A photo of a lake that shows the photographer's personal photography style

What Is a Photography Style and How to Find Yours

Do you struggle to find your voice when taking photographs? Would you love to uncover your own unique photography style?

Join us as we talk you through how to find your own unique style.

What Is a Photography Style?

A photography style is a signature look for your images that makes the work unmistakably yours. It is your own unique way of seeing the world through your camera.

It’s not the same thing as a photography niche or genre, which is what you choose to photograph.

If you have ever been out on a shoot with a fellow photographer, you’ll notice that he or she sees a scene completely differently to how you do.

Elements of a scene that stand out to you, might not be noticed by someone else. You will no doubt both ends up with different photos of the same scene. We all see the world through our very own filter.

A misty winter woodland scene - an example of a photography style
I saw a fairytale in this scene–something another photographer may have missed. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

Your view of the world is shaped by your likes and dislikes: your upbringing, your environment, your passions, and your priorities all color how you see things or situations.

If I had been the child of a botanist, I would probably spot flowers more quickly than others. If I’d had a scary experience in a forest, this would mean I may avoid forests.

All our experiences and preferences give us this unique vision on the world and this determines what makes us pick up a camera and take a picture.

A misty winter woodland image of trees - a unique photography style
Here I saw a storybook scene oozing stillness, someone else may see a haunted forest. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

Your unique vision determines what you take pictures of and what you are attracted to.

Ask yourself the following questions before you press the shutter: why do I want to take this picture? What is it that attracts me to this scene? This will help you to capture your impression and stay true to your own vision.

Sunlight streams through a misty woodland shot - an example of a dreamy photography style
The dreamy, mystical atmosphere attracted me to this scene, which was coherent with my photography style and vision. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

How to Develop Your Own Photography Style

A photography style cannot be found overnight: it takes time to grow into one.

It helps to know what makes up a style. A style consists of a compilation of many choices. All of these choices combine to give your images a signature look. These choices start with the things you want to include or exclude in an image.

1. Make Choices That Align with Your Style

This, in turn, affects the way you compose your scene. it affects your point of view, the weather conditions that you choose to shoot in, the focal distance and the depth of field.

Let’s say I am smitten with a single tree in a landscape. For me, it is all about this tree and less about its surroundings. In this case, I must find a way to take a picture of this tree that conveys my vision best and captures it in one image.

How I can make this tree stand out from the rest of the trees? I might have to wait for a misty morning, or perhaps wait for this tree to be backlit. I could also choose a shallower depth of field, a wide-angle lens to emphasize its size, or I could photograph it in Autumn when the colors stand out the most.

A misty summer woodland scene
In this case, fog and the dull greens of summer provided me with the right conditions for this scene. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.
Woodland covered in snow and surrounded by fog
The same scene in the midst of winter, surrounded by dense fog, did not give the same dreamy look. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

There are a number of choices I could make to take this picture: these are the building blocks of my style. For example, I would not opt for a wide-angle shot of this tree, even though that would make it look really large in comparison to the rest. This is one solution for making this tree stand out, but it would not be my solution. I would rather rely on weather conditions and mood to highlight the tree. 

The choices you make for solving a photography dilemma (and every photo poses such a dilemma), are crucial elements in developing your photography style.

Ellen Borggreve

This is something that will emerge automatically with time, but to hurry the process it helps to be aware of the choices made to capture your image in a way that best conveys your unique vision. 

2. Check If the Scene Match Your Style.

When you upload photos to your computer, you may like some pictures more than others. The image you choose to edit and include in your portfolio is also a building block to your personal style.

A few months ago I took photos with a group of passionate photographers and their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I took pictures that I usually would not take.

These images were not all bad, but when I came home it felt like someone else had taken them. As a result, I did not include any in my portfolio. I put these images aside and chose to share images that I felt told my story.

This is one of the images I took when shooting with other photographers. It does not have my usual timeless, painterly style. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

3. Be Unique with Your Photography Style

Developing a personal style can be tricky, especially if you let it be defined by which images are most popular on social media.

This can be an enormous pitfall these days: we see image after image on Instagram and it is very hard to not allow it to influence the way you capture photos.

