Style Cycle–Discovery: 4 Step Find it Formula: Analyze


Finding, Defining, and Marketing Your Photographic Style


Lesson Info

Style Cycle–Discovery: 4 Step Find it Formula: Analyze

Now take those three pieces of art. We started off with three artists with bodies of work. Then we narrowed down that body of work to one image per artist. So I just showed you two here. Don't wanna take up everybody's time. I focused in on one image of each artist that I would literally buy and put on my wall. Okay? That senior that she did that was Lonnie Hoak's image, I don't know that girl. But I would put that on my wall 'cause I love it so much. Same thing and clearly, the one. But I didn't wanna pick the one of me and my son 'cause it's a recent work and I'm too emotionally attached to it 'cause it's me and my son. I wanted something but I wanted to show it to you 'cause it's very much her style. But you see why I didn't pick that one in particular? I wanted it to be more of an objective process. So now we're gonna analyze those three pieces of work. Okay? What is it about those individual pieces from each artist that makes your heart soar? Okay? So let's talk about that if my k...

eynote would move here. Holding, holding, holding, holding, holding, holding. Go, there we go. Go. There we go, my goodness. Okay. So with each image, break down what appeals to you. Why are you drawn to it? Okay? Assess from a tangible standpoint and from an emotional perspective. What does that mean? From a tangible standpoint look at the physical aspects of it technically. Brush work. Lighting. Composition. Focal angle. Camera angle. Focal distance. Mood. Color. Mood is more of an emotional one. Color. All the technical components that go into an image. Okay? Then also look at what each of those technical components, how they make you feel. 'Cause when I talked about this image here, it would not have the same feeling for me if it wasn't for that brushwork. If it was just a photograph of a girl in her mamma's arms with the flowers flying, I mean yeah that's great right? But it's not totally what makes the image for me. It is the brushwork. To me the color is calming and deep and intriguing. The purple's a little too bright for my style but the harmony is what I love. Look at the harmony. Blue, purples, oranges. Rust reds. This is so harmonious in the color wheel it's not even funny. If you look at the color wheel it's like a split triadic scheme. It's awesome. Okay? Is so so pretty. And then she uses the different colors in different ranges, values and intensities to create the overall color harmony. Muted colors for the most part. Your eye goes into this 'cause it's the highest point of contrast right? The child's expression lures me in. She's just soft and you see her expression, you know it's soft but you have no idea if she's crying. She could be angry. She could be serene. There's a lot of mystery there right? The petals take me through the image of the flower that's flying through. I mean that may not be what's Stanka actually intended and that's okay. Right now this is not about Stanka's style and Stanka's vision. It's about how I'm interpreting it. Follow? The light is soft but still dramatic. We know there's a direction of light, the shadow and shade on the child's face. Mamma is highlighted but everything's so soft and mysterious. If I saw that mother and child walking down the street I wouldn't be able to recognize them. I wouldn't know that oh that's Suzie Q from down the street. Do you know what I mean? It's a woman. It's a figure. And Stanka is so famous for this. She has this foggy veil look to her work. The brushwork is not in focus. If it was a photograph it would be sharp and in focus but her, she likes the misty look. And if you notice the eyes, that when she paints eyes open, nothing is ever white. Ever. Eyes are not white. She has a whole article on this on her blog about how eyes are not white. The shadows create intimacy. There's a lot of deep dark stuff going on throughout the connection between the child with a lot of shadow going on in here. And that creates that sense of closeness and intimacy between the child and the mother. Okay? The wind of course offers meaning and a natural element. To me that wind is everything. But it's because how I feel about the wind personally. Stanka probably didn't think of that at all when she was painting this with the wind and the brushwork. But to me that breeze that's blowing through the image is so symbolic. So symbolic. To me. But it may not be to anybody else. You guys might be going well she's blowing smoke up her butt thinking about that and that. Okay? Stanka might be watching this now and go what did she get out of that? That's the beauty of art. I'm gonna interpret something completely different as a viewer than the artist even intended. Or that you see, okay? Oh my god, just look at that brushstroke. It's so awesome. Or this one right here. And when you see this stuff in actual person, it's raised. It's off the page. It's like thick and luscious. Okay? So when it comes to technical elements, these are the kind of things that you should be looking for in your pieces. The basic stuff okay? Move forward here, there we go. Composition. Texture. Line. How do the lines flow through the image? I showed you a little bit about lines in my work earlier right? Are there circles, are there triangles? We call them leading lines in photography. Everybody reads, well not in Asia, they read right to left, but in the Western World we read from left to right. So most viewers of my work are westerners so I assume they're gonna read from left to right. I do that so I create work that appeals to that ideal client, viewer. So lines will take you through an image. Usually from left to right naturally. But what's fun is when you know that, is to jolt the viewer and stop them and turn them around with your work. And that's a little bit of what this piece does. You go into it and then oh she stops you. And you can't help but go back to this right here. Your mind just goes stop right there and then you go backwards and then the wind and the breeze and all these flowers take you that way. Stops you in your