Monday, September 26, 2011

Thinking About Style

I was keeping an eye on the activity on my flickr stream, when I saw something that made me smile...not a little smile but a big, wide, toothy grin.

One of my favorite photographers, Anna Fischer, commented on and favorited a couple of my shots from this year's Dragon*Con. A lot of her shots, particularly of cosplayers, which is where our photostreams converge, fall into the, "Damn! Wish I'd taken that," category, for me.

So, it added a big boost to the normal kick I get every time somebody says something nice or clicks the favorite button on a photo of mine.

Laughing Joker

While I was enjoying the rush of ego, I ended up looking at some of her most recent photos from Dragon*Con, and it got me thinking about photographic style.

Anna, especially in her cosplay photos , has a strongly individual style. Most of the time, I don't even have to check the name under the photos in my contact stream to know they are hers. The combination of background choices, composition, natural looking lighting, and the boken signature of 35mm f/1.2 L lens used close to wide open at reasonably short distance pretty much make my brain go "Anna shot that." Here's an excellent example of her cosplay photography style:

Photo By Anna Fisher

In contrast, I don't feel that I have a distinctive photographic style...yet. Maybe I'm developing one? I'm not sure. I begin to think maybe I am, and then I hit a new situation and adapt and the photos come out looking good...but different than the last batch.  Hell, I'll even radically switch up things in the middle of a shoot - change lenses, lighting, and perspective.

Part of this comes from my photographic beginnings as a newspaper shooter, I'm sure. The photojournalistic ethic is to go into a place, a situation, an event, and work with what's there, as it's happening. You can only previsualize so much, both because you need to remain open to the possibilities of the situation, and because many times you only have the barest bit of information about the situation you're going into.

Many times, my shoot plan is to just go with the flow, see what's available, and adjust on the fly. That can tend to work against a consistent look.

I also find myself ambivalent about developing a distinctive style. On the one hand, it would be nice to have people say - "I always recognize your work right off,"(as long as they don't add, "you hack!"). And there's a tangible reward - people who like that look will come to you to get it. You carve a niche for yourself in an incredibly crowded market.

At the same time, I like the idea of being a stylistic chameleon. It feels good be able to get arresting photos in a variety of styles, to be able to show photos and have folks express surprise at how different they all look.

And, of course, I worry (dramatic pause with back of hand to tilted head) - gasp - about being pigeon-holed. Oh, the horror of being trapped in a style long after it's ceased to hold my interest, consigned away in conversation as "the guy who always does that."

Which is, of course, dramatically silly for me right now. When this blog starts getting David Hobby style page views, then, maybe, just maybe, I might should worry about whether there's a pigeon-hole with my name on it. Maybe, but probably not.

Seems to me, my best bet is to keep shooting, keep refining my skills, keeping working that artistic eye, and you know, if I develop a signature style along the way, OK. If continue to be a stylistic chameleon, OK.


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