YOUR VISUAL STYLE
Your visual style reflects who you are, what you like and what kind of aesthetics fascinates you. Everyone has their own visual style which develops all the time.
When you are starting your visual journey, whether you are a photographer, a lifestyle blogger, a florist or some other creative person, you usually struggle with your style. You look at others work and think how come you don't know what is your personal style. You try to imitate others and feel a bit guilty about that. But don't be! It's a part of the journey.
Take influence of others work but don't copy. Look out for inspiration but don't try to be someone else than who you are. Your personal visual style will evolve through your life. It can start with a bright and colorful and end up with a dark and moody.
Don't be afraid to try new things and new styles.
Developing your artistry
When you grow as an artist, your visual style also develops. You start to see new things when you're looking at others' creative work.
It will take some time to develop your personal style but it will emerge one day. And you might even be happy for it for awhile. But then you start to feel anxious again and question whether your visual style is good enough. I think that's a basic cycle that every creative person has inside them.
When your visual style is evolving, you make decisions about what you like and don't like, what fascinates you and what don't.
Your personal visual style is a combination of your taste and likes, your personality and your life story.
When you are making decisions about how to style something - a flat lay photo, flower bouquet, living room, table setting etc. - you express yourself and your unique views by making those decisions.
Your photography style
Relating to photography style, one huge style decision is to choose your lenses. It is important to know what kind of lenses you need use to achieve certain photography style. You can start experimenting with different lenses, different focal lengths and f-stops.
It takes time to experiment with your equipment and especially if you are just starting out and only having 1 or 2 lenses. Remember to be patient and have the end results in your mind (i.e. nailing your personal style)!
When you think you have nailed your photography style it is easier to point out your favorite lenses and how to use them in order to achieve a certain look.
My photography style is most of the times airy, bright and emotional. That's why I'm usually shooting with my Canon 85mm/1.2 lense. It has a dreamy look when shooting wide open and I can shoot very intimate close-ups with it. Of course, there are also other things that will affect your photography style than your equipment and how you are using them.
Your photography style consist of your subject choices (what you like to photograph, e.g. flowers, people, landscapes, food etc.), locations where you'd most likely shoot (e.g. at studio, by the sea, on a mountain etc.), compositions (e.g. a subject in the middle, lots of negative space, main subjects filling the whole scene etc.) and your lighting choices (e.g. natural light, strobes, flashes etc.).
Exercises to find your visual style
1. Study others work that you admire
The more you look for others' work, the more your eyes also start to see things and especially new things. Study the work of your influencers, old masters (like painters) and creatives from other fields.
Try to find the elements that make their work unique and special.
Is it the composition, use of color or the way they say something without underlining it? What is their message? Is there a story within that creative work?
Especially, when studying the old masters' work it is refreshing to also read their bios and try to find references to their life stories in their work.
How can you show your life experience in your own visual style?
2. Study images every day
You have started to study creative work of the people and artists that you admire. You can continue that but also look at others' images and creative work. Start doing it every day.
The more you cultivate your eye, the more you will also understand your own visual style. Observe, look at and study different creative styles.
The more you learn, see and look others' work, the easier it will be to form a basis to your own visual style and aesthetics.
You start to realize the variety of creativity around you and be able to pick things that you love and that makes you feel something.
Important questions to ask when you are looking others' work are:
- What do I like about this work?
- What don't I like about this work?
- Does this work evoke any emotions in me? If yes, what kind of emotions?
You should write down your answers and remember to be very specific. It's not enough that you say that you don't like the color of the work. Instead, say why you don't like the color of the work. What emotions it will awaken?
Read your notes and try to analyze how your answers will reflect your own visual style and work.
3. Study your own work
Analyze your own creative work and try to find similarities in it. Are there certain colors that you use the most? Are you using certain compositions all the time? Do you always pick same materials and textures to your work?
Choose 5 - 10 of your pieces of work and analyze them.
What do you especially like in them? Are they standing out among your other work?
Write everything down and see if you could find a coherent style.
4. Start keeping a creativity journal
Creativity journal can be kept in a written form or electronic, like a Pinterest board where you pin your creative ideas. Or try a mobile phone where you save your ideas and photos.
You can write down to your physical notebook your ideas, sketch some images and use it in other creative ways to file your inspiration. It can contain photos, quotes, poems, pieces of fabric, textures, song lyrics, color swatches, flower branches and basically whatever really inspires you.
It's good to have one place where you can put your inspiration when creativity hits you!
Study your notes when you are feeling creatively empty. Pick one or two of those ideas and start creating something personal based on the ideas.
5. Be decisive while styling
Every time you are doing something you basically make a style decision. When you're taking a photograph, arranging flowers, hand-dying your silk fabric or styling a table vignette to your blog post, you make a style decision.
Be conscious what that decision is. Try to narrow down your visual style and stick to it most of the times.
Of course, experimenting is also good for you but don't experiment in each and every creative work. Otherwise, you don't have a style of your own and your work is not recognizable.
Make lots of questions when trying to find your own voice. The answers help you to be decisive when styling and creating.
Is there a pattern how you work? What colors are you using? Is your visual style modern or contemporary? Boho or eclectic? What emotions would you like to evoke? Happiness, sadness, loneliness, friendliness? What is your message?
There are many ways to cultivate your own visual style but the best advice is to experiment a lot and be inspired by others! Be true to yourself!