tracks. And that's the fun part about art is that by using line and color, composition and all these things, we can influence the way someone feels about a piece simply by how we put the shapes on the page. Which to me is amazing that I have the power as an artist to do that. And that is when it comes as a style. When you start specifically asking yourself to do that in an image with purpose and intention. So these technical elements in each of your three pieces, I want you to analyze the composition, The texture, the line, the layering okay? Is paint layered? Is there a foreground, middle ground, background? How many layers are in there and do they all work together? Is that what you love about it? Or is it because it's simple and there's only one layer that your eye will only go there to? Thank you. What about mood? How is the mood of the piece influencing your mind? And lots of things sometimes contribute to mood. Color. Subject matter. Right? What about the subject matter? If you love shooting architecture what is it about architecture that really resonates with you? There's cool lines in architecture. Neat things going on. Very geometric. Very rigid. Very controlled. Okay? Sometimes that's what draws you in as an artist. Lighting of course. Center of interest. Center of interest is does you eye go where the artist says it should go? Or not? Some pieces, modern art pieces, Jackson Pollock (enthusiastic groan). Where's my eye supposed to go? Holy cow. It's not supposed to go anywhere. Anywhere and everywhere all at the same time. That was his intention. That is his style. He wants your eye to fly. Okay? So that's a very intentional style that he chose with a technique by not doing a center of interest. The whole piece as a whole is a center. Do you know who I'm talking about, Jackson Pollock? The guy, they made a movie about him. Who was the guy? Who was the actor who portrayed him? Oh, he's an amazing actor. Oh, fiddly foo what's his name? Who said that? Who said what? Was it Robert Duvall? No I can picture him in my head. Oh he was in The Fugitive too. (audience laughs) He was the good cop in The Fugitive chasing Harrison Ford. Oh, was it? Tommy Lee Jones. Was it Tommy Lee Jones? Ed Harris? Ed Harris! That's who it was. Yes, thank you. I love the internet. Google, thank you. Ed Harris, he played Jackson Pollock right? Is that what it was? Oh my gosh and you see this movie of this painter just frantically and furiously putting this paint on the page. Jackson Pollock work is like woo. Wassily Kandinsky, the same thing. He's got just this crazy, your eye goes all over the place but it's intentional. That's his style. It's on purpose. Why does he love that? Only he knows. And this is the journey I'm asking you to go on. Okay? Camera angle, focal length, depth of field, story. Story's huge in style. So many photographers, if you just pick up and learn to master this one skill alone you will soar your style and that is tell a story with every image. Even if it's not completely obvious what the story is to the viewer, if you know that story when you shot it and you're allowing the story to influence the elements that you put in to the work, you are going to develop a style. How many of you actually think of telling a story when you're shooting an image? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. There are times when I'm shooting clients and it's just like the same thing over and over again and that's okay too. Then there are other times when I see something like the little image of Trinity hugging her brother Wyatt with a headlock and her little expression and it was almost an accident. If I hadn't been thinking I wouldn't have got the moment. And I actually had to sit there and ask myself in post-processing should I take out the drool? Yeah. It was very quick hell no. Because it told a story okay? And her expression and the way she had him and the triangular motion in it, it was all a story. It was like I rule this roost and you better know it and own it. And I love that about the image and sometimes stories will be accidental but that's half the part of being a good artist and a good photographer is picking out the images that are the ones that sell. The one that sell the story. And that image I was immediately drawn to 'cause it had a story to it. So calling and editing your work for the best stories, the best style, is half the battle. Alright. Julia. Yeah? Before we go forward. Yes? Question for you on that last technical slide. Now this was a number of things that you came up with but are there probably more as well? Oh totally. And people should perhaps explore more technical on a shoot? Oh yeah this was my brainstorm here but there's so many technical components of photography alone, let alone art. For sure. This is not an exhaustive list. But I think this is a really good starting point and if I give you too many, glaze over look okay? I was actually worried about too many here 'cause I was like this just might overwhelm them. But yeah there's plenty more technical elements that you can study. And that's perfectly fine. Grab 'em and go. Those are great. If those are the technical elements that really draw you in and that you want to work with, go for it. Analyze the snot out of that okay? Thank you. Alright. For me I'm just taking you through my process so you can kinda see as an example what to do. This image makes me feel very thoughtful, hopeful, serene, very intimate, like this is an intimate moment for me and I feel like I'm almost an intruder. I'm still guessing 'cause it has a mysterious quality to it. I see the innocence. I'm very connected and it's also extremely maternal to me. Which I think it is kind of universally. But what I want you to notice is how I'm analyzing this image is examining the technical components of the image that make me feel this way. That zing my heart. And why they zing my heart. They zing my heart because it makes me feel intimate. That mysterious quality, the wind and that breeze and the sense of a journey. All that is magical to me. Okay? So this is the exercise I want you to do with each one of those images. Let's do it with Heather's image. To me that gray color of course is calming. I have a love affair with gray. Particularly greige. Greige is like my favorite color which some people call extremely boring and it is a little bit boring but I love to make greige magnificent. And I will do a greige monochromatic image 'till the cows come home. To me that is (exciting squealing). Okay? How did I figure that out? Well number one, my house is pretty much greige. Okay? I was drawn to it in interior design. I used to wear black constantly but then started realizing I like muted tones of color. Muted tones of color. Then I started asking myself why are those colors muted? 