Your Signature Style

by Jessica on February 8, 2011

in Annabelle,Photography

As I frequent more and more photography blogs and become acquainted with the amazing photographers who craft them, I have been thinking that it would be fun to host a party of sorts, a challenge even, for those of you interested in photography. Over the past few weeks, I have been talking a lot about my Signature Style Project, a challenge I designed for myself that is a little bit history, art, technique, and personal preference. What all of that involves is looking at the work of a selected photographer (historic or contemporary), thinking about the photographer’s style, deciding what you like and dislike, and then emulating the selected photographer’s work but stamping it with your own take on it. In writing, we could call this “finding your voice.” For photographers, it is a journey to one’s signature style. I would love it if you would join me in this party, in this challenge to discover how your photography speaks for you.

My daughter Annabelle, sitting on the floor of my home studio, February 2011

To get started, I selected Sally Mann as this week’s Signature Photographer. Sally Mann’s “Immediate Family” project generated a great deal of controversy for the then little known Mann. Many of her photographs are sexual and provocative and are of her children. To view Sally Mann’s photos, check out this website.

I have to say that viewing Mann’s work gave me greater insight into my own style; the intimate moments that define Mann’s work are so honest; I know that photographing my children or any child for that matter, in a way that emulates Mann’s more provocative work (see Popsicle Drips) would not resonate with me. I want to take photos that inspire happiness, show a child’s joy and curiosity, and that are bright. I like happy photos. My style, as I am learning by looking at Mann’s work, is happy.

Still, I do want to play with her approach. I would love to try a few photos like these: “Holding Virginia,” “Candy Cigarette,” and “Emmett, Jessie, and Virginia.”

And I would love it if you would join me.

I think there are a few keys to finding your signature style.

1. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

2. Think about what you like and dislike about a photo. What kinds of photographs do you prefer? What are your favorite personal works? Edit out your photos that convey a style that doesn’t seem to fit with your work. Know what works for you.
That said, see #1: “Don’t be afraid to take risks.”

3. Focus on what you’re good at. Are you good at seeing light? Framing a scene? Editing and visual enhancement? Are you good with children, photographing animals, landscapes, stills? Think about your strengths and don’t be afraid to show it in your work.

4. Photograph what you love. I realize that this point may seem redundant, but honestly, it’s just like anything else in life. Find your passion and go for it. If you love photographing weddings, hone your skills to become the best wedding photographer you can be. If you’re not crazy about photographing landscapes, then let it go. It’s okay to love what you love.

5. Get out and shoot. To find your signature style, you’ll need your camera (any camera) and your passion for photography. I make it a rule to carry a camera with me at all times, whether it is my digital SLR or my point and shoot camera. I never want to miss an opportunity. To make an analogy, if you were searching for your signature style, fashion wise, you’d go shopping. You’d shop until you dropped. You’d try on every pair of shoes, every dress, pair of slacks, shirt, sweater, and jacket, until your found what clothing makes you excited to get dressed in the morning. Now take that approach and apply it to your photography. Before you know it, you’ll be shooting in style: your style.

So, will you join me? I’d love it if you would! I will be back later this week with my response to Mann’s “Immediate Family.”

See you then,


P.S. If you’d like to follow Your Signature Style, you can copy this html and paste it into your posts and into a widget on your blog. Leave a comment on each signature style post so that other participants can check out your work.

<a href=””>
<img src=”” border=”0″ alt=”" align=”center” /></a>

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sunnymama February 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

Really looking forward to seeing more of your signature style projects. You are such a talented photographer. :)

Deanna February 12, 2011 at 2:32 am

This sounds like a great exercise. I keep reading that as a photographer you need to find your “style”, which I am reluctant to do. I guess I like a lot of different things, but I need to start letting some things go. Even if I don’t have a lot of time right now, at least you’ve got me thinking about it.

Jessica February 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Me too, :-) That’s why I am loving this project . . . the more I look at others’ work, including today’s photographers and the artist’s of yesteryear, I come closer to understanding my own work. It’s sort of like the idea that “the other” is a mirror to “the self.”

Marla February 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm

And I think my style might be as different from Sally Mann’s as one can get. I like bright, poppy, happy pictures.

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