How To Develop a Personal Style in Mobile Photography
Jack Hollingsworth, a denizen of Austin, TX, is an award-winning, 30-year career veteran in commercial photography. Jack has fallen in love with his iPhone camera as his primary capture tool. He is also an avid Camera+ devotee and has been since day one. He deeply believes that, when all is said and done, the iPhone may just be remembered as the most influential capture device ever in the history of photography.
I can’t think of a single subject that I have thought more about or wrestled with, over my 30-year career in photography than “Developing a Personal Style”. After all, if you really think about it, developing a personal style in your photography helps you stand out from all the ‘non-styled’ photography that exists online and in social media today.
I didn’t just wake up one day and announce to the world that I have a definite and distinct personal style in my photography. That realization came, not after months…but years of ‘day in and day out’ shooting. It was subtle and it was gradual – no whack on the side of the head; no lightning bolt; no baptism by fire. Just a slow and steady realization that my photography vision and style was increasingly consistent throughout the body of my work (notice I didn’t say ‘single images’ but instead…‘body of work’). Now, after 3 decades of defining and developing my style in DSLR photography, I am, to some extent, back to square one, and starting the process all over again.
Is my DSLR style the same as my mobile style? Yes and no. In my mobile work, I can clearly and creatively see threads of commonality to my DSLR work. On the other hand, I can also see where my mobile work is quite different than what I have shot in the past with my big camera.
1.0 my story
What is Style?
Technically speaking, and by definition, it is a ‘manner of doing something’. It’s a way of behaving or approaching a subject or situation that is relatively unique to you. Photographically speaking, developing a personal style in your work is really nothing more than putting the ‘you’ in your photos – simple to say…hard to consistently execute. It’s your stamp, your voice, your vision, your take, your slant, your approach to photographing the world around you. It’s putting all that you are into all that you do.
2.0 what is style
Nature and Nurture
Based on my own personal experience as a career photographer, I would say that developing a personal style in photography is part nature and part nurture…and by no means in equal proportions. Some photographers are born with a natural instinctive and intuitive style, right out of the womb. Developing a style comes naturally and innately for some. Most photographers, on the other hand, have to work for years to define and refine their photographic styles and their journeys are more arduous, taxing and formidable. If you are one of the lucky ones…celebrate that. For the rest of us…we have to get to work.
3.0 nature and nurture
Vision and Style
I hear these terms bantered about, often interchangeably. They actually are quite different. Vision is pure inspiration, perception and intuition. It comes from within. It’s tied to how you view the world, based on your life experiences.
Style is tactical and outward. It’s how your vision gets realized and played out. Style is all the little twists and turns you put on your photographs that make those photographs uniquely and exceptionally ‘you’.
4.0 vision and style
What Style is Not
Don’t confuse the term ‘style’ with ‘genre’. As an example, let’s talk about portrait photography. Portrait photography is a genre of photography and has to do with the subject the photographer is shooting (in this case, a portrait). It’s the content. Portrait photography is not a style. A ‘genre’ is what you shoot. A ‘style’ is how you shoot. The same is true of all other photography genres – landscapes, macro, travel, fashion, scenic, social, etc. Style is the ‘one of a kind’ spin you put on interpreting any subject matter, be it common or rare.
5.0 what style is not
Rules and Guidelines
I strongly resist the notion that there are strict rules to follow in developing a photographic style. Instead, I prefer the much softer and gentler language of guidelines, recommendations, and benchmarks.
Developing a photographic style in your photography is most likely going to be one of the most taxing, laborious and challenging things you’ll ever do as a photographer, but it is also one of the most rewarding and satisfying things too.
It’s important to know the rules. It is also important to know when to break those rules. Balance this creative tension with grace…and you’ll be one step closer to finding your own style in mobile photography.
6.0 rules and guidelines
Your Style Will Change
I can tell you right now, after years of shooting, that your style will change and for some of you, that change may be drastic, sudden and intense. For others, it may be more delicate, muted, and understated but it will change over the years. Learn to celebrate this fact.
My overall style changes have been more subdued than many of my colleagues. What’s interesting for me is how each stage or level is a stylistic building block to the next stage. Enjoy the ride!
7.0 your style will change
You Are What You Shoot
Without a doubt, you are indeed what you shoot. You can’t force a style for yourself and you can’t really mimic the style of someone else without it looking too mechanical and pedestrian. Natural, organic, passionate style grows right out of your life experiences – very emotion; every movie you’ve seen; every relationship you have been in; every book you’ve read; every lyric you’ve memorized. You are what you shoot.
8.0 you are what you shoot
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