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Finding and developing a personal style...

...Is something that you hear from pros and read in photography magazines all the time. So, just how do you go about it? Nailing your personal style?

Left: "Bea in her room". This is one of my "Artists in Residences" series and was shortlisted for the NPG portrait competition 2013

Nikon D800, 14-24mm f2.8 at 14mm, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f4.5, strobe with soft box above and to camera left, hand-held up a step-ladder

12th July 2012

I guess for me it started with being a defiant so-and-so in my former years (and, some would probably say, a little too far into my adulthood). Anyway, I always preferred things to be a bit off-beat, establishment-challenging, weird, or rulebook-flouting. And it seemed to me that all those rules in photography were just gagging to be spurned. Of course I'm not the first to say this, but, if you are a dissident, or a bit of a lateral thinker, or just downright tangential to reality, you can really bend or break the rules with indifferent abandon on a regular basis and sometimes everything works out just fine. That's why, after I bought my first wide angle lens, I had a love affair with it for literally decades. It just does such wonderfully bonkers stuff when you need it to... .

So, people pictures in wide angle... It's not, according to the guidelines, the recommended approach. But it's brought me much fulfilment. The thing is, although I really do enjoy the company of other togs, tutoring in a group setting and sharing my thoughts with like-minded and keen creatives in a class or on location, when it comes to my own work I'm a bit of a photographic loner, preferring the solitude I find so inspirational in empty spaces. Spending my time away from others while I create has meant I am, as a general rule, out in a landscape somewhere and never fully developing a people pictures discipline. People were, for the most part, simply a distraction to be avoided in my outdoors shots.

Portraits have therefore not come easily to me in the past. I am certainly better than I once was - and in the last couple of years I have relaxed a little into the genre and have been happy with results that I have produced, using what would be considered a more standard portrait lens, my 85mm f1.8. However, what I really like to do with portraits is to put people into - and associate them with - an environment that relates to them; to shoot them in surroundings that really say something about them as people.

Left: "Emma in her studio". This is one of my "Artists in Residences" series and was shortlisted for the NPG portrait competition 2013.

Nikon D800, 14-24mm f2.8 Nikkor at 22mm, ISO 2000, 1/30 second at f11, tripod

8th May 2013

Perhaps my self-consciousness as a photo subject also lured me in the direction of the wide angle portrait; I have certainly found that letting someone know that they are not going to have every wrinkle and zit and bogey scrutinised with a close-up facial study does wonders for their confidence in front of a camera and, as a result, makes the session so much more fun.

In 2012, I set about producing a series of wide angle portraits. With careful positioning of the camera and of the subject in the field of view, distortion of the face and body is imperceptible, they remain the primary focal point, yet the shot also reveals an almost equally important, secondary environmental message about them.

I really like the way things turned out. And because the whole process was a little photographically unconventional, I dig the results even more.

Don't be afraid to experiment with an unorthodox approach. It just might be the start of a road that leads to finding your own style.

Above image: Farmer Family Shapland in one of their fields on the farm at sunset. Fitzhead, Somerset.

Nikon D800, 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f6.3, polariser, tripod, strobe and softbox to camera right

11th April 2012

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