The fact that we all see things differently is what makes photography special. We can be standing at the same place looking at the same scene and come away with completely different shots. Why? Our final images are an extension of our personal view of the world and our own style.
By taking photos daily, experimenting with different techniques, learning from others, and getting feedback, our personal style can emerge. I found that attending workshops and submitting my photos to be critiqued helps nurture my style. At first I was nervous (well, actually I am often a bit nervous about sharing my work), but I quickly realized that by doing so, and listening to what they appreciated in my photos and what I might consider doing differently, I grew as a photographer technically and artistically.
I might add, a key lesson is to stay open and listen to the feedback, so that you can evaluate what is valid and what is not. I was in Iceland last year and one of the instructors raved about the photo posted below. He suggested that I share it with one of the participants. I did and the guy looked at it and said, “I am underwhelmed.” Granted he had his own opinion, but I decided that the instructor’s feedback was far more valid. It also underscored the importance of giving and receiving constructive feedback.
You don’t need to attend a workshop to learn from others. Michelle and I often go Camera Walking and enjoy comparing our photos. We walked in a Marina last year and captured very different shots. Afterwards we talked about and shared our photos, and came away with a better appreciation for each other’s styles.
Our Camera Walking Meetup Group, now 162 members strong, continues to be a good forum to share ideas and learn. After our Meetups we upload photos to our page, and I am always fascinated with what people saw on the walk. Take a look at some of the photos that the group has taken and you will see all of the different perspectives.
If you are not sure what your personal point of view or style is, take a look at your photos and ask yourself, which ones tell the story that you wanted to capture? What images are your favorites? If you want to take it further, print out five or so of your favorite photos, and ask your friends over for dinner or drinks. Show them the photos and ask them to tell you what the photos say to them, and what they say about you as a photographer. This might feel risky, but most likely you will find that their feedback can help you define your style. It is worth the risk!
Capturing our personal view of the world is what makes our images special. Personally deriving pleasure from our images is first and foremost the priority, but as they are a part of who we are, sharing them with others is a special gift to give. So grab your camera and go out Camera Walking.