You Do You: Own Your Photography Style

You know when you suck at a job? …  No, like really suck?  Like the time I became a waitress at Baker’s Dozen & was serving coffee instead of milk, milk instead of water, ketchup instead of mustard … yea that kind of bad!

It simply wasn’t my niche!

I found myself in a similar situation years later (a’lada years later).  Struggling to pose a client is exactly what was happening to me when I was forcing myself to be a family photographer.  Everyone around me was photographing families, my favorite photographers were photographing families, doesn’t that naturally mean I should too?  Ummm, yep that’s a NO!  Just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s a natural fit for you.  I would love to have lean legs but does it mean I’m going to start jogging?  … nope again!

 

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Why would I photograph a dark image of water in focus rather than her foot? Because this splashing of water was what I felt on my arm each time the kids jumped off the top of the pontoon. This was real to me. It’s not something everyone would want but I think when I look back 10 years from now I will remember how wet I got while they played.

 

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Why would I photograph the corner of a slide and the bokeh from the water? Because I can feel the heat on my shoulders from that day. Because it reminds of the hot sun and the laughs we had during our trip. Because it was real and no one took the time to see this beauty but me.

 

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Why would I photograph my daughter from the back rather than get her expression going down the slide? Well I did that too but this is what life of a mom really is. Standing aside, watching closely, fear of someone getting hurt. I was really documenting my life at this moment. What it is like to be ME … hoping and praying I don’t have to pull out the bandaids. Guess what … I did. She slid down and held the underside of this slide and cut her fingers up. I wouldn’t have this moment … of what the slide looked like to reflect on later had I not documented.

 

I knew I had talent behind a camera but I was forcing myself to use it in a niche that just couldn’t inspire me.  I began taking photos like it was an assembly line.  I was doing mini sessions and moving one family in the same pose as the previous.  I was doing nothing for my brand and my name.  I wasn’t standing out.

How could I make a living being repetitive?  By stopping. By being me.  By finding the artist I knew I was.

It happened during a senior session.  When I  came alive.  It was going great and I loooovvved me some senior photography but what happened next took photography as a job and turned it into expressing myself.

So the story goes:  Mom stopped us mid session to reapply lipgloss on her daughter.  As she was doing it I stepped back to give them some space.  What I saw … that was a real moment to capture.  You see, one of a moms greatest pleasures is watching her baby go through the process of graduating high school.  This mom was so proud of her daughter.  She was excited to be at the photo shoot and witnessing this moment.  I did what came completely natural, for the first time.  I photographed.  Un-staged.  Un-announced.  Un-posed.  Real.

When I got home I was afraid to edit and publish this image.  What would people think?  Would they wonder why I am showcasing a candid in my blog post?  Would they feel the same feeling when seeing it or would I have to give a notable reason why it was part of the gallery?

 

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Why would I photograph his shoes? They are shoes for goodness sake. Because I wanted to remember how he would ride so hard that his toes would make holes in them..

 

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Why would I photograph a dog that isn’t ours and my sons arm cut into the frame? Because I want to remember what his hands look like before they age from work. I want to remember what he looked like carrying his skateboard. I want to remember the day a random dog became his buddy.

 

 

Why would I photography her hand in her face? Because I want to remember my daughters hair, and what she looked like as she swept it away. I want to remember the rings she wore. I wanted to feel this moment again some day.
Why would I photography her hand in her face? Because I want to remember my daughters hair, and what she looked like as she swept it away. I want to remember the rings she wore. I wanted to feel this moment again some day.

 

I came up with the “I don’t give-a-damn” attitude.  Why?  Because this is me. This is what I see.  This is what memories I would love to have with my daughter.   This is where my talent lies.  Seeing things from the outside.  Realness.

I became alive in my profession that day.  I stopped feeling like I had to apologize.  I no longer had to explain why a photo made sense to me.  I made my way through the industry trying, failing and then succeeded and all just by being the photographer within me.

The challenge: Ask yourself what you would photograph in your life to show yourself in 20 years.

Would it be details like a child’s hair blowing in the wind or a little girl posed in a chair holding an apple?  I want to remember my little girls whispy hair.  I want it to remind me of the smell of summer nights as I washed it.  You are photographing for a client but ask yourself if you are creating what you would love to see about your life later.  If it’s posed, then perfect … you are where you need to be but if it’s in the realness & details then be free to document.  Be authentic.

Writing & images are from Stacie Jensen of Colorvale. 

You can follow her here:

Website // Facebook

Author: MarieMasse

I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.


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