I have a problem with people who keep on chasing a certain ‘style’ of wildlife photography.
I get that we are all attracted to and visually excited by different subject, scenes and types of images but shooting for a certain type of style makes me nervous.
When someone asks me what my ‘style’ is I really struggle to find an answer. Sure, I’m personally attracted to the more creative side of the craft but it’s not the only type of images I create and I get just as much of a thrill when I nail a superbly sharp wildlife portrait or action shot. The last while I have been quite into the darker night time images but that might very well be a direct result of the destinations I have visited. In Svalbard I did a lot of landscape and abstract photography but again it was the nature of the place that made me gravitate in that direction.
The concern I have when someone starts chasing a style or a certain type of image is that is that they will miss out on so much more. Yes yes, I know some of you will say that in order to create a solid body of work you have to set out with a goal in mind and I agree completely. Having a vision and following the lead of that little photographic voice in your head will definitely push you towards getting the shots you see in your mind but what if that voice is biased? What if that little voice is so strong and keeps you so engaged that you don’t even see the other amazing photographic options out there.
Your photographic style is something that should be looked at retrospectively not something you chase. Look back at your work over the last few years and you will see a style and you will more than likely also see it evolve. This evolution happens naturally when you feed that little photographic voice different types of images, different techniques, different destinations. Evolution in your own photography, that’s what you really should be chasing. The day I finally put my camera down, that’s the day I will worry about what my style was.
Is there not a pretty strong argument to be made that chasing a style and being in a rut is very much the same thing?
If you are attracted to slow shutter images and like to play with time you need to stop, speed things up and shoot different types of images. Freeze the action. If you always shoot the very wide angle images with a small animal in the corner and cast open spaces you need to go in tighter. I understand that it might be uncomfortable but that’s when the real magic happens. That’s when you will awaken your wildlife photography muse.
Eventually you will find yourself moving back to the type of images you normally shoot but the longer you can delay that return the more you will learn as a photographer and the more your work and portfolio will evolve. Your images will always have your flavour which comes from you, your photographic eye and how you process your work, but other than that you need to let go and get out of your comfort zone.
My goal, as a photographic guide and educator, is to keep on pushing my clients and guests towards the types of photographs they normally would not even think about and more often than not it’s the more creative images. This might be why my personal style seems to be somewhere in that realm but it’s not. I’m making a point for it not to be because if I give in and accept that as my style I will no longer be looking to shoot different types of images and that rut – style argument raises it’s ugly head. I recently had a client who I had to pull from the very creative blurs and pans towards more solid, sharp bank shots. It worked because when we looked at his portfolio at the end of the safari it was a stunning combination of natural history images and his artistic interpretations of the natural world.
Have a good hard look at your current approach to the craft of wildlife photography and then keep moving.
Keep trying new things.
Until next time.