'Cause they got gray in them. Probably, something along that. You add gray to a color and it tones it down. So anything toned down and soft and muted, greige, began to just over time (clicking) pull me in. Then when I started experimenting and actually putting that into my work I would get excited. I mean poor Belinda. Beth just came on board with us like last week literally. So we've been without an assistant for a couple months. So Belinda's been assisting me on shoots. I swear to God she will shoot me if I pick the same grayish back drop that I pick with every single session one more time. She is so tired of me choosing the same background. I can't help it. I really can't help it. That's my comfort zone. It's what I love. And the George in me goes you have used this 500 times. Why do you need to use it again? That George is like this is so silly. Why can't you be different? You're a same old trick pony. Why are you doing this? That's literally what's happening in my head. And then the other side goes but you can make it different. Just use the same background. It's a different baby and you don't have to use the same stuff you did last time. Why don't you use a different blanket or a different wrap or a different headband and that'll make it different? And then I go does it really need to different? No. Why? My clients love it and it's my expression of my voice. Why do I need to be different? I can vary on a theme maybe. So that's exactly what I did. I pulled out the backdrop again. I used a different wrap this time and a different headband and that made it a little bit different. And did anybody notice? No. Not one single person commented on it. If you go look at my Instagram feed you will see the same blanket and look a thousand times. I love it. It's my style. It's what I do. So don't let the voice in your head criticize you for choosing the same thing over and over again. Yes, challenge yourself to make it different this time or perhaps a variation on a theme. But let me tell you, do you remember Monet's Steeple? Oh, Haystacks is perfect. Monet's Haystack is a perfect example. He also did the facade to one of the Cathedrals in Paris. He studied those haystacks morning noon and night for a year straight. You know how many paintings he has of haystacks? Oh my word. Go look up Monet's Haystacks on Google or Google Art Project. You will see so many variations. He painted in winter, in spring, in summer, at sunset, at sunrise, at high noon. He painted it every which way, upside, inside out, backwards, forwards he could. Let me tell you he mastered light. He mastered color tone. He mastered brushwork and he mastered those haystacks. Because he knows how to do it any which way possible. And that body of work, those haystacks, are some of the most famous things he's done. Because he simply decided to study it. So that's what I'm telling you. Study your style. Sorry, that was a big rabbit trail. Okay. The innuendo of a breeze of course. We know that's very common in my work. The light's soft but still dramatic. Okay? Stroke translucency gives it that foggy feel. Do you see how her stroke work is opaque here then as it melts in background it starts to get translucent over here and then that flow. I mean the way it melds into the background like that. Oh, yummy-licious right there okay? I love that because it gives me a sense of her being part of her environment. Like being controlled by the breeze. By being drawn by her fate. Like her fate is gonna make her go where fate wants her to go. Do you know what I'm saying? To me that's the impression I get when I see the stroke work like that. Like to me that means God's really fully in control of everything and you are just a player. And like you just have to go with it because you're gonna be in that environment and that's gonna control you no matter what. Yes you get to determine your own destiny in some ways and that's because she's this strong figure in the front. Like she's like I'm gonna make my future happen. I can totally see her saying that. Yet the stroke work here implies to me that she's still a part of her own fate. The environment she's in will always control her and bring her into it. Does that make sense? I know that sounds really out there. But to me that's what I see and feel when I look at the way stroke work melds into a background like that and what draws me in. So I'm trying to give you examples of technical components of image that make me feel and think a certain way and why I've incorporated that into my work. So emotions associated with are intrigued, regal, serene, intimate, feminine, mysterious. Do you see a theme? I'm very much drawn to this type of thing. Yes. Alright before we move on to create, number four, I wanna check in and see if people have questions. Let's get the mic down. Gretchen has one down there. And of course please stand up. Okay so you talked a lot about you have that style that you use the same background again and again, she's gonna go crazy. So at that point, does your style supersede a clients wish? Yes. Yes. That's a great question. People often ask me do I let the client say how they want the session to go? And that is a big capital letter hell no. The reason for that is is it would totally mess with my creative mojo and it's happened before. You guys have all had it happen right? You have a client come in, especially in newborn photography, they come in with this big old white bow that's like five times the size of the kids head and you're like that's really not gonna look good and they're like no we saw it on