f Picture This: In Search of Style|October 2018| TPW magazine
    Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   

Archives

October cover image

Picture This: In Search of Style

Photographers can develop a recognizable look that sets their work apart.

By Earl Nottingham

I’ve often been told by others that my photographs have a certain “style,” and that even without seeing my name alongside the images, it’s evident that they’re mine. This has always intrigued me since I never consciously set out to develop a style or particular look to my images or patterned my work after someone else’s.

However, after spending some time perusing the images made by friends and colleagues on social media, in addition to revisiting the works of well-known photographers, it became apparent that each photographer does exhibit a distinct and recognizable style, whether amateur or professional, and regardless of the subject matter.

Style cannot be determined by a single photograph. It gestates over time as a body of unified photographic work grows, gradually revealing a visual consistency that allows us to recognize a photographer’s work. For example, the style of Ansel Adams is quickly recognizable because of many of the common denominators he utilized, such as shooting grand landscapes with a large-format camera and black-and-white film, combined with his Zone System method of negative exposure, development and print processing.

panorama

Typical common denominators that can define style are:

Subject Matter

A photographer may be drawn to shooting one type of subject, such as landscape, wildlife or portraits, and may specialize in specific subjects, such as hummingbirds, waterfowl, macrophotography or still lifes.

Camera Equipment and Techniques

The choice of camera equipment and techniques can help define the “look” of a body of work and hence its style. Equipment can range from a camera phone to a large-format film camera and anything in between. Lens choice can also help define a style, as many photographers gravitate to using one focal-length lens at a predetermined f-stop. Case in point: As I was once shooting a desert landscape with a 24mm wide-angle lens stopped down to f/16 for maximum depth of field, the person next to me was using a 200mm lens at f/2.8. They both provided great images that were as individual as the photographers.

Lighting

A photographer may prefer to shoot at a certain time of day or with a particular quality of lighting such as a clear or diffused sky, or use artificial light or modifiers such as strobes and reflectors. Additionally, the sensitivity of today’s camera sensors opens up new opportunities for shooting in low light or nighttime situations. This allows many photographers to express themselves in ways previously unattainable, such as light-painting scenes at night against a starry sky.

Composition

Everyone sees a scene differently and composes it in the viewfinder accordingly. One photographer may capture the drama of a wide landscape while the other sees delicate beauty in a close-up detail. Composition can also be interpreted by where the subject (or focal point) is placed in the frame — dead-center or off to the side following the rule of thirds. Many photographers prefer to break the rules by using very asymmetrical composition such as placing a horizon in the bottom seventh (or less) of the frame.

Enhancements

A digital photo file (especially a raw file) offers an almost infinite variety of creative looks in post-processing, limited only by the photographer’s imagination. They can range from minor color corrections to impressionistic, painterly looks.

Style, as evidenced by an individual’s photography, is a graphic distillation and manifestation for others to see who we are and how we interpret the world. It comes naturally — sometimes with conscious effort and sometimes not. No two photographers have the same style, nor should they. Vive la différence!


 

Please send questions and comments to Earl at earl.nottingham@tpwd.texas.gov. For more tips on outdoor photography, visit the magazine’s photography page at www.tpwmagazine.com/photography.

 

» Like this story? If you enjoy reading articles like this, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.


Related stories

Picture This: 5 for Fall

Picture This: Past Meets Present

Picture This: Smaller, Faster, Sharper

Picture This: Phototherapy

Picture This: The Age of Images

Picture This: Zooming in on Big Lenses

Picture This: The Need for Speed

Picture This: The Drone Age

Picture This: Holding the Bag

Picture This: Crank it Up

Picture This: Hip to be Square

Picture This: Camera Obscura

Picture This: An Artful Second Act

Picture This: Shooting Blooms

Picture This: Focus on the Wild

Picture This: Shoot the Moon

Picture This: Click-mas List

Picture This: Dedicated to Craft

Picture This: Elements of Excellence

Picture This: Photographing Moving Water

Picture This: Pictures of Summer

Picture This: Keeping It Steady

Picture This: Accentuate the Negative

Picture This: Prime Time

For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page

 

back to top ^


Share

    Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine