This is the final article in our “personal style” series, which, so far, has introduced personal style and covered the two different ways to form one. Here, I’ll cover a slightly different topic — the pros and cons of seeking out a personal style in your own photography, including how to do so without compromising your unique vision on the world.
If someone is very familiar with your style of photography, it’s not outlandish to think that they could pick out one of your photos in a crowd — even if, for example, you’re a macro photographer, and the crowd includes nothing but macro photos. I’ll frequently see a shot on Instagram or 500px and recognize who took it, even before I see their name appear; that’s the power of personal style. At the same time, when I try to do this, I’m often wrong. It seems that certain “styles” are adopted by more than just one photographer, often very convincingly. In this article, continuing the other personal style discussion, I’ll try to pinpoint the ways in which someone’s style can arise, as well as the problems with replicating another photographer’s personal style.
The concept of personal style is a fundamental topic in all art, not just photography. Everyone has their own way of seeing the world, and everything that people create is based upon this underlying uniqueness. In terms of photography, though, even mentioning personal style can seem strange — since our work is inherently based upon the real world, is it even possible to have a unique style? This question is especially relevant for fields like landscape and wildlife photography, which often rely 100% on the scene that nature presents to you, rather than any elements you add yourself. How can you insert your own personality into an image that mirrors the way the world actually looked at one point in time? It’s a complex question. Things get even trickier if you look into all the features that must be copied perfectly in order to produce a convincing forgery (or a benign imitation) of another photographer’s personal style — and, even further, the implications of analyzing and imitating your own personal style.
Many photographers do not like waking up very early to take pictures at sunrise, preferring to sleep in and spend the energy to shoot during the day and at sunset instead. While photographing at sunset can yield stunning photographs, there are specific advantages to photographing at sunrise that are worth discussing. Let’s take a look at the topic of sunrise vs sunset in photography in more detail and see why you might be better off shooting early in the morning.
In the first of a series of follow-up articles to The Quality of Light, I have posted this article to share a series of photographs (along with the thought processes behind them) that I hope will accentuate the interplay of light, directionality, shadows, and mood in landscape photography. As previously discussed, the directionality of light is a powerful factor in defining the quality of shadows, the contrast, textures, and three-dimensionality of a scene, as well as the mood and emotion that the photograph will convey. In particular, unidirectional light qualities (e.g., side lighting and backlighting) serve this purpose well in landscape photography.
In a follow-up to a previous article, “A Study in Vision, Light, and Shadows”, I decided to share my thoughts and experiences on my most inspiring topic in photography – light. For simplicity, I decided to write about light in a narrow context from the perspective and experience of a landscape photographer, since outdoors scenes are what I gravitate to. Much of the analysis and discussion that follows is equally applicable to other genres of photography, such as portraits, macro, still-life, and commercial photography. In this article, I will cover broadly what quality of light means for me in landscape photography as well as discuss a variety of scenarios where the scenic photographer can use different properties of light to create a given effect. Please note that this discussion is based on my own personal observations and experiences, which may differ from those of other photographers. My goal is to help beginning landscape photographers understand the different qualities of sunlight and how this instrumental tool can be harnessed to fulfill the visualization process.
The name Henri Cartier-Bresson does not immediately remind most people of landscape photography. It shouldn’t; he wasn’t a landscape photographer! Instead, of course, Henri Cartier-Bresson was a street photographer — arguably the founding father of the genre. However, although he rarely took photos of nature, his intimate approach to street photography still has value to people who prefer the company of grand landscapes. One technique is especially worth learning, no matter what genre of photography you do: the decisive moment.
Three years ago, when I made my first photo tour through the magnificent landscapes of Iceland, I fondly recall an interesting dinner discussion with my fellow photographers. We had just returned to our guest house from a memorable photo shoot. As we shared good wine, food, and laughs, the discussion pleasantly turned to photography. After the seemingly prosaic and obligatory discussion of camera gear, we got around to more interesting topics such as light, travel destinations, and our individual exploits. One pleasant, wise, and well-traveled gentleman from Holland made an interesting comment that has resonated with me ever since. With a blend of delight and amusement, he said, and I paraphrase him: