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Finding, Defining, and Marketing Your Photographic Style

Lesson 15 of 31

Style Cycle–Realization Case Studies

Julia Kelleher

Finding, Defining, and Marketing Your Photographic Style

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

15. Style Cycle–Realization Case Studies


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:42:05
2 What is Style? Duration:24:14
3 Where does Style Come From? Duration:11:14
4 The Style Cycle: Overview Duration:19:13
6 The Style Cycle: Discovery Duration:07:17
7 The Style Cycle: Realization Duration:05:26
8 The Style Cycle: Define Duration:06:47

Lesson Info

Style Cycle–Realization Case Studies

The style cycle. We are going to continue with it on, and this time we are going to take a much closer look at the realization phase of the style cycle. How do you realize that what you are doing is what you want to be doing with your work, like the style direction that you wanna go. The moment you get it, when you know something that is uniquely you. That's what realization is. That's like when you "yes! I know it's me!" and you kind of had that moment, that little divine inspiration, that little aha thing that happens, that's when you know something is uniquely you. And I know that's not really a very tangible thing to say. I mean it's really hard to go "was that an 'aha' moment or was that one? Oh no wait, that was an 'aha' moment. No, no that was an 'aha' moment." You know that, what I'm talking about? Sometimes it's hard to truly define that, but what I always say is realization is when that aha moment comes with the same thing over and over and over again. That's when you know yo...

