by Tim Walden
Texas School Instructor
If you have ever heard us teach, the topic of STYLE is always at the top of our list. Why? Because, to succeed in the photography business today, you must stand out from the “sea of sameness.” What makes you stand out? Why should I come to you and pay your prices and not go to my neighbor who will shoot and burn for $25?
Do people come to you primarily because you are the cheapest or have the most convenient location? Price and location should NEVER be the best reasons why clients darken your doors. With that being said, let’s talk a bit about STYLE and FIVE INSIGHTS we have gained over the years.
Insight #1 – The more specific your style, the more you will experience some who don’t like it. Our philosophy… It is more important that people KNOW what you do rather than LIKE what you do. You will never, ever please everyone with who you are and what you do. Those who love you and your work will travel and pay your price to come to you and those who don’t won’t bother you! Your goal should be to determine what touches you deep inside. What is your inner artist speaking to you? Once you’ve determined this, you can start working on Insight #2.
Insight #2 – Narrow your style down even more than you think possible to speed up the recognition of it. Yes, this is the scary part. When we were developing our iconic Relationship Style years ago, we set tight parameters that we never broke; always square, only 3 sizes, only one choice of mat, priced appropriately, and so on. We called it our “Trophy” style and worked to elevate it so that we could finally stop doing what we didn’t love to do. It took time and consistency to break through to the public, and when it finally did, it took off like a rocket ship!
Insight #3 – Don’t do what you sincerely don’t want to do. Photography is tied to your heartstrings! Listen to your heart. Do what you are passionate about or risk losing the joy you once had. What you loved as a child are the same things you love as an adult. This is how to find your style. So often, we get pushed and pulled in a hundred different directions as we search for our style. We drift this way and that, trying to find our way in the turbulent waters of starting a business or trying to turn a failing business around.
But when you go against your soul, you feel lost… fake… adrift. You feel like an imposter! If something doesn’t feel right to you or for you, don’t do it. Just because every other photographer in town is doing it doesn’t mean it is right for you. Don’t be so desperate to find your photographic style that you lose yourself in the process. This is a lose-lose scenario.
Insight #4 – You won’t create a Loan print (or masterpiece) every time you shoot. Even though we go into each session with this as a goal, we are OK if things don’t turn out as we envisioned. However, the longer you are in business, the better you will be at doing amazing work even under difficult circumstances. Remember the gems lie among the junk! In other words, keep on shooting until you feel you have what you want. Then trash the junk and keep the gems. Just keep moving forward, keep your chin up and stay joyful!
Insight #5 – Never stop learning. When we stop being teachable, we drift backwards. Nobody has it all figured out and never will. There is always something new to learn. There is always room to grow. Surround yourself with those on the same path as you are on or desire to be on, then incorporate the bits that speak to you. Don’t be a copy, but find your own voice. It will not happen overnight. But over time and with study (and consistency), your style will become clearer.
Finding your photographic style is a journey. Finding your voice as an artist is what makes what we do so fun and interesting. It’s what makes your work different than mine, and my work different than the photographer’s work down the block. It’s also what makes this world rich and beautiful and wonderfully exciting.
Timothy M. Walden, Hon.M.Photog, M.Photog.Cr.,F-ASP, CPP, will be teaching a class on “Art. Passion. Purpose” at the 2023 Texas School of Professional Photography. Join him as he discusses both photographic techniques and the business of photography. Learn more about his class at: TexasSchool.org