It’s the time of year when I’m doing a lot of client consultations, and a question that comes up fairly often is “what is your photographic style?” I understand why people ask this – it’s typically on the list of things people “should” ask their wedding photographer… but, as established, I hate those lists. Worse, I don’t know how to answer the question.
I think “photographic style” means different things to photographers versus to clients. Are we talking about how a photograph is made or how it looks?
We don’t make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.
How are my photographs made? The style that best fits is documentary – I prefer to capture things as they happen, without driving or directing the action… yet like any director, the angles and selections will show the story in a certain way. And unlike any director, who might want to be objective in their telling, my photos are certainly meant to display and play to your emotions. I use a full-frame camera, most often with a wide angle lens, to show more of the action (or sometimes to get super-close-ups). I shoot handheld. I move around a lot, trying to capture as much of the store as possible. I’m definitely not a passive observer, shooting everything with a long lens from miles away – I like to get close, be involved. On the other hand, sometimes I take a more editorial approach, such as when I take the time to deliberately create and style a scene, such as a ring shot. I’m not a one-and-done photographer, either: I’ll take as many shots as it takes (usually too many) to get the one that has the best expression, or look, or light.
How do my photographs look? They’re bright and colourful. (Black and white photos are BLACK and WHITE… no gross greyscale). They’re very sharp, and most often naturally lit… though I’m also finding the joy in off-camera flash. They usually include a sense of space as well as the people in the space. They’re typically either funny or romantic. They’re authentic. You can figure this out for yourself by looking at them.
How do I interact with my couples? It depends. I like to laugh and joke with my clients, and make sure they’re having a good time (especially during portrait time), but I’m not going to tell them what to do or try to get specific images — for example, if I show an image of a mother pinning a boutonniere on a groom, it’s because that actually happened, not because I told her to do it. I hope that the way I interact with people allows them to feel comfortable, be themselves, and have a great day.
The harder thing to convey is the extent to which my photographic style is subconscious. It’s something that comes naturally because my photographs are simply an extension of my personality. My photographs illustrate what I think is funny; what I find interesting; what I find beautiful. My photographs show you how I see the world… I can’t describe it any better than that. And since photography is art, and art is subjective, it matters far less what term I slap on my work as it does whether you look at it and like it.
That probably isn’t the answer you were looking for.