ur style is truly you. We talked about Stanka Kordic and her work. Her work has a very distinct style. You can look at it and just know that that is a Stanka piece. She has common elements throughout her work that are uniquely her, and what's value about Stanka is that she's harnessed so uniquely what is her that it's very difficult to replicate because she has come up with techniques that are unique. And granted she's a painter and an artist, but we can do the same thing in our photography as well. But you can only get to this level if you're honing your technical skills. You have to know the rules before you can break them, but great stylists are often breaking the rules in subtle ways that make them stand out from the crowd. We looked at in the discovery phase all these different things. Composition, texture, line, layering, color, mood, subject matter, lighting, center of interest, shading, all of these things. Now when we look at a body of work like Stanka's work, what do we see that's a common, core thread? What I want you to do is first off choose 20 images of your work. I showed you a body of Stanka's work, and that was just a few images, but I want you to take 20 images as what you see of your best or most connected work. Now what do I mean by "connected work?" Let's get a microphone out. What do you think I mean by "connected work?" Yeah, Kenna, do you wanna say something? I do, but before it, grab a mike for the next person, but before we do that, I just wanted to interject. I forgot to say this at the beginning of the segment, that as we're looking at a number of art and images, a number of images throughout the segment, there are some adult, artful adult images, so just wanted to put that out there as a heads-up if you guys are watching with kids at home right now. Yes, and I will mention it too, before I show those pieces, so not to worry. Everything's very tasteful, but it is, I am going to be showing some figure nude studies by artists, so just keep that in mind, that that will be coming up here in the program, and I'll warn you before they do come up. So thank you Kenna, very much. What does most connected mean to you? What was your name again honey? My name is Jennifer. Jennifer, what does most connected mean? Most connected work is I think work that really speaks to you on an emotional level. Uh huh. And something that you connect with and you really see yourself in as well as an artist. Yeah, again, it's that aha moment, it's work that you look at that's yours, feels like "yes, that meant something to me." Thank you. Anyone else have any suggestions? Gretchen. For me a most connected might, I relate it to storytelling. You see the story through it, and it's that story that you wouldn't mind reading over and over and over and over and over and over again. Over again. For eighteen months to that three year old who has to listen to that story. Yes. So when you see it, you still see that same story through the connected work. Uh huh. Very much so. I think that's a great way of putting that. Microphone over here. And what was your name again, hon, I'm sorry. I'm Bonnie. Bonnie, that's right. For me a work that you would call connected would mean that all of those elements are relating some way to each other. So a piece that has a cohesiveness to it. It's like in your body of work you referred to the symbosis of your work or all having those neutral tones and then if you stuck a random item in there it would be really disjointed and out of place. Yeah. So work that's really connected means the flow is working together, which relates to the color, tones, which relates to the mood, so they're all of these things are speaking together as opposed to competing with each other within that picture frame. Yes, and I feel like you're talking a little bit between images, as well as within one image. Right now. We're gonna get there. You're way ahead of me, which is awesome, which tells me that you're thinking, but right now I want you to look at work that's connected within that one image. Not necessarily related to others in your body of work. But Bonnie nailed it. That's exactly where we're going. We're gonna start looking at your body of work and seeing what's connected and what's not. Right now the really effective way to do this is to follow the four step find it formula over and over and over again. Build a body of work that you consciously created with elements that you consciously were drawn to. For your style. Wash, rinse, repeat. Remember? Wash, rinse, repeat twenty times. Build a body of work. That you knew you created from a conscious place of wanting to be there in that style. Make sense? Now, you can do it, and we're gonna do it tomorrow with a few of the photographers here who sent me a collection of work You can do it with work you currently have, but I want you to be very careful about doing that because I'm gonna reveal the secret of what you do with that work, and if you know what's coming before you pick the images it influences how you pick your images, does that make sense? So just be very careful. Amy, Lori, and Allison sent me a body of 20 images of work before they kind of knew what was going on here. Which is good, because that's gonna allow me to really see cohesiveness between images to dig up their style, to dig up what's at least a direction they could go. And it may not fully be their style, yet, but it's a direction to go in that will help them further refine their style. Yes, Kathy. I just have a quick question for those of us who are kind of in the beginning phases and I happen to live in an area where I wasn't raised there, I don't know a lot of people, but as you're building this body of work I'm assuming you need people to photograph. Do you have any suggestions of best ways to get people in? I mean it's not marketing to sell to them, but marketing to build a portfolio more or less? How about photographing the same subject 20 times? Okay. I could do that. I know that's a smart-assed answer to your very good question. No, no, no, no. But I would think that would be really fun. See what happens. Try it. This is an experimentation. I'm going to answer your question the other way too. But think of it as an experiment and follow Monet's lead. Use the same subject, but with different elements every different time to see where your heart goes. That's actually really good. Because it'll control you. It'll force you to take the subject out of the equation. And then all of a sudden you're shooting the subject in different ways and different methodologies and in different style components that you love. You'll be focused on that element of it, not the fact that it's a kid that's six and a kid that's 12, and a newborn, and a whatever, a wedding or whatever whatever whatever. It makes an objective scientific process rather than an emotional one. Does that make sense? Now, if you don't wanna do that, and you wanna experience the different breadth of different subjects, portfolio building was a friend and family deal. Find five of my friends and give them five portfolio building cards to give to their friends so all of a sudden you have five friends who all have five cards each that give them to their friends