What’s Your Style? What Do You Shoot?

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” – Orson Welles

You’ve got your site up and running, and you’ve got all your pictures that you’ve accumulated.  But what kinds of pictures are they?  What’s your thing?  A lot of people get into photography without having a specific focus (no pun intended) as to what they want to photograph, and there are tons of different things.  After all, if you can see it, you can shoot it.

There are a whole bunch of genres you can go for!  Note that I haven’t included strictly commercial genres like wedding and advertising/commercial photography.  People don’t go to random churches to shoot weddings just for fun, and nobody cares if they photograph a bottle of cola, unless someone’s paying them for it.

Photojournalism

You get to cover the funky stuff that wins Pulitzer Prizes; Watergate, starvation in Africa, wars in mid-Eastern countries that may not even exist by the time you get back (depending on how well the rebels were doing at the time), that sort of thing.  Basically, anywhere or anything that others may want to read about, you’d better be there.  Get a Kevlar vest, learn to sleep on buses and planes, and develop a thick skin.  But it’ll be your pictures that most people will recognize.

Here’s an example of photojournalism that you probably all know, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, entitled “V-J Day in Times Square.”

Sailor Kissing Nurse in Times Square after Japanese Surrender of World War 2

“V-J Day in Times Square” One of the most iconic photographs of the Second World War.

Landscape

Landscape isn’t nearly as “woo hoo” as many other genres, especially when compared to photojournalism where you may be shot at, but sometimes, not being shot at is a good thing.  However, it makes for good money, and has its own challenges.

Where it costs a lot of money to fly over to [insert war-torn country here] or it takes a lot of finger crossing to get a press pass to the White House, it takes nothing to shoot scenery.

In the city?  Things like this work wonders!  All you San Fran people may be wondering what the big deal is, but to anyone out of the city, it’s got the hills and the trolley, two things which are iconic of the city.  And all you had to do was walk out of your front door!

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San Francisco’s Trolley System. © Richard Seaman.

Are you in the country?  Not enough action for you to photograph?  Suck it up, buttercup.  Ansel Adams made himself into a photographic legend by taking pictures of landscapes, and he didn’t have a digital camera or Photoshop to help him.  He worked with plates most of the time, so even a roll of film was considered a luxury!

Even if we’re not up to Mr. Adams’ level just yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t try!  Before I knew anything about ISO, Fstops or any of the technicals (back in the very end of the “leave it on auto and just compose the shot” days), I took this one, which even now, I’m still very happy with (though, I wish I could go back and retake it with the better camera & settings to cut down the noise).

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Sunset of the coast of Australia, south of Melbourne. © Kyle Edwards.

While this isn’t a high profile genre, landscapes do end up on people’s walls more so than other genres, so there is something to it.

Fashion

This is where a lot of people like to spend most of their time, and understandably so.  It’ll take me a lot longer to make $500 selling prints of that sunset than it will for someone selling a fashion shoot to a magazine like Elle or Harper’s Bazaar.  Not to mention that landscape means you’re looking at rocks and fashion means you’re looking at young, attractive people.  The draw is pretty obvious!

The downside is that everybody with a camera seems to want in on this.  There are 500,000,000 fashion photographers and 1000 fashion magazines.  That makes for some pretty stiff competition.

There’s a guy I used to work with, Rob Seguin, who just absolutely loves fashion photography.  He eats it right up, and from what I’ve seen, he’s pretty good at it.  I know I could never do it, nor would I want to.  Fashion models aren’t supposed to smile, as facial emotions detract from the clothing, which is the focus of the photo, and frankly, I’m an emotion junkie.  I need some kind of an emotional response from the model.

(No pictures – just click on the link to Rob’s page and you’ll see all the fashion pics you want.)

Architecture

While not glamourous by any stretch of the imagination, this one probably has the most steady income.  This is the person who comes around to your house and takes pictures for the real estate agent to post on their site.  Or when a business wants to take that all-too-necessary picture of the outside and inside of their building for their site, so that people know what they’re looking for, you’re the one they call on.

Apart from the lack of glory (because other photographers are revered like sports stars, right?), you’ll have to get yourself a specialized toy – a tilt-shift lens.  Well, you’ll need a few, to be exact.  I haven’t played with one myself (yet), but it essentially lets you move the lenses around so that, instead of viewing a building on an angle and having all the distortion that comes with it, it appears straighter.  Basically, it accomplishes a good chunk of what you’d have to do later on in Photoshop, with just the twist of two dials and some experimenting.

In this example, I was lucky in that I didn’t have the typical “looking up” distortion.  Being in a hotel room on the 6th floor just happened to put me in a great spot for this shot!

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© Kyle Edwards

Vehicles

Yeah, boys and their toys.  People love working on their rides.  The nice thing is that this gives you, as the photographer, a reason to go hang out at car shows & bike shows.  People will spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their cars, which make for some pretty funky photos, like this 2000 Celica with scissor doors.  At the show I took this shot, there were probably more with scissor/Lambo doors than there were without!

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A 2000 Toyota Celica. © Kyle Edwards.

Wildlife

One of the biggest hobbies in North America is bird watching.  Birds, four leggeds’, whatever, animals are always fun and a challenge.  Many of them are very colourful and very impressive, but they’re also difficult to photograph, as wildlife generally doesn’t sit still for humans.  Especially when it comes to birds, you had better be quick and have your camera set correctly before that critter comes into range, because you won’t be getting that pose twice!

Land based animals, especially domesticated ones, are a lot easier to photograph, but that still doesn’t make them a breeze.  Remember that many animals only come out in the open during the early mornings and at night, for safety reasons.  So don’t plan to party all night, wake up at the crack of noon, and go shoot wildlife!

On the upside, you can get some outstanding shots!  Especially in the wild, you’ll get animals twisting and turning like you never imagined!

But you don’t have to start on a wild eagle 100′ in the air.  Start on Fluffy at home.  He’s not as dramatic, but he’s a lot easier to photograph; he doesn’t take off like the eagle, and he doesn’t mind you getting so close.  It makes for good practice!

Conclusion

I’m not saying that these are the only things to shoot, and I’m not saying that you have to restrict yourself to just one.  Many people, as they evolve, change up from time to time, to keep things interesting.  So don’t think that you have to pick one and stick to it!!  Do what you love!

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