We got style!
I have been asked so many questions throughout the years and one question in particular comes up allot.
What style do you shoot. And the answer is YES. Another answer is one and many, still confusing? The real answer is adaptive, flexible and responsive. This combines many forms of photography such as fashion/glamour, traditional, photojournalism and many more styles, but to me it was more important that they were applied to meet the needs of the people being photographed and also the situations. Now I will explain more on these and how they apply.
I have been in photography many years, and feel very blessed to see all the changes, and with each year and changing styles we evolved and things changed. Originally when digital was around wedding photography was called wedding portraiture. It was very structured and most weddings pretty much had the same images and typically we might photograph around one hundred and twenty five images. Not much in todays’ standards but at several dollars a shot it added up quick and there was an expectation for everyones album to look the same. Key shots peppered with a few personal shots here and there.
Later as digital imaging made its debut in its infancy, things started to change. While still expensive, it was not nearly as expensive as the medium format cameras and lenses and film/processing that preceded them. Then there was the fact that digital images were cheaper to create and way more easy to store and access and could be manipulated and corrected. This brought in a whole new level of creativity and took away the barrier of cost. So you could take one thousand images with very little cost compared to film. So you could experiment allot more and try new things with no reservations.
As the technology evolved the ability of the cameras did too. This meant that techniques and styles that were once not possible were a real thing. Much higher ISO (low light capabilities) and better quality sensors meant available light images that looked great and that lead to the birth of available light portraiture. Before with lower ISO sensors or film, this meant any movement by the camera or subject would blur in the images. This was now a reality. Wonderful color images that had a film like appearance but eliminated the constraints. This in turn lead to available light portraiture morphing into photojournalism and wedding photojournalism. Which in turn lead to the style of photography that most photographers (not all) use today. The shotgun style.
The shotgun style is probably the complete opposite of all earlier forms and styles of photography that were main stream and taught in art and photography schools on the world. The shotgun style of today is a method of blurred lines between many styles with the emphasis if you shoot enough something will come out great. You may see some photographer take as many as five thousand images at a wedding and no real defined style. Most have never taken any classes and can’t perform a particular style at all. I believed much as in cooking, and I love to use food analogies, you can study different styles as a pure style and once you master them you can blend these styles to create better and different styles and images. It’s much like mixing an Asian style of cooking with an American style to come up with a new style that may not have a name but the tastes and presentation are unlike anything before. And not having a name or definitive style does not make it taste any less sumptuous or eye appealing.
So back to the basics. Having studied many styles of photographic image capture and mastering them it was easy to blend these styles and create a new and unique approach. But there was still something missing. I felt that even though these styles could be applied to many people that the reason why was just as important as the how. This meant rethinking why I was using the styles and ones that I had blended and what would make them more meaningful to that person and create wow images that looked casual in the taking and they would love.
I realized a long time ago that not only is every person different but as we know everyone is proud of who they are and see that as they present themselves. If you stop, slow down, look and listen you learn allot about people. And the more you know the easier it is to create images that not only show the true person but also they will love. Look at haircuts, shoes, jewelry etc. and these say allot about the person. Do they wear flip flops, high end fashion runway heels or maybe hiking boots or even barefoot. How they sit, are they relaxed or sitting up straight with the best posture you have ever seen. There are so many clues to a persons personality and almost every time we are so interested in what we are doing we miss these clues.
So I started to rethink not how to photograph but the why I photograph and it’s opened a whole new world and changed my life personally. When I evaluate a person and situation and I take into account the why it’s easy to come up with a style blend that is adaptive, responsive and flexible. People and situations change quickly and that’s the adaptive part. Adaptive to be able to change to meet the why. The flexible part is having the skill set photographically to adjust and change with moods and environment. The responsive is two parts, once again having the skill set mastered to apply it in the blink of an eye a style of photography but making sure it represents the person or situation you are capturing. All too often as photographers we photograph what we want the way we see it. But that may not be what the person that you are photographing is looking for or sees in themselves. We are nothing but a mirror for the person or scene we capture. As an artist we can make it ours when it’s right too but I think there is an obligation and trust to put our needs aside and think through others.
So this once again goes back to today’s shotgun style. Mastering and owning many styles and then having the ability to use them individually, blend them or even create new styles to achieve the end result which is an image that truly represents not how you see something but the true essence of the person or scene .That’s what makes up a master photographer and an artist. And that is what my style is about.
Adaptive, flexible and responsive.