Creating Your Own Style

Creating Your Own Style

Intro by Skip Cohen

As we slowly start working to re-establish a better definition of normal, many of you are looking at diversifying your photographic specialty into other areas. Business is slow, but it will eventually come back.

The three top reasons people hire professional photographers are for brides, babies and pets. And while Nicole Begley is one of the leading pet photographers in the industry, this post out of her archives applies to every artist, regardless of what kinds of subjects you photograph.

You have to develop your own style, not copy what’s already out there. It’s not easy when you’re just starting, but Nicole shares some excellent tips to make your work unique and, in turn, begin to feed the potential demand for professional photography as it slowly comes back.

By Nicole Begley

While we are a creative field, there seems to be an incredible amount of struggle around creating your style.  Creating a message and style to your photography that is unique and a representation of yourself.  I’m not immune.

I have watched my work go in different directions when I started because I was influenced by what was happening in the marketplace.  It’s a hard thing to overcome….but the rewards are tremendous.

How does a field of creative professionals merge into a sea of unoriginality?  It happens when we only look inside of our genre for inspiration.  It causes us to all start creating work that feels the same.  It turns us into a commodity.

Wouldn’t you rather create imagery that is totally unlike your competitors?  Wouldn’t you like for clients to be attracted to you and be willing to pay any price because your work is unique?

I would.

I get it.  When you are starting out on your photographic journey, you don’t know what can be done with a camera or with post-processing.  You are a sponge, learning and being influenced by so many things.  We all start there.

The key is to continue pushing yourself to learn new techniques and create work that makes your heart sing.  Work that is actually a piece of your heart and soul.

First, learn everything you can.  I am an education junkie and I will learn photography and post-processing techniques JUST to learn them.  I may not ever incorporate them into my style or my business…but they may lead me down a path I would have never imagined if I didn’t try them out.

When you are learning everything you can, the challenge comes in keeping your portfolio true to your current offerings.  Sometimes it’s important just to create for your own knowledge…and possibly never even share it.  It is for you, you don’t want to dilute your brand by showing work that doesn’t fit..but you should still make it and play with it.

A super important note:

If you are trying to recreate an image that you have seen to learn a technique.  That is ok.  What is NOT ok is sharing said image as if it were your own.  Recreate it to learn a technique and then use that technique (in a novel way) to create your own work…..pretty please.

Secondly, create an inspiration folder.  This is just for you.  Grab work that moves you and put it in here and you can start to deconstruct what it is in each image that moves you.  Is it the engagement?  The color? The composition? The lighting?

This is important.  There are often 1-2 features in each image that may move you and 1-2 features in other work that moves you.  The key to figuring out how to create unique independent work that comes from YOUR heart is to take those 1-2 features from all of those separate works and create it all in one work…from you.

It’s also critical that you look outside of the pet photography genre to find your inspiration.  Look at wedding photographers, fashion photographers, landscape photographers, movies and tv shows.  Flip through your magazines and look at the commercial photography that is contained within the pages.  Take a walk outside and be inspired by mother nature.  Inspiration is literally everywhere.

Last, but certainly not least, create an inspiration journal.  This is where YOUR ideas start to take root.  I’m definitely more of a right-brained person so I have always felt that I didn’t have a bunch of creativity in me.

Guess what, when you practice creativity, your creativity explodes!

Today, my little journal is busting at the seams with ideas.  How did I get there?  I made it a priority to shoot for ME, not just for clients.  I’m continuing to make it a priority to create work that is only for me….and it is pushing my work in new directions that I’m very excited about.

One last ingredient is time.  Yes, it takes time to develop what is in your head.  If you are beating yourself up because your work isn’t where you want it to be yet, please read this blog post.

I want to encourage you NOT to use your lack of time as a crutch when telling yourself you don’t have original ideas.

You just need to prioritize learning, playing, shooting and creating….just because.  Not because you have to, heck, not even because you want to.  Motivation is BS.  You aren’t going to wake up every day wanting to drag your gear to an incredible location, or secure dog models, or get frustrated trying to make your equipment do what you want it to do. The motivation comes after you do the things you don’t want to do…because that’s when you see the results.

So please, don’t just look at what’s popular in pet photography right now.  Create your own voice.  We all have something unique in our hearts just waiting for it’s time to be created!  Please share your original creations in the Hair of the Dog Facebook group!

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This article was written by
Nicole Begley

Nicole Begley, M.Photog.Cr, CPP, is an animal trainer turned pet photographer based in Pittsburgh, PA who also travels the world teaching pet photographers from every corner of the globe. She is the creator of Hair of the Dog, a site dedicated to helping pet photographers run a profitable pet photography studio and has authored a book - Pet and Horse Photography for Everybody. A member of PPA since 2010, Nicole has earned her Master of Photography degree, Photographic Craftsman degree, as well as her Certified Professional Photographer designation. Her work has won several awards at local and district competition, as well as a four-time medalist in the International Print Competition.

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