The Top 3 Habits of Extremely Good Photographers
An Instagrammer left this comment on my photo a while ago:
This was a great compliment to receive, because as photographers -- not only do we strive for our work to be seen, but we also long for a signature style to call our own.
And through our style, we might even wish for others to recognize our work at a glance.
You might be thinking to yourself that it's not so important to develop a signature of your own. I'm about to convince you otherwise.
Why is this so important?
Well let's answer this question first:
Can you think of a few photographers whose work you've been able to instantly recognize?
For me, these photographers are Saul Leiter, Henri Cartier Bresson, Fred Herzog, and Vivian Maier.
Can you guess who took the photos above? If you thought Saul Leiter, then you're right!
There are a number of elements that make his work unmistakable:
- The composition of his shots,
- The film (often damaged) that he shot with,
- The selective color palette,
And the list goes on.
This is what makes Saul Leiter a great photographer. He found a style that resonates with him and stuck with it for decades.
Not only does a consistent style help others to notice your work right away, but it also imbues your work with a sense of professionalism. A lack of consistency reflects a lack of confidence, and a certain level of "still figuring things out."
So it goes without saying that consistency plays a huge role in your striving to be the best photographer you can be.
Here's how you can become a more consistent photographer:
1. Know What You're Looking For
The most vital element in establishing a consistent style is finding subject matter that interests you. I personally enjoy capturing candid moments by middle-aged people on the street in large cities:
It's important to be very specific about this. Note the description of my photography:
- Candid moments of
- Middle-aged people
- On the street
- In large cities
The more specific you are about the type of scenes you want to capture, the more consistent your body of work will be.
2. Use the Same Gear Until it Breaks
And when it breaks, get it repaired.
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that the gear we use doesn't have an impact on our results. And this is true to some extent -- especially in the digital age where photos taken on any device can be edited to look identical to those taken on another.
The reason to use the same gear for a long time is for your own sake. To switch gear is to invest in an entirely new relationship. And relationships take time.
It's better to spend that time developing skills that matter.
To reach your potential as a photographer, your camera and lens needs to feel like an extension of your eye. You need to see the world in millimeters, so that even when you don't have a camera with you, you're taking mental pictures.
3. Establish a Post-Processing Workflow
The most blatant way to create consistency in your photography is with post-processing, which tends to be severely overlooked by most street photographers.
When you edit all of your photos differently, it tends to result in confusion from viewers and demonstrates a lack of confidence in your own creative vision.
This isn't to say that your work should never evolve and grow, but that there's a way to achieve consistent imagery despite making great progress. Sticking to a strict editing workflow is key.
Consistency in my editing process not only causes others to be able to instantly recognize my work, but it also results in many hours saved per day in post-processing, freeing me up to do more of what I enjoy most: shooting.
By clarifying in your head what type of subjects you're after; getting mighty comfortable with your gear; and developing a consistent editing process, you'll be well on your way to discovering your own, unmistakable style -- just like Saul Leiter.
And who knows -- Maybe one day someone will be able to recognize your work at a glance.