Many street photographer’s are trying to find their our own style…their our own unique voice. Personally, I am not sure if I would want my “own style” even though it’ll be nice to claim one. Please keep in mind that everything has been done before…it’s not a matter of copying but rather finding a style you like or admire and adding your own twist to it to make it your own. It’s like in wrestling, every move has been done before but a slight jerk to the hip or doing your move at a higher elevation will separate you from your predecessors.
If your personal friends or social media following often comment that your work reminds them of Alex Webb or Martin Parr, that’s a great compliment and you are obviously on the right track to something great. Eventually you’ll want to break away from that and claim your own style even if that takes for you to defend your own work and how your style or set of photos may look similar to other street photographers on the surface…but if you look closely and dig deeper beneath the surface it speaks more of you and your unique eye and voice.
What is a photography style?
I think a style emphasizes on consistency of look and feel. Same with photos, a good start in working towards a style is to keep things simple and consistent. Keep your photos either in black and white or color. Get close up to the face, the hands. Shooting in the same location also helps with aesthetics. Shooting during the same time of day for consistent lighting. Edit your photos all the same, don’t use a kodak filter on one photo and then use another type of filter on another. Ultimately, you can shoot and post process your photos however you want, there are no rules, this is just to give you ideas on how to create a style. And from my experience, if your photos don’t have much consistency most people especially in photo competitions will bypass your entries.
Working on a particular project helps with establishing consistency. Let’s say you want to do a project on “Lunch Break”…Basically a series of photos that you have shot during your lunch break, five days a week from 12pm to 1pm in and around your work area with your one and only camera. As you can see, there are so many consistencies already. Time of day, location, and type of camera being used. Now it’s just a matter of what you are able to photograph and what you happen to find on your lunch break. Now when you are out shooting, having a project you are working towards can help you focus or narrow in on what to look for…but for me personally, I just like to go out with an open mind and have the project that I’m working on in the back of my mind. Sort of like a fall back.
Is a photographic style for me?
It really is up to you. Do you like to just make photos of anything that catches your eye or do you like to make photos of something specific (street portraits, headless subject, vibrant colors, close-up of hands, etc).
I am not working on anything in particular but there are a few things that I would say is my fallback when I’m out in the streets. An interesting face for my portraits series, interesting scenes or bodies at the beach for my Beach Please series, and vibrant colors tend to hold my attention more than anything else.
I also shoot with the same camera an Olympus M5-ii with my 17mm 1.8 lens. I shoot when I have time, during lunch breaks, after work, on weekends. My time is never consistent because I have a full load…but I do try to bring my camera with me wherever I go.
My advice is to always experiment and see what work for you. For me just going out with a camera, an open mind, leaves me with little to no constraints. This is the best approach for me. I don’t like to clutter my mind or make things anymore complicated than it already is. I’ve also noticed when I add pressure on myself by setting goals of getting a decent to good photo a week that it only leaves me more disappointed and ultimately discouraged with my photography. Only recently, I’ve learned that capturing a “good enough photo” or a photo I’m satisfied with is the bonus when out and about shooting the streets. That actually what I truly enjoy is just getting out of the office or house, clearing my mind, and enjoying my walks.
As long as your photos are authentic and are not posed (I’m okay with posing your subject for street portraits). Photograph what inspires you and what your natural instinct reacts off of. Always remember to have fun with your street photography. That you are doing this to challenge yourself and you are using this art form as a creative outlet but to also burn calories and enjoy the being out and about.