Pinterest. Can you copy this? We just got an e-mail this morning of actually a former client who has an image on Pinterest that she wants to replicate in the session. And we have no idea what that, it could be one of my images, I have no idea what she picked yet so we gotta look at it first. But she's a former client so I know she knows what I do so I'm not that worried about it. But I guess the reason I'm saying it is, I got that classic example of, there's been times a new client said that to me and shown me images that are like so not me it's not even funny. Like I'm sorry, no we're not doing that. What will often happen is, and of course I don't wanna squash the clients dreams. Especially if they've already booked me and hired me and then at the session they bring in something and then says oh can we shoot this? Typically what it is is it's an heirloom, like a blanket that grandma knitted or something like that and I have to incorporate that into my work and I will do it. For a couple of reasons. Number one, it's sentimental to the client which means a higher sale. Number two, I want to make her happy. I will always try to incorporate that element as best I can in my own style. There are times when it's really hard. Like I'll have bright green and pink striped blanket and I'm sitting here going um (laughs) what do I do with this? I don't know what to do with it. And it sometimes is a huge struggle. I will shoot the images best I can, show it to her. But it will never see the light of day in my portfolio. It will never see the light of day. And I think that's where a lot of people trying to find their style trip up. Is they don't know how to edit their work. Do not show images anywhere in the public that are not you. Don't even go there. Like that's the kiss of death right there. 'Cause it makes you look waffley, wavery. Who cares if you're not busy. Oh I gotta post it so I look busy. No, just take images from old sessions that are your style and post those. You'll look busy. Trust me. Recycle, recycle, reduce, reuse baby. (audience laughs) So yes I will photograph it but no I won't show it. But I have to tell you there have been times too when clients will show me something, I'll look and I go that's awesome, that's a killer idea, let's do it. One classic example is our Memento images where we take on the beanbag a clock, time the baby was born, a ruler to show their length, but we do it with a real vintage organic look and I loved it. It was totally me at the time. And it graduated into this product line that we offer called the Memento Birth Announcement. And it wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for that client bringing in that Pinterest image. So it goes both ways okay? But what I will not do, will not do, is have a client especially if they haven't hired me, try to tell me how they want the session shot and then insist on booking a session. Like if it's not me, it's not my style. And I will say to them you know, you've seen our work right on our website? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay well the style of what we do is in that realm and so if you want to hire us that's the kinda work we're gonna be producing for you. For me to switch my artistic vision based on these images that you've pulled from Pinterest really wouldn't do you that big of a service because it wouldn't come out to your expectation because we don't do that on a regular basis. So we may not be the photographer for you. What also happens on a consistent basis, as a matter of fact I'm pretty good at nipping this one in the bud, is Mom or Grandma or something will literally be at the scarf rack and the little headband rack pulling stuff out that they want me to shoot. That do not happen. And at first I used to get really pissy. What are you doing, get out of here. You know like, leave me alone. In my head, I wouldn't say that. Good grief. But in my head I'd be like what is she doing, why can't she trust me? I get a little defensive. Now I just realize that they're just excited. They love this process. They want to be part of it. It's also pretty and my studio, everything is on display so it's like a candy store to go in there and they look at and they're like (gasp) so pretty. So I see why, it was designed that way. Of course it's gonna lure them in and they're gonna wanna help. So what I typically say, as a matter of fact it just happened like a month ago, a grandma tried to do it and I was like oh my gosh I just love what you're picking. I know you're so excited to see us through to help us with this but you hired me for my professional creativity and my sense of style so it really would help me out if you could give us a little space because my creative energy flows much better when I have some room to work. Oh okay! She had no idea. She was just excited. Oh, I'm so sorry. Okay, yes no problem. I'm like are there any of these headbands that are particularly exciting for you and I'll design an image around it? She goes oh I just really like that flower one right there. I'm like okay we'll create an image around that one. So she picked one element and then I designed around that. Which is what I would've normally done anyway. It's when they try to combine everything in the session that I'm like whoa hello, why did you hire me? Can't you just go buy a good camera? Kidding. I guess again a long answer to your short question but I hope it gave you all perspectives. 