“My photos are crap. I would love to be able to do what X does”. Sounds familiar? When you are starting out it probably is. Style is a voice that needs to develop, that needs time to grow into its volume and abilities to sing. It is an instantly recognizable signature that changes and evolves with every shot, it grows and decreases over time but there is always a part of you in it.
A well-defined personal style in mobile photography matters, above all for the satisfaction of identifying over time what pleases you but also to distinguish yourself from others. Secondly –especially in Instagram—it is important because of the way your gallery of shots is presented in a fluid stream. Having the tiny images display as a series of 3 shots per row in the collection creates a sense of connection, even if all photos are possibly unrelated between them. In an Instagram gallery, the photos share a unique voice can become your photographic style.
I love to find galleries where the photographs feel like they talk to one another. For example, check out www.instagram.com/iamtonyhammond extreme consistency and immediately recognizable elements: colors, contrast, frames, themes, even his amazing titles. It takes a conscious decision to develop a gallery in a consistent manner that makes you stand out. Most users have a mixed jumble of images, shots so varied in all aspects that make them unintelligible as a child hitting the piano wildly. Few have a distinguishable and immediately obvious style that can set them apart.
I actually started with Instagram in this way too, taking a couple of shots of lunch, a visit to a museum, flowers, sunsets, trying out all available filters… in a word, a chaotic collection of photos. This does not mean that I was not having fun or that any of my subjects were not perfectly valid (yes, even lunch or flowers), it just means that I was posting my shots as fast as I could take them and without any memory of the last one. I had no grand master artistic intentions of any fancy sort, I was just posting as much as I could. This destructive creation is actually an excellent way to find your style. Having so many shots allowed me to identify the elements that pleased me best and that inspired me to shoot more.
Between my first and fifth shots in my gallery there are more than 100 deleted shots of the chaos of my first months of uploading photos. I would take them directly from the Instagram camera, choose a filter and post immediately. After a couple of months I had a big collection of everything, except one voice. I went back to my gallery and deleted maybe 80% of the jumble, choosing selectively based on what I found liked best: minimal elements, few colors, less visual noise. This was not born out of a conscious choice or a grand artistic plan; it just brought peace to my eyes and presented me with clear challenges to photograph in the future.
From then on I feel that I can play with what pleases me and change my photos while maintaining a style that I can be identified by, that does not bore nor tie me up in my own rules and that others will like as well. I also found many talented people, now good friends, browsing through those hashtags that had those qualities I enjoyed, like #minimalistic and #minimalove. I have done variations on my style and subjects, diving deeper into some themes like #smallpeoplebigwalls and #tinypeople.
Style is like a visual storytelling element that sounds like a huge challenge at first. Yes, it can be. But to find your personal inspiration I suggest you play as much as you can with different shots: black and white, portraits, architecture, nature, landscapes, food, shadows, anything and everything. Edit as much as you can with colors, textures and filters. HAVE FUN. Then find those shots that speak something to you, that are easy to find where you live and that you can be confident to replicate later on. Delete what you don’t like and leave what works. Remember: this is you, don’t copy, be inspired! Use ideas that inspire you rather than photographs that you like, then shoot and edit in such a way that brings forth your expression, your voice, your world.
Instagram can be a more fulfilling visual and personal experience than just a collection of moments. If you wish to find your own voice you will find much beauty, as well as have more enjoyment in singing with it.
“Less is more” dominates Hans Kritzler’s minimalistic photographs (@macroe in Instagram). Born and raised in Mexico City but living in Munich, Germany, this business manager by day and photo fanatic by night is followed by more than 450,000 people. Shoots and edits 100% on iPhone.