Your signature photography style. Boy that’s a loaded topic right?
However, I’ve got a good one for you today! If you want to do some self reflection and a little bit of work, I will tell you how to get there. I want to chat about creating and defining a signature photography and photo editing style because I want you to be confident and authentic in your business. Seriously!
No more style hopping. No more “This is gorgeous! I want to do that! Oh wait this photographer does this, maybe I should try that!” It’s a rabbit hole and could go on and on because there are so many talented photographers out there.
How do we stop style hopping?
In order to create your signature style, you need to first discover what your style aesthetic is.
Here are a few questions to think about:
- Do you feel like your images look like everyone else’s in your market?
- Have you purchased the same presets as others?
- Are you closely following the same photographers on social media and blogs?
- Have you taken courses from photographers to learn how to edit like them?
If you said yes to any or all of these questions don’t worry, you are in good company! So many other photographers, myself included, have done all of these things. I believe it is often the natural progression of a photographer to be focused on these things at some point. It’s how we learn and grow!
Let me tell you a common tale… You start your business. Maybe you follow and obsess over a favorite photographer’s beautiful style. Then you learn how to run your business, shoot, and edit from that photographer. Your images look beautiful like their style, but brides still go to THAT photographer first.
I promise I’ve been there! But guess what? The faster you move on from this little cycle, the sooner you can define and refine your own style as well as become known for it.
In order to TRULY discover your style aesthetic, you need to get laser focused on, that’s right… YOU!
How to Discover Your Style Aesthetic
How do you create your own style? It starts even before picking up your camera. First of all, stop trying to perfectly emulate your favorite photographers. Let’s turn the magnifying glass away from others and point it at yourself. What makes you unique and how will you stand out from others? The secret is that it is all about you. Who you are as a person is going to shape this whole process! This is an essential part of the equation that not everyone works through. Stick with me here!
There are 3 steps to work through:
- Reflect on you and your business
- Gather inspiration
- Analyze and Translate
Step One. Reflect on YOU and your photography business
Your entire brand and image style needs to start with WHO YOU ARE or you can get lost in the sea of similarity. How do brides choose who to book if everyone has the same style? The creative artist in you wants them to appreciate your images and not focus on their wallet or outside opinions. So you need to make sure that WHO YOU ARE shines through in your images.
- What is your personality like? Casual and relaxed, formal and subtle, bold and full of life, social and immediate besties with everyone, reserved and super sweet, quirky and unapologetic
- Favorite things? Where you travel, books, food, movies, hobbies, skills, podcasts, stores, art, etc.
- How do you interact with clients? What is their experience like from the first moment you connect?
- What is it like for your clients at session or on the wedding day? Are you laughing and playing music, boldly directing your clients and getting up in their space? Are you gentle with your approach, observant and more soft spoken?
Write it all out! Create a paragraph or more about who you are and what your client will experience when they work with you.
OK, now how do we get who we are to show up in our images and online presence? Let’s start with some research…
Step two. Gather photo inspiration
It’s Pinterest Party Time!
Guess what the worst place to start gathering inspiration is? Other photographers in your specialty 🙂
Find your initial inspiration images from anywhere EXCEPT your niche. (Seriously. Wedding photographers stay away from other wedding photos!)
Create a Pinterest board that represents who you are.
- What artistic styles are you drawn to? I’m talking art, colors, patterns, locations, clothing, furniture, graphics, cars, etc.
- Pin pin pin!
- Curate down. Then pin again. Curate…
- Take breaks. You can take several days to create this board if you want. Are you drawn to that image you pinned yesterday or was that on a whim?
- What similar themes and qualities keep coming up? Create a cohesive board that could be inspiring to look at every day.
- Go back to the paragraph you wrote about you and your business. Do these images align with your words? Can you describe the images you found with similar words you used for your personality? If not, keep curating and pinning until you see the words and the visuals come together! It’s like magic!
- Move your 10 favorite images onto a Canva mood board template (free and easy online software! https://canva.com) or create one in Photoshop/Illustrator. Bonus points for printing them out and hanging them in your office 🙂 I included a few example mood boards and templates I found in Canva with links to the templates if you click on the image!
You have just created a visual representation of who you are! Sweet!
Step Three. Analyze and Translate into a Photo Editing Style
Let’s define the artistic qualities of the mood board images.
At this point you have your personality and brand experience paragraph and you have a mood board with a collection of images that visually represent you. Next we start to bring your photography into the mix.
Analyze your board compared to your current style and make a plan for how to refine editing.
- Open the inspiration board you created and open your website/Instagram. Does your Instagram feed look like it belongs together with the board? Is it like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and ketchup? If not, this is where we need to shift your editing process. We need to create final images that look inspired by your board and that scream YOU. Because remember that board is a visual representation of your personality and brand words.
- Take a screenshot of your current Instagram feed and some portfolio images. Then we can do some fun comparing later on in your transformation journey!
- **Most important** Now let’s break down some specific artistic qualities of your inspiration board. Describe them in detail. Soft, high contrast, bold, colorful, pastel, lots of pink, neutrals, texture, minimalism, whimsy, loud, intense, etc. These are going to be the basis of how you create your photo editing style and how you will choose the adjustments you make with specific Lightroom tools.
It’s time for Lightroom photo editing fun!
Congratulations!! You just:
- Discovered a style aesthetic that truly fits who you are.
- Created an amazing list of artistic qualities to help guide you in your editing.
- Know what kind of look you need to focus on mastering in Lightroom (and while shooting!)
Extra gold stars if you keep your inspiration mood board in your background while editing or if you print out the images and post them on your wall.
Now that you have DISCOVERED your style aesthetic you can move on to executing that style in Lightroom! Woohoo!!
Head over to The Shop to discover how Heirloom Presets can help you translate your new found style aesthetic into your editing process!