'Cause sometimes it's a good thing. And sometimes it's a really challenging thing. But like my custom painted commission work, it is what it is. And I warn people. When people are gonna spend five, six, $7,000 dollars with me to do a commissioned piece either a painting or composite, I say to them I'm gonna tell you my theme. I'm gonna tell you where I'm going but you have to trust this process and there is no fixing things. You don't have a say in how this works. The work you get is the work you get. That's my vision, that's my voice and that's what I'm producing for you. And if you trust me enough to love that and are willing to pay for it, great. I only do two or three custom commissions a year at the most. Paintings or composites. I'm working on right now for a client and it's in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe theme with her three children including a baby. They're gonna be coming out of the closet from the Narnia. And I have this vision in my head, we're about to shoot it and they're gonna pay me a very handsome sum of money. They also trust me to do this process and that's what I've told them. This is how it's gonna happen. We aren't gonna change the placement of the toys on the ground because you happen to like that toy better and want it more front and center. No, that's not gonna happen. So they have to be okay with that and accept that in the beginning. Does that make sense? And if they don't wanna do it based on that, that's fine. But as long as you tell them in advance, you're cool. Okay? Yeah. I have another question before we move on that came in from Holly Ferocious and had several votes on it as well. This is probably a common feeling for folks. I feel like I thrive on variety and I have a hard time making a body of work that looks unified and I also struggle with branding because of this. So a lot of what I make is based on mood. Can I use this approach at all or do I need to narrow it down? And I'm not sure if she was riffing off of you at a slide that mood was one of the techniques that you are analyzing. So how many of those techniques do you have to have to create your style? Oh this is such a hard question. Sorry I might've jumbled the question. No it's great and I'm thinking about how to answer it. 'Cause it's a common problem. Not a problem, I don't wanna say it's a problem 'cause it's not a problem. I would ask that photographer, Polly, Molly? Holly. Holly, excuse me. I would ask Holly how far along she is in her photography journey first off. If she's at the start of her journey, I would tell her to keep experimenting, keep exploring and keep mastering her craft. When, and this is a very generalization, it's not true for everybody, so please don't attack me for saying this, but generally people who have that feeling of needing to do everything are not far in their journey and are not far enough technically to start wanting to go in a specific direction. Does that make sense? So often times when I see generalist, like people shooting everything and doing everything and it tells me that they are in a specific place in their journey and they haven't quite gotten to the point where they've mastered something they love so much that they're willing to go that one direction only. To niche essentially. And you know, niching doesn't necessarily mean oh I'm only going to do newborns, that's it. Niching can mean you do a couple different things but really well. Like for example, I am now niching in families and newborns but to architecture, seniors, weddings, oh god weddings, no. Bless you who do weddings. I revere you 'cause I cannot do them. Wedding photographers rock. Like I'm almost envious. Like why can't I do that? I just can't do it. My sister's story freaks me out even more. That's why I don't do weddings. But people who are dabbling in all these different things haven't fully found their voice yet. Their heart has not, this thing, tapping thing, they're listening but they haven't got the message yet. Like they can't decide. Their heart hasn't really picked a direction they want to go yet. And the only way to get there is to keep doing the technical skills and analyzing which ones you love. Really it's what it comes down to. If you wanna put it into a systematic, formulated method. Do you love low camera angle? Do you love wide angle? Do you love seniors? Okay. Wide angle, seniors. That's a style. Bring in another technical component. Composition. Foreground, middle ground, background. There's all these technical elements that come into play that you're gonna start to get drawn to as you experiment more and more and more and more. It is perfectly okay to want to dip your toes in five, six, seven different pools. There's nothing wrong with that. It means you are exploring and discovering. You will be drawn in a direction eventually. This is where I always say have patience. Let it come to you and I bet you any money if Holly and I sat down and had a deep conversation about it, she would be able to tell me with a little bit of prompting which things push her just a little bit farther than the others. Which technical elements actually make her heart sing just a touch more than others? Now say for example she really loves wide camera angle. Okay, wide angle lens, in your face. That kind of, you know what I'm talking about. Lots of action. Dan McClanahan does a wide angle all the time. He's really good at it. But he loves that. Can you apply that to all different genres? Seniors, different subject matters? Of course you can. And that can be kind of a cool look and style for you that you do across multiple subject matters. Does that make sense? But it's still style that you're honing in on. So don't focus so much on your subject matter as being your style. A subject matter is part of your style but is not the defining thing that makes your style. Does that follow? Like if I'm gonna do a landscape I'm gonna do it in my style. Does that make sense? Even though I still mainly shoot newborns and families I will shoot a landscape or a commercial image or whatever. Obviously that was me playing around. That one last one. I would shoot a commercial image totally different now. Excuse me, an architectural image totally different now. But food photography. I am not a food photographer. But if I was gonna shoot food, I would shoot it in my style. What I love, with my neutral colors, my tones. I'd bring in an element of the wind. I would try to incorporate that strong brush work. Anything like that that I could do that was me I would do with a food image. So I try to stay consistent across the board as to what my vocabulary of my style is. Does that make sense? And then as Holly, as you discover this more and more and more and become more confident in those elements that are truly you, you will begin to go okay subject matter. Let's explore that. Do I really wanna do everything? Or am I leaning one direction? Do I wanna study something?

