If you’re thinking of starting a side hustle as a photographer, the first thing you need to consider is how to set yourself apart as an artist. Anyone can learn how to use state-of-the-art cameras and how to do Photoshop, but not everyone has a special eye for what makes a photo look good, and not everyone has a unique style they can truly call revolutionary. If you’re thinking of starting a photography business, you must find your own style to find your own niche in the industry. Here are some steps for you to establish your own flair as a photographer.
Observe the greats
Look at the works of some of the best photographers in history, like Annie Leibovitz, Peter Lindbergh, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Ansel Adams. Observe how their styles differ from one another and what makes their work distinct from others. Leibovitz is renowned for her use of vibrant, primary colors and offbeat poses, especially during her time as a photographer for Rolling Stone. On the other hand, Peter Lindbergh is known for his more candid and natural images, and he would usually shoot in black and white.
You can also look at the works of contemporary photographers, especially those who are known for shooting special events like weddings. It’s not to say you’re observing so you can copy their style; it’s all about giving yourself permission to be inspired and dream big and for you to know what your own preferences are in terms of look, colors, and others.
Find a niche
Now that you’ve looked at what successful photographers are doing, identify a gap in the market that you can fill. For example, many photographers shoot weddings, engagement photos, and even newborns and babies, but not a lot of photographers market themselves as boudoir photographers. If you offer a service that not many people in the industry are providing, you are already setting yourself up to find a style that’s entirely your own.
Deviate from what everyone else is doing
When you’re an upstart photographer who’s just learning about your style and aesthetic, it’s tempting to copy trends. Everywhere we look, there are babies in bowls or baskets with cute headbands that have ears. When it comes to wedding photography, we are inundated with photos of couples holding hands in the woods while being bathed in atmospheric sun flare and golden light.
Trends are trends for a reason, and most photographers must be shooting this way because it’s what clients want. But in allowing ourselves to be lost in a sea of similar photos, we fail to set ourselves apart from others. Photographers who break ground stood out because they did things that no one else was doing. One example is Brandon Woelfel, who made a name for himself in the mid-2010s by shooting portraits in neon lights, and now almost everyone uses neon lights in their portfolio.
In a saturated industry, we need to be brave and follow a less mainstream path—it’s the only way to truly stand out. Allow yourself to be inspired by the works of popular photographers, but you don’t need to copy what they’re doing, especially if everyone else is already doing the same thing.
Identify what you find beautiful
Look around you and determine what you find beautiful. You don’t even need to see it through a camera lens; observe and go as deep as you want. You don’t need stunning landscapes or gorgeous buildings to shoot beautiful photos; you only need to see your surroundings from a different perspective.
Just keep taking photos
If all else fails, believe that your style is not something you find but something that finds you. A personal photography style cannot be found through brute force or by pressuring yourself; it comes through taking as many photos as you want, allowing yourself to fail, and going through the slow and sometimes painful process of improving. Not everyone starts an ace at what they do, and the only way to be better at your craft is if you keep practicing and shooting more intentionally, no matter where you are and what you’re doing.
Shoot what you love
And lastly, if you want to truly find your distinct style, make sure your subject interest and inspires you. If you love celebrating love, then shoot weddings and couples. If you love events and parties, offer your services at corporate events. Focus on what makes you come alive as an artist, and you will surely find your unique style in no time.