The Art of Photography: Finding your Photographic Voice
You’ve likely heard of the expression “photographic voice”, but what exactly does it mean? An individual’s photographic voice is the style or theme of the photographs they take, to give an example the renowned Ansel Adams is known for his black and white landscape images. Adams’ belief was that “you don’t take a photograph, you make it”, he aimed to create a certain mood or emotion in his photographs, much of which was the result of darkroom post-processing techniques, as was common during the pre-digital era.
Some of us are inspired by technique, others by subject; whether it be cities, families or unique elements of nature. If you have seen my work floating around Hong Kong, you’ll know that the more traditional elements of Hong Kong are what inspire my photography, as for technique I generally shoot horizontally and use a large-depth-of-field. Here’s how you can find, or continue to develop, your photographic voice:
Take photos of anything and everything to help find your photographic voice
Photograph anything and everything until you find a technique or subject that “talks” to you. When I first began taking photographs I would capture objects and people that I felt were visually appealing or intriguing, without much concern for technique. As time went on I noticed a theme emerging, most of my photographs, whether taken in Hong Kong or abroad, were candid shots, capturing the day-to-day happenings of cities and their people. Nowadays I aim to focus on capturing small details, within this big city, and to create images of Hong Kong that provoke the senses; the smells, the tastes and all that can be heard.
Whether it be a neighbourhood wander, an exploration of a new area or a client shoot, I enjoy coming home, downloading my photographs and scrolling through to see what I’ve captured. There are usually photographs that I love as well as some that disappoint, but don't be too quick to hit delete, I recommend you have a play. Free platforms such as Google Photos and Photoscape X (a quick and easy download is required) allow you to crop your images as well as manually play around with lighting and colour, sometimes the smallest of edits can transform an average photograph into a display worthy piece.
Experiment with composition and techniques in the art of photography
Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate photographer, experimenting with different compositions and techniques will assist in the development on your photographic voice. If you are capturing your photographs using a DSLR, turn your camera to manual mode and experiment with aperture, ISO, shutter speed and exposure. It won’t happen overnight, but once you get to know you camera and its settings, you will be able to experiment with techniques such as long exposure and lens flare (and this is where Pinterest can act as a handbook). Regardless of your device; DSR, smartphone or point-and-shoot, composition is easy, and fun, to play around with. Some examples include: repetition, colour, framing, pattern and balancing elements.
The Art of Photography: Repetition
Keep your eyes peeled for repeating objects, such as repetition of a certain shape or colour.
The Art of Photography: Colour
Make use of complimentary (opposing) colours to enhance photographs.
The Art of Photography: Framing
Frame your subject with surrounding objects, such as buildings, people and trees.
The Art of Photography: Patterns
Look for naturally occurring or constructed patterns.
The Art of Photography: Balancing Elements
Balance background interest with foreground subject, ensuring that both elements command equal attention.
View other photographers’ photos and see what talks to youAnother great way to find your photographic voice is to seek inspiration through viewing others’ photographs. Instagram and Pinterest act as great visual platforms, allowing you to sift through images using hashtags and key words. Use Instagram to search for both techniques and themes, for example #depthoffield and #oceanphotography, or my personal favourite #homekong. While Pinterest can help you to find great tutorials, from photography bloggers, that will assist you in developing your technique. Viewing images captured by others will help you to pinpoint which techniques and subject matter you appreciate, then you can make it your aim to develop your own style, or “voice”.
Once you feel confident don’t be afraid to break the rules, that’s what true creatives do!
Now it’s up to you, dust off your camera and begin by exploring your local neighbourhood, take photographs of anything that “speaks” to you. Play around with composition and technique and use online platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to seek inspiration. Upload your photographs to Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #wanderwithnicole, I’d love to see what you come up with.
If your still not sure where to start then join me on my next photography workshop and we can explore your camera together!
A special thanks to @bekah.jones for collaborating on this article on the art of photography.