Thursday, September 2, 2010

Developing a "Style"

© 2010 Dianne Poinski

When I talk to photographers who are just starting out, my advice is always to shoot as much as possible. This is how I believe we learn to “see” and develop a style.

In my post a couple of weeks ago I showed an image that I felt was a little busy for my taste. A couple people commented on how they liked that photograph, which I appreciated, but I realized why I was never going to print it – it wasn’t my “style”.

What is a “style” of photography? (All of this could apply to any means of artistic expression by the way.) If someone is viewing one of your photographs, unaware that you were the photographer, but suspects that you may have created it based on the look and feel of the image, then you are well on your way to developing a style.

When I was still shooting film, I printed my black and white prints in a rental darkroom. Those of us who printed on fiber paper would squeegee our prints off at the end of the day and place them on drying racks overnight. It was during this time that I discovered I was developing a recognizable style. I would come in to pick up my prints and often someone who had seen them drying, would make the comment that they “thought those prints were mine”. This felt good. This also gave me direction as well as structure.

All young photographers should spend time shooting film if for no other reason than to learn how to make thoughtful choices about subject matter and quality of light. Because buying and processing film took quite a bit of time and money, I soon got to the point that when I looked through the viewfinder, I had to be fairly certain it would be something I would want to print before I released the shutter. This slowed me down and was a great way to begin to develop an eye for what I wanted to photograph.

Digital has changed this for me, or at least it’s trying to. That is why I had that shot I shared that I will probably never print. I am not as selective as I use to be. This has the potential to turn any photographer into a “point & shooter” and at times, I am guilty of that.

I still stand by my declaration to go out and photograph as much as possible, but eventually you want to start limiting your exposures to images that make your heart sing. You not only develop a style, but you also start to create a cohesive body of work, which is one of the most important elements of a portfolio that is ready to be shown to the world. Keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to not be influenced by other photographers and their work. I know I have been. It’s perfectly acceptable to use this as a starting point, but be creative and try to add your own signature to it.

Where am I headed with all this?

When I was in Victoria, we visited Butchart Gardens. Before the trip I mentioned my reluctance to venture from my current flower project. My floral images are how I am expressing my style right now, which is why after battling the crowds, it was hard to hide my delight when I found these begonias. (I think that’s what they are….. I probably should have taken notes…. If I am wrong, please let me know.)

Anyway, they were fresh with drops of water and beautiful soft light. The first one below is what it looked like before I made changes to the color. The second one was what I had envisioned creating and is more in the "style" of the work I am doing right now. One is not right or wrong or better than the other. I just find the second one "feels" better to me and works better with my other images. I guess that could be another definition of "style". I would love to hear other ways to describe "style" in regards to creating art...............

Also, keep in mind that styles evolve and change - they have to or you risk falling into a rut. If you are true to your vision, you will probably never drift too far away - just far enough to keep things fresh and your passion alive.

© 2010 Dianne Poinski

PS – If you haven’t already seen it, check out my interview on PanPastels new blog:


  1. I love what you've done with this flower. Your changes seem to bring out it's essence.

  2. Thank you Katherine! I had a lot of fun with it.

  3. Very Interesting!
    Thank You!

  4. I also love hand coloring my black and white photos. I am finally getting around to adding a darkroom. Do you do anything to seal your work? Your work is amazing. I hope you don't mind if I add you to the side bar of my blog. You are a true inspiration.

  5. Thank you everyone!
    Joyce, I do seal my finished pieces with Lascaux fixative. Let me know if you have any other questions. I really appreciate your comment and would be very happy to be added to your side bar. Thank you!