, you want to do the new thing for a little while, but people still look at you as the photographer to call when they need “x” (we’ll say “x” and “y” for the sake of not getting overly specific).  No one cares or wants to be informed that you’ve moved on to “y”.  Let’s say you go nuts and shoot in the “y” style when you were specifically asked to shoot “x”.  Not always a good idea.  I guess one could say to shoot the way you are asked to, and then shoot the way you want to to cover all bases.  This is the general rule of thumb, but time and many many other unforeseen circumstances are not always kind to us photographers.  There isn’t always an opportunity to experiment, especially when shooting busy people.

I feel like my work is shifting, and to me that is a good thing.  This has happened a few times in the past, and it’s of course very important to us insecure creatives to feel like we are progressing.  Today I had a shoot with an actress, and I shot it pretty much exactly how I wanted to (with a few minor amendments, but it’s celebrity, so I’m not going to be picky).  I was working with a photo editor with whom I have a long relationship, and I felt comfortable “being myself” in terms of how I went about crafting the pictures.  I’m excited to see the film.  I wish every job was like this one.  

My question is (drumroll)…is it more important to do one thing really well and be known for doing this thing?  Or is it better to change it up and in turn, run the risk of confusing people who are in a position to hire you?  Ta-dah.

3 comments to Defining A Style

  • Anonymous

    An excellent question, my four-eyed wonder. I have considered the same issue in other contexts. For myself, I find that there are many jewelry makers who find one style and continue to make every piece of jewelry in basically the same way. As you say, it’s very recognizable but the creativity involved continues to shrink as more similar pieces are made.

    Your father talks about what he calls “me too” science, where the scientist does the same experiments over & over again, but changes one small thing each time. The scientist is able to rack up a long list of publications but they are very yawn inducing. But again, you have to question the creativity involved.

    Ultimately, each of us must decide what brings us pleasure. The creativity of trying something totally new, even if it causes us to sometimes fall on our collective faces. Or, the security of doing something that we know we do well & others seem to enjoy.

    Perhaps a mixture of the two?


  • Anonymous

    I think this sounds like when you love a band, and then all of a sudden their new cd comes out and it’s completely different than their old sound. At first it may be off-putting, but eventually you realize that you have to unpack your library in order to move on and the fans always come around to liking, accepting, and appreciating the new work. They may lose some old fans, but they may also gain some new ones.

  • Terence Patrick

    What happens when you get tired of “x” and don’t really have a “y” to turn to? That happened to me after going on my own after being someone else’s first asst. for a few years, trying to find my own way again and step out of that shadow of style and habit.