Style and Photographic Simplicity


Alright, today’s post is completely a rant but I think it’s a very relevant one.  Lately there has been lots of talk about vision and style on the interwebs, both of which are excellent subjects that are very important to photography.  But what’s bothering me is that I think there are a lot of folks (especially newer photographers) that get caught up in what they think is style, but actually isn’t.

Photoshop and Actions
Photographic style is so much more than a way that you process a photo in Photoshop or run a particular Action.  Those two have nothing to do with style.  As my fellow photographer Don Giannatti said, “If you’re buying [Photoshop] Actions, you’re buying a ‘look’ in a box.”  He couldn’t be more right.

People go on Flickr and they chase around the latest trend or current lighting technique or processing style and then set out to emulate it.  While that’s a good way to learn how to do something, it’s not something you want to put in your book.  In the technical age that we live in, there are plenty of smart folks out there who can pick up technique quickly.  Again, it’s a very good ability to have in order to learn.

There are even particular photographers whose work has been aped more than I care to talk about.  Everyone wanted to make their work look like his or hers because it was what was really hot at the moment.  (The operative word there being ‘moment’.)

There is so much work out there that is so heavily processed (and often by someone else other than the photographer) that by the time the image is finished, they can barely call the work their own.  Some commercial photographers take the shot and then don’t touch the image again.  Some don’t set up their own lighting.  Hmmm….

Getting Back to Basics
So whatever happened to the simple, well-lit portrait?  You know, with the kind of soft light you would find from a North-facing window.  It’s the kind of light that people crave and a lot of photographers covet.  It’s soft, pleasing, and really makes your subject look their best.  Where are the portraits that draw out emotion in the viewer?  And I’m not talking about the “hey that lighting looks badass” kind of emotion either.  If you look at some of the work of photographic masters like Richard Avedon or Annie Leibovitz you’ll see those kind of portraits.  If you have no idea who I’m talking about, you need to head to the library and do some studying!

My Own Style
I’m really drawn to portraits – it’s a large part of why I love to photograph people.  I like to shoot other subjects for fun, but people are it for me.  I enjoy the interaction and bringing out personality in my subject.  It’s what makes me tick as a photographer.

As far as my own lighting, you will typically find me putting one light into a 60″ shoot through (sometimes reflective) umbrella.  I will also use a 24″x24″ softbox, but it’s almost always one light on my subject.  One of the reasons that I think I prefer to shoot this way is because I don’t really pay attention to the gear.  I really just need a camera, a subject, and good light.  I love light.

Is my own style complete?  Ha!  Hardly.  I’m still working on it every. single. day.  My goal is cohesiveness and consistency in my work and it can become awfully hard to repeat something perfectly every time you press the shutter release.  Nonetheless, that’s what I’m after.

Rant Over

Thanks for joining me on my little rant, and please feel free to leave comments and thoughts below.  Constructive comments are always welcome.  SPAM and other BS won’t be tolerated.

Also, don’t forget that The DSLR Workshop kicks off on October 1st and you can follow the show on Facebook and Twitter, as well as subscribe to the podcast in iTunes as well.  It’s a free photography show to teach folks how to use DSLR cameras and make better pictures.  Join us, won’t you?

I hope you’re week is going well!  Get out and shoot!


5 thoughts on “Style and Photographic Simplicity

  1. Very well said!!! It’s one of the many reasons I don’t read certain “high profile” photogs blogs, I have my own sense of style and whether its right or wrong to someone else, its working for me and my clients!

    • Absolutely! If what you are doing is working for you and your clients, then it’s exactly what you need to be doing. Your clients will come to you for that style and when you change it all the time and don’t stay consistent, it’s confusing to them.

  2. Bravo. I agree completely. It’s all about capturing that smile or look, not the dodging, burning, multiplying….. etc. Spend the time on the shot, not the computer work.
    Great blog, keep it coming !

  3. Great post, couldn’t agree more! Your “style” is a reflection of your influence on the subject and can be seen in the expressions and nuances of the pictures you “make.” The lighting should be used to augment your style, and should not *be* the style entirely.

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