Whether you’re just starting your pet photography journey or you’re thinking of taking clients, you’re probably thinking: “How do I find MY pet photography style?”. Spoiler alert; your style is probably already there, in your editing, the locations you choose, the stories you’re wanting to tell.
In this guide, we’ll explore four practical tips to help you uncover your distinct style so you can start creating images that are recognisable as truly yours.
1. Your Style is Not a Unicorn
“Finding” your style is a really common concern amongst my Learning Journey members, and we often hold a live “Style” workshop soon after the doors open (and there are now several workshop recordings inside the Resource Library). It’s obviously something that weighs heavily on the minds of new photographers!
First, I want to let you in on a secret. Your style is not a unicorn.
That is, it can’t be “found”. It isn’t hiding somewhere. It isn’t a mythical creature waiting to be discovered. Looking for it, isn’t going to make it appear.
Here’s another secret….
Your style is probably already there, emerging in your work. You just don’t realise it yet. If I look back at some of my earliest photos, before I had any idea what I was doing and no plans to go professional, I can STILL see elements of my style. Outdoors, natural light, backlight, powerful dogs, storytelling photos, pretty scenery.
You can see some of my old photos below! Yes, there’s a lot of things technically wrong with them – but I for sure can see MANY elements of my eventual “style” already present in them.
When I first started, I didn’t give a second thought to style. I just created stuff I loved, analysed the work of other photographers that I admired, and put in hours and hours and hours of practise both taking photos and editing them, until I was doing things reasonably consistently.
Stressing out about “finding” your style, isn’t going to help you uncover it. Consistent creation, practise, self analysis and reflection are.
2. Take a Look At Your Work
Let’s assume your style is already present in your work.
After all, our style is just “the things we like the look of”, right? So we’re likely to be including those elements in our work already because we LIKE them.
And in my opinion, there’s no point trying to copy some completely different style because it’s trendy or gets a lot of likes on social media, because it isn’t OUR style then. Create what you LOVE. That has to come first, or what’s the point in creating at all?
If our style is already there, we just have to unravel it! I want you to pull up a collection of your favourite photos that you’ve taken.
Write down what you like about those photos. Pay special attention to:
- The lighting in the photo. Where is it, what’s it like?
- The location. Are the photos inside? Outdoors? At the beach? Are there clouds? Ferns? Moss? Desert? Landscape? City!?
- What the dog is doing. Looking into the camera? Away? Running? Doing a trick? Interacting with a person? Doing something candid?
- The feeling/mood of the photos. Do they generally feel bright and happy? Dark and moody and a bit dangerous? What would you LIKE them to feel like? Dreamy? Magical? Grungy? Serious? Playful? (the mood can be tricky to achieve until you’re mastering the expression, pose, lighting, editing all together. Something I talk about a lot in the Learning Journey!)
Having answers to these questions will begin to clue you in as to what things you like capturing in your photos, and that is already your style.
If I were to answer those questions about MY style when I began to get serious about my photography, this is what I would notice:
Soft light or the sun coming from behind the dog. RICH, FULL colours! Love colours! Especially warm tones and deep greens. Dogs often looking to the side. Variety of expression. Natural locations that are pretty or interesting: flowers, red gold trees, ferns, clouds, sparkly grasses. Some amount of showing personality, either through expression, movement, pose or tricks.
3. What Do You Love? What Don't You Love?
Linked to tip #2, is to begin figuring out what you love, and what you don’t love.
This is about turning our attention, focus, and analysis outwards.
Find some of your favourite photographers, and run through the questions I posed in tip #2. The mistake most of us make is we only see the editing, and think that if we just learn to edit like that person, we’ll have photos like theirs. But there’s so much else that goes into a photography style, that it’s important to try and see through the editing to the other elements.
When you’ve figured out what it is about their photos that you love, perform the opposite analysis, and see if there’s things you DON’T like. Do you wish the dog looked at the camera more? Or was closer to the camera? Do you think the colours are a bit flat? Or too much? Do yo hate how the dogs have their mouth open sometimes and you’d rather they looked more serious?
The answers to these questions will provide you with some invaluable clues as to what your preferences are. Aka…. your style!
4. Invest in Education
The last thing I can recommend, is to invest in your education. I’m not saying this only because I teach photography, but because finding an artist whose style I LOVED and taking a lesson with him, levelled up everything for me almost over night. You can see the moment my photography gained more depth and purpose from this one lesson. Shoutout to Haron Haghuis.
After this lesson with Haron, I practised, practised, practised, honing my style, my techniques, my editing, taking what I loved from what I’d learned with him, and finding my way back to what I truly loved (for a while there I lost almost all colour…. until I realised how much I LIKE colour, and started to bring it back.).
So, find a photographer whose photos you generally love, and reach out! See if they do lessons, or have an online course that focuses on more than just editing (hint: I do. It’s the Learning Journey membership, and it covers EVERYTHING you could need to know about taking your photography beyond the basic, with our amazing community, critiques, guest speakers and artists and so much more) and invest with them. They probably won’t focus on your STYLE, but I’m pretty sure that the techniques and knowledge you gain will help you to further solidify your own budding style!
There is a week or two between the 1st and 2nd photo, and then approximately a year between each after that. I wanted to show you the monumental shift from before I did the lesson with Haron, to after, and then how my style developed and progressed from then.
Now all that’s left for you to do to find your style is to go and practise! There was a full year between the 2nd and 3rd photo, and it isn’t UNTIL the 3rd photo that I was really feeling more comfortable and confident in that what I was creating was mine, following a process, turning out consistent results, and creating photos that I felt like were mine. There were THOUSANDS of photos taken and edited between those two images.
Remember though, if you want a helping hand, support, and an amazing community of likeminded pet photographers, the Learning Journey is the perfect place for you to find your wings… and your unicorn.
~Emily, Loki & Journey