What you see every day, will start to leave an imprint on your brain. The next time you stand before a scene that has been photographed by many others previously, your brain will recognize this and nudge you towards the same shot. Don’t let yourself be too influenced by others.

Mist reveals an island in the middle of a lake
I had seen this lake in photographs before, but I wanted to take a personal approach. I waited for years for the right conditions to make this scene look coherent with my style. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

This does not mean that you need to bend over backward to take wildly different images.

You simply need to stay true to your vision and keep asking that same questions:

What makes me pick up my camera now? Why do I want to take this picture? What is important to me?

A misty, purple sunrise over a field of trees
It was important for me to capture the mystical purple mood of this morning. I opted to find a scene that would capture this atmosphere and convey the stillness. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

I used to carry a piece of paper in my camera bag with these questions on it, to keep me focussed when photographing a popular location. 

4. Post-Process with Your Photography Style in Mind

Editing is also an important part of your style.

Some people are well-known for their bright and airy (high key) images, while others have a dark Rembrandt-like style. Again, this all comes down to personal choice and what feels right to you.

You simply have to edit your photos in a way that is pleasing to your eyes. Don’t let anything else influence these decisions.

During editing, you will be able to alter the saturation, vibrance, color, contrast, and texture in your images. If you really love structure, you may be more prone to adding clarity, than someone who loves dreamy pictures.

All these combine to create your own unique style.

Related Articles: Lightroom Tutorials, Photoshop Tutorials.

5. Critique Your Own Work

A style is not stagnant, it is something which constantly evolves.

It can evolve slowly over time, or you can make it evolve by regularly reviewing your work.

This is a way of making this process more conscious–something that is conscious has a better chance of becoming a consistent and refined pattern.

Reviewing your work is not about labeling one picture good and one picture bad. It is not about bruising your artistic self. It’s about finding out what appeals to you the most, what you want to build upon and what to leave behind. It is a constant process of asking yourself what it is that speaks to you and, more importantly, why it speaks to you. 

A misty Autumnal woodland scene
When I review my work, I always label my pictures intuitively. I choose which pictures I feel most connected to and then ask myself why this is the case. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

I review my images by first culling my images in Lightroom. I highlight the ones that I want to keep and edit using different colors: green are the ones that I like best, red are those that I like the least.

Then I review the images in these two categories and ask myself the following questions:

  • Red images: why specifically don’t I like the red images? Would I like them if I made changes?
  • Green images: do I need to build upon the green images? If so, why? Why do I like these shots the most? What makes me feel connected to them? Why do I feel like these represent me and my style?

Photograpy Genre vs Style

There are lots of different types of photography, or genres. Such as; Wedding photography, Portrait photography, Landscape photography…etc

There are also many sub-genres within these genres: for example, you could be a portrait photographer whose niche is child portraiture.

A photography style does not depend on the genre. Some photographers work within several genres, but still, have one signature look for all of their work. When you see their work, you immediately know it is theirs. 

Trees covered in snow overlooking a lake
This image is a similar subject to the one underneath, but the style is completely different. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.
Sunlight streams through tree branches overlooking a misty lake - an example of a dreamy photography style
This picture was taken years after the one above. It is within the same niche, but by now I had developed my signature dreamy style. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

The Difference between a Vision and a Style

A personal photography style depends upon your vision–but they are two separate things.

Your vision is how you perceive the scene: what stands out? A style is how you convey this in your photos–this becomes your signature look. 

A style consists of the steps you take to achieve a certain look. This includes composition, lens choice and many other elements such as color preference, saturation, contrast, weather conditions, type of light, exposure, depth of field and of course, choices made in post-production.

A misty Autumnal morning over a field with trees and heather
My style depends heavily on light and weather conditions. I prefer misty conditions because I like to take images which have a dream-like quality to them. Photo by Ellen Borggreve.

Go and Find Your Style

Every person has their own vision. Making this visible through your work is an essential part of being an artist.

We are all unique and we show this through the things we do and create. This, I think, is one of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves. 

I hope we have shown you how to find this for yourself. Stay true to what inspires you.

Find ways to express this in a consistent way that expresses your vision best. This is the key to a photography style that is unmistakably yours.

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re a better photographer.

Guaranteed.

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