Well, we all know about the Pursuit of Happiness, largely if you’re not American, due to the movie with Will Smith. And the pursuit of happiness digging a little deeper comes from the Declaration of Independence and is taken these days to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy.
But think, when does the pursuit of something subjective lead to actually obtaining that thing? Can you actively pursue happiness? Does happiness exist outside of us? And furthermore, does style exist outside of us?
Our photographic style is how we see the world. It’s hard for us to see our style because we see the *ENTIRE* world that way.
(That’s why it is much easier for others to see and recognise our style. It’s different to theirs, they don’t see it every day).
So back to the point. To find your style, the pursuit of style, is the act of pursuing how to find and evoke your photography style.
Can it be done? – YES! Is it easy? Well, that is subjective. BUT yes it can be. If you get these ‘what not to do’ steps out of the way first.
Find Your Style: What is Style Research
When trying to find your style, style research is the process of spending time reflecting, absorbing and processing the work of others in order to identify the elements we connect with. Ideally, it should be a time of wonderment. A celebration of our fellow creatives and how they see and capture the world around us. But more than likely it the experience falls very short of this.
Admittedly, it is more easily digested when we aren’t looking at the work of creatives in your niche. We can more easily put aside our fears and frustrations and look at their work subjectively (well….most of the time anyway), as we aren’t as emotionally attached.
When Finding Your Style Research Becomes Paralysing
Style research is important and necessary, I’m not going to deny that. But ‘style research’ becomes paralysing when it turns into an obsessive (and sometimes unrecognisable) habit that leads you away from it’s intent and into a comparison tailspin.
And it is so simple for this act to become overwhelming and lead you to a worse state. You are bombarded with thousands of images per day, a lot of them are quality and they are targeted directly at your interests. Further driving the comparison mindset.
3 Things NOT To Do To Find Your Style
Before I get into what to avoid in order to skip the comparison tailspin and overwhelm, I want to engage in some #realtalk.
I was lucky. It’s as simple as that. I was starting my photography journey before social media was as big and influential as it is today. Instagram wasn’t super popular and I don’t think I was even using the platform yet when I started. Pinterest had just started up and was still inviting users via invitation. (It was mostly filled with DIY from mums and food photography wasn’t a destination yet). So finding a style for me was more about creative discovery.
These are the 5 steps that I found most helpful in discovering my food photography style.
READ RELATED POST: 5 Steps To Discover Your Food Photography Style
Finding your style in photography is like any worthwhile relationship. It takes time to build.
#1 Don’t Just Consume Content. Produce It Instead
First things first, to find your style, you want to be a content producer. Not ‘just’ a consumer.
Ok so what does that mean and why is it powerful?
Consuming content means that you aren’t in action.
You aren’t producing anything. You’re not learning, trying, failing, succeeding, adding knowledge, AND most importantly you’re certainly not producing photography. It more than likely won’t lead to you to find your style.
Spending 3 hours total on Instagram this week is consuming content and tell me… what do you have to show for it at the end? Certainly not an image that you produced. Did you find your style that way?
Producing content means that you are in action.
You’re creating and you’ll have something ‘tangible’ at the end (let’s assume in this scenario that an image is tangible). You’ve gone through a process, you’ve practised, you’ve learned, failed and succeeded.
Taking that 3 hours you’d normally have spent on Instagram during the week and turn it into creating your art instead.
Why Content Producers Are ‘Successful’
Sometimes there is no magic secret. It’s just plain simple.
Those people who are ‘successful’ just get in there and keep trying. Keep producing. They aren’t concerned with getting emotionally tied up with what others are doing.
They are on the field of play. They’re creating. All the time. They’re learning. That’s why they get there quicker. Not because they are better, but because they are practising more and more. Taking these actions, you’re more likely to find your style.
Let me ask you? Would a soccer player be any good if he/she studied the field of play all day every day but never took to the field and got into action? Of course not.
If you enjoy minimalist styling or think an exercise might help you find your style, then do something like this when you next pencil in time to be a content producer.
Personal projects took me from here….
#2 Putting Pressure on Style, It’s Like Picking A Scab
Remember when I said that I was lucky? I was able to find my style before the huge rise and ease of access to social media, (mainly referring to Instagram). Before the competition set in. Well, that’s true, but it isn’t the full picture.
We all know that if you keep picking at a scab, it gets worse. It could even scar! Doesn’t sound like the way to find your style, right?
Leave it alone, let it do its thing and it’ll heal itself.
Well, to find your style my friend is virtually the same. You’ve got to trust that you’ll get there. You’ll find it. Be able to express it.
Engage in action, approach each shoot with a mindset of discovery and eventually, you will be led there.
Don’t pick the scab. Don’t put too much pressure on it.
#3 Forget To Analyse and Get Caught Up in A Negative Mindset
Bless us. We set out with the best intentions to do our style research and all we end up with is feeling worse than we did before.
Well, that is largely due to habit and we can’t be too hard on ourselves.
But we need to remember what the intention here is. Style research should be about analysing elements in the work of others to pinpoint what we like and connect with.
When we just think ‘everything’, I like everything about someone else’s work it becomes about comparison and can lead you away from being able to find your style.
When we pinpoint an element it becomes about analysis. Forgetting what the intention of style research is, just makes us feel shitty and won’t help you to find your style.
What You Can Do Instead
Now that we know we don’t just want to consume, pick the scab and get caught up in a negative mindset. So what should you do instead to find your style?
Well, there are two things you can do that are simple. The trick is to have persistence and willpower. Then you’ll for sure find your style.
Doing this exercise will more likely help you find your style without the comparison trap.
RELATED POST: 3 Words To Describe Your Food Photography Style
The Almighty 80:20 Rule – Just Shoot Instead
There are a few ways you can look at the 80:20 rule, but here we’ll look at it as:
Spend 20 percent of your time doing things that will bring you 80 percent of the results.
Simply the pursuit of style won’t get us into action. Practising and trusting ourselves that with time, passion and determination we will get to you to find your style.
THINK – what could you do with that time that will get you results? The answer is action.
Instead of spending hours looking at the work of others on Instagram, use that time to shoot something.