a photo study: developing your personal style – visualization 

Nikon D750   f/8  1/400s  300mm   1250 ISO

With five weeks left of this year-long project, it is the time to explore how we as photographers

…eventually get to a point where we are comfortable with a certain look, a certain subject, or genre. Our work becomes recognizably ours. Sometimes this is done intentionally, sometimes we become well known for a subset of our work and everyone wants more of it. ~Dan K (Japan Camera Hunter)

I found that Dan K’s last two learning steps — Find Yourself and Reinvent Yourself —   dovetail nicely with the Master Class Live series that Ted Forbes created a number of years ago, Developing your Creative Style. 

The first of this Master Class series, Developing your Eye, begins with an introduction of his intention for this four week series:

To introduce exercises that will help us improve our creative work as photographers and to encourage us to allow our images to emerge through the camera from the source of our individual selves:

      • silence the negative voice that demeans our creative drive.
      • accept and embrace the uniqueness of our individual selves absent a tint of arrogance. 
      • find our own creative voice. 

To understand photography as an art form

  • Photography is: 
      • a representation of an idea that is created using light sensitive material. 
      • a visual recording of a scene that is reconstructed in the darkroom or in a software program into a a final image.
      • a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space created through the use of contrast, lighting, and depth of field. 
      • the combination of light through a lens or pin hole with a chemical process, silver gelatin or other materials, or digital process. 
      • a continuum of creative endeavors that extend from commercial  work to fine art.  
  • Visual art is:
      • the organization of visual elements in empty space to form a composition.
      • the use of visual elements such as, shape, line, contrast, color, object(s), light, empty space.
      • created with an audience in mind.
      • includes a degree of manipulation whether it is pre or post production.
      • composition that is created to evoke a reaction from the viewer — effecting ways of thinking, bringing awareness to social, environment, political, commercial issues, engaging through emotion, or creating something that is aesthetically pleasing.  
      • on a continuum range of aesthetically to conceptual.

The materials used in the Master Class series are: a camera (exception for the  “Wish I had my camera” exercise), framing template, small notebook, pencil/pen, photo browser software like Adobe Bridge that allows you to view images that do not have post adjustment tools.  

Exercise I: I Wish I Had My Camera

 tear down walls to get from the concrete to the imagined

This exercise is designed to encourage awareness of photographic memory through the use of a journal to record spontaneous creative ideas that generally fade after a few seconds and incorporate pre-visualization as a creative tool.  It is common for creative people to experience creative moments during times of disengagement — in the shower, while falling into or awakening from sleep.  

    • Leave your camera at home and sit for 30 minutes to an hour somewhere in a chosen location.  Repeat 2-3 times in different locations.
    • At the beginning you may become bored, uncomfortable, and/or question the purpose of this exercise.  Write down your initial thoughts/feelings in your journal.  If it is boring, write down why.  Jot down the feelings or thoughts that arise.
    • When you see something that catches your eye ask yourself why and get that in your mind.  What is interesting about it?  Is there a narrative or story here?  How could you use this to create the perfect composition? 
    • Imagine different composition elements: light, perspective, low-high angle, time of day, different weather conditions, etc that would bring about a perfect image.
    • Silent any negative reactions, or practicalities that block this creative play. 
    • Journal your thoughts…short phrases, diagrams, and record them before they fade. 
    • Be the camera and open yourself to what is absent of a chattering/planning mind.  Did you notice something now that you did not initially notice?
    • If you remain in this location for at least 30 minutes, you will begin to notice things and say to yourself, “I should have noticed that.”
    • Ask yourself, “how can I make this more interesting?” Do I need to move to a different location?  Write it down…write down everything that comes to your mind. Don’t be inhibited in what you write in your journal.  Nothing is silly.  Your words do not need to be beautiful, grammatically correct…you are just jotting down your thoughts, triggers, imaginations, questions.  You are retaining the spontaneous, imagination, creative you. 
    • Use your framing templates to experiment to see if there are objects that get in the way…to frame up the image…zoom as you move the template close to your eye or further away. 
conttemplative 7
Sony RX100 III    f/2.8   1/100s  25.7mm  800 ISO

…just let your imagination flow.  If you have an image in your head it may take a number of times to create the image or it may even takes years.  

Exercise II: Finding Your Own Creative Voice 

  • Introduce yourself to the history of photography
  • Begin an exploration of photographers to find those who inspire you and influence how you see and understand photography.  
  • Study their work and try to replicate their use of shape, line, contrast, color, object(s), light, empty space, composition, attention to detail, manipulation, use of tones, etc. 
  • Recreate their work.  You may begin by coping their work, but eventually use this as a door way to your own creative space
  • If you find yourself favoring one end of the conceptual-aesthetic continuum try exploring the other end.

I would love to read about your experience with “wish I had my camera” and about the photographers who resonate with your creative soul.  Let’s tag with #aphotostudy. 

The Master Class YouTube videos and the history video are around an hour long. I have found that it is difficult to sit and view a video for this period of time, so I generally break it down to 20 minute segments. 

Below are the The Photographer posts that reviewed Dan K’s steps to becoming a better photographer. 



5 replies to “a photo study: developing your personal style – visualization 

  1. OMG just last lwo days I am reading about some great photographers and large format camera. This post comes at the right time. I am so much thankful to you Brenda.

    And I love the first advice, “Leave your camera at home and sit for 30 minutes to an hour somewhere in a chosen location. Repeat 2-3 times in different locations.”. I am going to follow this.

    1. I found that when I set out to do this with my camera and an intention to not use the camera…I would have an irresistible urge to use my camera…so had to leave the camera at home.

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