Forget About Finding A 'Style', Cultivate A 'Sensibility' Instead

October 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Tango d'Yves TanguyTango d'Yves Tanguy

So what exactly is "style", and why are so many photographers looking for it?  Put a group of photographers together: professionals, amateurs, and up-and-comers, and inevitably the discussion turns to finding a style. "What is it?", "How do you find it?", "Does it really take a long time to get one?". I think it's time we stop talking about style and instead talk about cultivating sensibility.

What's the difference? A big one. You find when most photographers talk about a style, they are referring to a look, like HDR or grungy, or soft-focus, or any of the latest trends sweeping the industry. Style is fashion. It changes year to year, or even sooner in these super accelerated times. It is another photographers look. It is something that will likely date your images, rather than show a timeless quality. A style is a canned filter in a software program, or set of actions that most photographers also have access to.

What cultivating sensibility means, as I see it, comes from inside you, and it is the way you see things. It is your innate sensitivity to the world around you, and is unique to you. It is your personal language, and what you have to gift to the world. If you look at certain photographers' work, people like Avedon, Herb Ritts, David duChemin, Mark Seliger, Gregory Heisler and Irving Penn to name few; look at those who have been around awhile, you'll begin to see their styles as such evolved and adapted to the subjects in front of their camera. 

A style dictates you apply the same "look" to everything you photograph. A sensibility is where you choose all of the parameters from capture to processing according to how you sense this particular subject touches you. According to how you see it uniquely. That is not subject to any artificial look that is not appropriate to your sense. 

Styles come and go like the wind blows, but how you envision things (which is ever changing and growing with your experiences), will always be yours. Cultivate your unique sensibility, and let that be your guide to creating images that transcend style and stand the test of time.  


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