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What’s My Style?

After viewing my portfolio hopefully you like it, though it may be hard for you to articulate why. Eventually in the development of any creative pursuit a person will find their own style–their own voice. This is true for artists, musicians, writers, and certainly myself. Discovering one’s voice is not unlike learning a musical instrument. In the very beginning you learn the scales, master the compulsories, and maybe if you’re very talented land in a prestigious school such as Julliard. You’ll chose a genre for which your passionate, be it jazz, classical, pop, or my personal favorite electric blues. Then with years of effort one day you’ll develop a style unique to yourself–you will have found your voice.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the pursuit for my own style began as an adolescent. Growing up in rural America didn’t allow for the convenience of visiting fine art museums, in fact I was an adult before I visited my first. But as silly as it may sound my first exposure to art was a board game from the Parker Brothers titled Masterpiece. I was particularly inspired my two of the great Cubist painters, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

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Georges Braque, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

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Pablo Picasso, Museum of Modern Art, New York

I see the world with geometric clarity and the angular compositions of those two masters has resonated throughout my life. My favorite compositions utilize a visual narrative to lead the viewer’s eye through the image. I accomplish this with line and light to reveal shapes; my favorite are triangles and you’ll find these throughout my images. Take a look at the following three examples to see how I used triangles to aid the composition.

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The other favorite tool of mine is using converging lines to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject. Better still is when I combine this with my proclivity for triangles. These next four images are typical for my style.

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The previous seven images illustrate how I like to compose a subject, but the other half of my style is of course about the lighting. Many of my colleagues are masters with artificial light, deftly shooting their clients with two, three, and sometimes even a four light set-up. The results can be stunning, but I have little patience for it. And therein is one of the reasons why different photographers have different styles, we gravitate toward that which comes natural. From 20 years spent in the field as a travel photographer, I cut my teeth on utilizing only available light. It’s hard wired into me; it’s what I love most. Sometimes subtle light can be lost all together with the introduction of artificial illumination. Arguably these next two images could have used some fill flash, but to add it would have ruined the atmospheric subtleties, and the mood I was hoping to convey.

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That’s not to say I won’t use fill flash, it has its place, and when properly executed it can really pop an image. Both of the following images would have failed without proper illumination on my subjects.

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Of course my favorite fill light is the most powerful available, the warm glowing light of early morning or late afternoon. As these next three images show, flash of any means could never approximate this beauty.

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While shooting indoors occasionally I’ll augment natural light with ambient lighting. In doing so I’m still avoiding the use of flash or strobes, but acknowledging some artificial light is required. These next images show that a lovely balance can be struck between ambient and natural light sources.

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Bringing light, triangles, and converging lines into a single image is my best assurance for visual success. Not all of my images achieve this, but for those that do, nothing brings greater satisfaction. These final three images clear the bar.

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I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike artificial light, but rather seek other more natural sources first. There’s a tool for everything and within my current body of work there are many examples of strobe, flash, and gelled lighting. For a more thorough understanding for when and why I resort to artificial light please take a look at: Creative Use of Artificial Light.

Hopefully this post has given you a clear idea of what my composition and lighting styles are. Of course the voice for every artist continues to evolve. Given time, trials, and experimentation subtle or even dramatic changes will occur. But for now, this is the voice for my favorite tunes.

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