Class Description

How can you work successfully (and profitably) as an artist in a crowded, over-saturated market? You have to make your work and your brand stand out by creating your art from a deeply authentic place that is only YOU and yours alone. In other words, you must define your STYLE. By standing out uniquely, you can attract the kind of client who is willing to compensate you appropriately for what you bring to the table.

Join master business and photography educator, Julia Kelleher, for a class on finding, defining and applying your style to your work and your brand.

In this class you’ll discover how to:

  • Identify your style as an artist intentionally rather than by accident
  • Incorporate your style into your brand
  • Use your style to help gain financial benefits
Learn how an undeviating style can bring in your ideal client, make you stand out in a crowd, command top dollar and keep your competition at arms length.


Cesar Flores

Wow wow wow, as an artist on a beginner's stage this was an amazing presentation. Julia is a pro on teaching the psychology of the artist within ourselves. I will follow her from now on and start putting in practice her step by step techniques on finding my style as an artist. Thank you Creativelive and Thank You Julia, you are amazing


This course is amazeballs. Love love love love love love love. Just buy it. :)

a Creativelive Student

Great class. A step by step way of finding a artist style that is from your heart. Stop hoping the style fairy will randomly visit you some day. I view this in-depth system as a smart exploration component integrated with a gut check component. Julia has laid it all out smartly and easy to follow. The work itself will not be easy but the steps are beautifully explained. Brilliant! Buy the course. Yeah I will be using it for years. Shelle