Bringing you the next instalment of GotPhoto’s monthly feature – Professional Tips with Erica Morrow, lead photographer and owner of Slow Road Photo. Each month Erica will bring you her view from behind the camera as she snaps thousands of kids and the new school year unfolds.
In this month’s blog, Erica provides her insight on creating a photograph style that is unique to you. She takes you through her own personal experience to help you find your own path in a world full of photographers.
We are living in a time where there is a photographer around every bend. While the large pool of artists can lead to beautiful communities and opportunities to grow a tribe, it can also create what feels like a minuscule chance that we will be able to really stand out from the noise. This is a really important time for us to find our personal voice in photography and business, but often it’s just too overwhelming to know where to begin.
We see work we admire so we try to emulate it, but at the end of the day many of us are left longing for our unique space. We want to be able to stand and say “Here I am! I have something to give that’s all my own!”.
But I’m writing to give us all hope as artists, as photographers, as creatives. You already have every single thing you need to create a distinct style that will not only attract clients, but also breathe new life into our weary bones when the going gets tough.
Be A Storyteller
As a photographer, we get to tell a story with our lens. Like poetry, which has this amazing ability to tell the most profound truths in the fewest amount of words, our work should likewise tell the most vivid stories with just the click of a shutter. The beautiful thing is that as an artist, you get to decide which stories you want to tell. Your life, your personality, your interests – all of that will play a part in shaping how you tell your stories. If you and a fellow photographer were photographing a baby for instance, you will likely have different angles. One of you may be attempting to tell the story of the details, the way the baby’s lips curl into a smile or the way her fingers curl around a toy. But another photographer may want to tell a story of the relationship between that little babe and her mama.
I run into this storytelling piece often as a school photographer. Many children stand in front of my camera and paste on a smile (some even say, “cheeeeeese”) because that’s what they expect me to want from them. But I decided a while back that the frozen smile moment wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I want to tell the story of who these little ones are when they forget they are being photographed. I shape my conversations and demeanour with them to reflect that. Then as I cull and edit, I’m going to save the shots that best tell that story – the ones where the children look as natural and authentic as possible. Is the standard smiley face photo bad? Not at all! It’s just that while that may reflect someone else’s unique style, it’s not who I am. The more I work at telling the stories that are important to me as an artist, the more my work will show my distinct vision for what I want to capture.
Look At Your Life
What makes you belly laugh? What’s that movie that causes you to tear up no matter how many times you watch it? Where do you drive to get that takeout you love, even if it means passing three other similar restaurants on the way? We each have interests, loves, people in our lives that inspire us and fill us with joy. As an artist, this is your richest source of inspiration.
As you are developing your style as a photographer, start first in your own backyard. Pay attention to what moves you. Is it the way the light hits the tree as it rises in the morning? Is it the conversation with the two elderly women in the corner that keeps drawing your eye? Allow your natural curiosities to pull you towards subject matter that actually means something to you. Let that curiosity spark the question of what story it is you really want to tell. As you begin to follow that thread, you will be surprised at how naturally you fall into a way of shooting that feels honest and true.
Know Your Perspective
There is only one of you in the whole world. Fifty million photographers, but only one of you. You are the only one who can tell the story through your unique lens. You alone know the specific angles, editing, and intention that you can bring to the table. It’s not going to be a fit with every client you work with, but you know what? I think that is completely okay.
For every client who decides that your style isn’t for them, there will be another who finds you to be exactly what they are looking for. And as you grow, you find that tribe that gets you, who understands what you are creating, and loves you for it!
So go for it! Be you. The world needs to see your gifts at play, and we will all be better for it.