Magic Monday: Finding the Style (part 2)

VIEW PART ONE FROM LAST WEEK

I don’t believe in “One Size Fits All”.

Nope.

I’ve had enough depressing moments when I realize that my size doesn’t always deem itself generic!

Growing up I had an obsession with hats.  LOVED them!  So much, in fact, that I started a hat collection.  I’m not talking about baseball caps here…. I’m talking about fashion hats, designer hats, berets… I look back now somewhat surprised at myself.  Surprised that I had enough self confidence to wear them around when it wasn’t the current fashion or trend. Not sure I could pull it off today!

Despite the obsessive collection, my hat findings were not always met with a perfect match.  In the hat world, you find “One Size Fits All” quite often.  However, my HEAD has never fit in that category.  Unfortunately, I have a very large noggin!  How many of you out there actually know your detailed hat size? I wear a 7 and 3/4 size hat.  How do I know this?

8th grade was the year I was being forced by my parents to participate in Horse 4H (it was an attempt to cure me of my phobia of horses which was triggered by a lovely experience on a runaway stallion five years before…okay, it was actually a pony, but traumatic nonetheless!).  In order to show my horse I needed to be outfitted in snazzy show clothes and wear a matching  cowboy hat.  After being custom measured for my size at the local western wear store, it was discovered that they didn’t have a single hat throughout the entire store in my size. It needed to be special ordered!  How embarrassing for a 14 year old girl to outsize all the local farmers and cowboys who were grown men!

Yes.  I don’t believe in “One Size Fits All”.

And just like I stated last week, I don’t believe photographic style is “One Size Fits All” either.

We know its important to develop a style as a photographer, but how often do we consider the style of our subjects?

Last week I referenced my photographic rut I found myself in a few years ago… going to the same locations and shooting all my clients in a downtown urban setting.  It had never occurred to me until that moment that perhaps I was forcing a style onto my clients that didn’t jive with who they were.

Imagine my surprise when I suggested to my mother that we get our family pictures taken at a completely awesome blue wall with a fancy red stripe that I had found in my hometown… and she  shot the idea down!

“That’s not me!”  She said matter of factly.  “And its not our family!”

Indeed.  She was right.  My family lived in the country on a dirt road away from town.  They enjoyed the mountains, gardens, and animals.  My effort to place them into a category based upon my own trend following was nakedly revealed.

We stayed outdoors for the pictures.  And they were much more suited to who they were.

If photographic style is not “One Size Fits All”, how do you ensure a perfect fit with your subject?

1.  What are you communicating through your blog or website? If your style is easily detected by potential clients, they will book because your style matches theirs.

Months ago, I received an email from a frustrated photographer.  In essence, she explained she had an upset client who disliked all their images from a family session.  The photographer explained to me, “I’m a lifestyle photographer and I don’t usually pose at all.  I just take pictures of how people are and how they interact.  I think my client was upset because she was wanting something more traditional perhaps.” I had a suspicion that proved true.  We looked at her blog and website.  Could you tell she was a lifestyle photographer?  Not from the mixture of traditional shots here and there found among her work.

The lesson?

ONLY DISPLAY THE SHOTS YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR.  ONLY display your style.  Communicate very clearly what you want to attract.

Do I ever take traditional pictures?  Yes.  But you’ll never ever see them here or on my website.  Ever. If you want a FABULOUS ARTICLE about this principle, check out Zach Arais’s post a few months back.

2.  Be true to yourself, and be true to your client.

If I’ve communicated my style effectively to my clients, there is one following micro level that I believe to be true in matching styles.  I’m not talking photographic style here as much as personality style.

I hated my bridals because they weren’t me.  Graffiti walls and trashy alleys?  My personality and tastes would have been better suited with a location more formal and classy… but I know plenty of other musicians who those very locations would have been a perfect fit.  Stick me in a tutu when I was 5 years old with a fat flower on my head?  Ummm, totally not me.  Do the same to my sister who was seen more often in dance clothes than regular clothes?  Perfect.  Totally her.

Get to know your subjects before the session.  What are their personal tastes?  What do they like?  When you mix their true self, with your true style, THEN your work becomes meaningful to both of you.

avatarBrooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  Brooke teaches private photography lessons as well as monthly photography classes in Logan, Utah.

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