I was 13 when I started taking photos. I had no idea what I was doing, other than wanting to get pictures of my favorite tennis stars at the US Open in New York. I didn’t know anything about exposure, composition, etc. My dad loaded up the family camera with film and we took it to the matches. Pure joy and excitement, know thing I was (hopefully) going to come back with a souvenir from the day that I couldn’t buy in a store. I remember that feeling, but I don’t really remember what was going on in my mind when I was actually shooting.
Fast forward about 12 years. I find myself at a concert shooting one of my very favorite bands, Soulive. They are a “jam band” if you will, a jazz group. I love(d) them so much and I found a way to reach them through a friend who was close with the keyboard player, Neal Evans. Now I had taken photos over period of time between this and the US Open, but this time I vividly remember what it felt like while I was taking photos. I vividly remember being connected to the musicians in a way that was unique to me. And I remember wanting and trying to get as close to them as I possibly could. Lots of times you can, when you shoot in the photographers pit at a show, and so thats great. But often you can’t get so close to your subject, or not as close as you’d like. I was still finding my voice in this period of time, but this night became historic in my life because I now look back at it and have determined that it was truly the beginning of the development of my own photographic style.
Ok, what do I mean by photographic style.
Everyone and everything has a style if you think about it. Obviously we think of a style of clothing, a style of a car, a style of music. Photographs have a style as well, and whether you know it or not, your own individual idea of the style you want to portray is within your reach and is something you can create in your photos. And so when I look back at these early music images I notice one thing in particular; I like tight shots. I like photos that are really close up – as close as you can get. Even from the pit, I want to get tight shots of performers faces or their hands on keyboards or drumsticks. I took photos in this manner not really even knowing why it was.
And then it dawned on me.
Tight shots, closeup shots, are intimate. They are a representation of my relationship with music, in general. And I had naturally been shooting in this style all along because it was how I felt about music. Pretty crazy revelation when I realized it! A fun one too because it unleashed me to go out and exploit this style even more. I shoot tight a lot now because it’s just like when I listen to or experience live music – I am concentrating on the artists expression, his/her face, his/her hands that create the music, and thats what I am most interested in capturing. But it took some time for me to realize this! It took a lot of going back into my archives to see what was happening in the moment.
The point of this blog post, however, isn’t so much to tell you what my style is – it’s to encourage you to continue searching for your style. Because without a doubt, you have one, and you’ve been working in that style all along without necessarily paying attention to it. The lesson here is to reveal what that style is and go exploit it. Go deeper into it. Go farther creatively. Chances are it’s your true artistic expression, and that is ultimately what is unique to you.
I suggest these points to consider and do.
- Try and pause in the moment when you are taking photos and evaluate what you are looking to capture. Identify what it is and why you are trying to capture that.
- Pay attention to the lens choice. Are you shooting wide angle to show an entire scene, or are you shooting a long lens to get more close up.
- Identify what subject matter you are actively pursuing. Because what I describe here applies to just about anything. Not just concerts by any means. Your style is in your photos and that can be of anyone or anything.
- The most important thing that I have found is; go back and really analyze your images after the shoot. Analyze why it is you shot in that way and what it is about the photos that you love most that stands out. Keep pursuing THAT and you will soon realize you have developed your own photographic style.