» How to stand out as a photographer

How to stand out as a photographer

How to stand out as a photographer

With the cost of a decent DSLR falling all the time, this Christmas is forecast to be a bumper year for cameras. For just a few hundred pounds (or a well-worded note to a generous Santa), you can have access to equipment that is capable of creating genuine works of art.  Heck, today, most phones can do it.

With 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook every day, most people use photos to document their life: the gig; the friends; the delicious meal; the sunset. But if you call yourself a “photographer”, even an amateur one, maybe you want to achieve something more.  To realise your own vision; to get people to want you to photograph them, or just to make people stop for a second and say “I like this”.

If that’s you, I salute you!  But how are you going to be different from the millions of other photographers out there?  How to stand out as a photographer?

This is a question that I think about a lot, and I thought I’d share some ideas on how to start defining yourself – based on my own journey (which is, by the way, very far from complete).

10. Master the technical side of things (I’m going to write another post on this soon). That will immediately set you aside from  the majority.

9. Follow your passion…  Is it fashion? Fetish? Landscapes? Telling stories? Events? Animals? A hobby? Your partner? Ansell Adams, the famous landscape photographer, spent a lifetime photographing the same places.  He knew their behaviour, when they looked good, their textures, their weather… and all that knowledge, love and experience played a huge role in his genius.  Focus is good.

8. … but be “T shaped”.  It’s great to focus on one area in depth – the deep part of the “T”, but also allow yourself a little breadth – the cross-bar of the “T”.  Shoot something different every now and again, and it will build skills and ideas that you can use to improve your work in your main area of focus.

7. Love the light.  Whether you use natural or artificial light, lighting is perhaps the single most important differentiator in photography.  How much there is; where it’s coming from; how directional it is; how harsh it is; what colour it is; and so on.  Every image will be different, but every good photographer develops over time their own lighting signature that creates a consistent “feel” to their work.

6. Compose yourself.  If you’re reading this far, you probably know the basics of composition.  But your own personal style is all about the rules you choose to follow, and those you break.  I tend to be drawn to symmetry (Emma will try and convince you that’s because I’m OCD lol) – and my struggle to combine that with my understanding of the golden ratio (or rule of thirds if you must) can generate some interesting quirks.

5. Seek inspiration.  There are no new styles out there.  It’s pretty much all been done.  What you can do is look at great photographers’ work, and figure out what you’re drawn to.  Don’t copy it – ok, maybe try to for practice, but then twist it a bit – add your own flavour and vision, and over time, prove me wrong :)

4. Post-process.  I know there are purists out there who think Photoshop is the devil incarnate.  But Ansell (for I admire him greatly) effectively used the same techniques in the darkroom.  It’s a hugely powerful part of the creative process (of course, not using it is also a creative decision).

3. Prune your portfolio.  We really want to show all the good images we’ve created, but here as in so many places, less is more.  If you have a portfolio, keep it brief and brilliant.  Leave them hungry for more of your work.

2. Evolve an audience.  As you show your work, either online or maybe as club flyers, prints to hang on a wall, or maybe in a book, you’ll find yourself drawn in different directions by the response you get from your audience.  You attract them because of what you do, then they shape you.  It’s an interesting dance.

1.  Evolve your photographic personality over time.  I guess it comes down to this, really.  Are your images calm or dramatic?  Pretty or shocking?  All about the moment?  The movement? The mood?  The personality? What you represent isn’t so important. What is important is that people should be able to look at an image and know immediately that it’s one of yours.

Happy shooting!



Richard Knightly Photography Up