In a world filled with so many photographers, how do you stand out? By taking stunning photographs that clearly show your visual voice of course! In this post, I’ll talk about finding that voice, so you can begin learning how to take stunning and creative photographs that showcase your unique vision.
What is visual voice?
In all art forms, the artist must work to determine his or her voice. A writer’s voice plays a vital role in the tone and emotion of the story or article. The painter’s voice determines abstraction or realism and the mood of the painting. So, too, the photographer has a voice.
Your visual voice is sort of like your artist’s fingerprint. It’s what distinguishes your work from the ocean of work created by other photographers. As a photographer it is with your visual voice that you speak through your images.
I don’t think of visual voice as being stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving so we must expect that through the years our face will change and evolve with us. We must be open to the change and flexible in the evolution.
The importance of finding your voice
So why bother with thinking about your visual voice? It’s sort of one of those artsy fartsy concepts that aren’t necessarily talked about much or even thought about but I’d like to encourage you to do so. It’s your voice as an artist that will set you apart from others. When you are speaking your voice most effectively you feel satisfied as an artist and are most pleased with your images.
Having a distinct visual voice will also help you market your images as you will have a clear target audience, and look and feel to the images. Take a look at the work of John Keatley and Sean Flanigan. John works as a commercial photographer shooting portraits of people like Macklemore, Sarah Palin and many others. Because of his distinctive style and visual voice he has made quite the name for himself in portrait photography.
Sean Flanigan is a well-known wedding photographer who travels the world teaching others about how he shoots and has achieved such success. His style is easy to pick out among the vast surplus of wedding images floating around the Internet these days.
How to find your voice.
I’m continually checking the authenticity of my voice and staying tuned in to the images that speak to me. I am highly influenced by the work of fellow photographers. There’s a difference between being influenced by and just plain copying someone else’s style.
The Renaissance master painters trained directly under other painters, mimicking their style until they were ready to go off on their own and create their own paintings. We’ve lost this concept. When I was in a watercolor class in college, my professor had us trace images to paint. I felt as if I was plagiarizing. I would have been had I went out to then sell those paintings. But, they were just for my own exercise, and by studying the work of others on that intense level, I learned from them and in turn gained the confidence to find my own voice with painting.
As a food photographer, I am constantly looking to the work of my peers to help me see the images that jump out at me and make my heart flutter. Pinterest is a very great resource for collecting images that jump out at you which then gives you a pretty clear picture of what your visual voice looks like.
I scour the Internet or the pages of Pinterest, then pin any image that jumps out at me. After a while, I’ll go look through the board to get the overall sense of the images. During the winter months, my board was scattered with images that had a gray/blue tone to them. Through this exercise, I learned that I was much more drawn to roughed up and real looking scenes rather than the intricately plated and highly stylized images. Having done that I know that when I shoot I’ll be much happier with my images that look real, authentic and are messed up a bit; as if the food is really being eaten and enjoyed.
Look through all the different styles in your field. For food photography, this post, by Desserts for Breakfast, is really helpful.
Ask a good friend to define your photography style. Sometimes it helps to give them some parameters like, “Give me five words that describe my images.” We artists are often too close to our own work to recognize that we actually have a style. Our friends and family can help label our visual voice and if you trust their critiques that can keep you accountable for staying true to your voice.
The best way to find your voice is to shoot, shoot, shoot. The more images you take, the more comfortable and confident you will be in speaking your own language through the lens.
To learn even more about compositional methods and unique perspectives that will inspire you to see and shoot life in a whole new way, check out the Craftsy online class Creative Photography: Capture Life Differently. Use your camera to connect to the world and take shots that capture love, laughter and everything in between!