and so those five friends all get free images or whatever if you wanna do a paid portfolio building type thing, and as long as all five of those people book and come to a shoot, then this person gets the free stuff. So you could do something kind of promotion like that that builds out. I call it a five for five deal. And those five close friends, they only refer people who you know will do it, and wanna do it, and are good clients for us because you don't get anything for free until they all five of them book. Does that make sense? She's writing that down back there, it's so cute, little lightbulbs going off, it's a really good promotional deal. And I know it works, too. But then you get pre-qualified people, and people who, and then Facebook is frigging great for model calls. That's how I get all my models is through Facebook. I'm a specialty genre of models, though. I need newborn babies who are five to ten days old so it's a critical time point. Very timely event. We do Facebook advertising, which oh my gosh, if you guys aren't doing Facebook advertising you are missing out, because there is some cool stuff going on with Facebook ads. Uh, yeah. Anyway, another topic another day. Just throw out a quick Facebook ad and you'd be surprised. You know it's a pay to play game right now on Facebook. I just don't bother posting on my business page any more because the darn thing never gets seen. I've gotta pay to get anything seen, but that's okay. For five bucks a day you can easily go out there and I wouldn't suggest saying things like portfolio building, I would suggest new product line. We need model images for our new product line we're producing. Here's what you get, kinda thing. Don't imply that you don't have any experience, which portfolio building sometimes does. Unless you want to go there because you don't want any expectation, do you know what I'm saying? Whereas if you say we're developing a new product line, we need models for this day, this day, we're going to be shooting this and this and this, you qualify you get this, this, and this as a free thing, or 50 percent off or whatever, then as we experiment with new looks and new sets and new style development, people will wanna be a part of that because they feel like it's part of the artist's creation, and it's exciting for them. Nowadays, and then also your current client base. Now if you don't have any clients, then clearly that's not gonna work, but even if you have a few clients, you can say things like put out an email, talk about email value, I mean why do you think I'm freaking out about my site right now not working? Because all these people who I wanna get the freebie I'm capturing their email. That email is my most valuable asset. That email list is everything to me. It is my most valuable asset when it comes to marketing, both for photographers and for my clients. Cause that's what nobody can take away from you. Facebook can't just decide to change their algorithm and suddenly you're not longer relevant, you know what I mean? Your email list is as good as the marketing you use it for. I had somebody tell me once that your email list was like printing money. It's really true. Your email list is literally like printing money. For your clients it is so valuable because it allows you a direct target to who they are and what they're doing. So I would send out a call to my email list if I was building a new line, I needed new portfolio work or stuff like that. It all depends on what your goals are. My first suggestion would be use the same subject. Do you have any kids? Do you have a niece or nephew, or somebody? A kid or somebody? Do you like doing kid work, I guess is what I'm saying. What kind of work do you wanna do? Newborns, mostly. Newborns. Okay, so that's kind of what you wanted to focus on, what you were talking about. Yeah. Which is a little more challenging, because the time factor. Yeah, your best bet for getting newborn models is really Facebook advertising. And then using the Facebook Pixel. Anybody know what a Facebook Pixel is? It's really fun. Have you noticed when you go look at something on or Amazon and then all of a sudden it shows up on your Facebook feed? It's like they're watching you? They are. With the Facebook Pixel, and any one of you can put it on your site, so you can harness the power of people who come to your site to visit and retarget them with the Pixel and put out advertising to them because clearly they're already interested. They're a warm audience. They're already interested in what you're doing. If you put the Pixel on your site and start using it to take advantage of that warm audience, Facebook tracks who goes to your site and who doesn't. Specific pages, you can track conversions, you can track sales. Did they go to the shopping cart and never buy something? It is so powerful, it is unbelievable. And then you can run custom audiences in Facebook advertising to those people who have just been to your site. You can also create lookalike audiences that look just like your email list to target people who are in your same target demographic, but are different. Oh yeah, it's good stuff. I smell another class! This is powerful stuff that you should be using in your marketing. Very powerful stuff. If somebody has already been to your site, looked at you, maybe couldn't afford you, or wasn't, but they're a warm audience, you can use that Facebook Pixel to re-target them and go "Oh! We're doing a model call for this this and this," and all of a sudden you're gonna get somebody who maybe wouldn't have hired you because they looked at your website, saw your prices, and went "oh, it's out of our price range," but then they see you've got a model call going on, and they're like "yes!" And who knows, they may have other pre-qualified clients that will come in. So harness the power of things like Facebook advertising to use, especially with something like newborns. It's kinda like winning the lottery. If you get to be a model doing, with your baby, then that's like perfect timing. It doesn't come again is that I'm saying. It's not like you can re-shoot the same subject over and over again because by the time they're two weeks old it's hard to shoot them. I totally get your question now. I should have asked that in the beginning. Sorry. Any more questions before we move on? Move on to good stuff. With these 20 images that you've created from the find it formula, lay them all out in one place. You can do this analog, print them out, or you can do it digitally. I tend to prefer analog. I know it's more work, but there's something intrinsically beautiful about looking at a print on a floor. It adds an element to your style that's different, especially someone who's not going to be offering digital files in their work. I highly suggest printing this work out and laying it out on a grid on a floor, or on a table or wherever. You can do it digitally which of course is the easiest way to do it. We're going to do it digitally tomorrow. But lay them all out on one place. Then what I want you to do is start editing that work. Examine those images for consistency, remove the ones that don't fit. One of the easiest way to do that is to simply flip the digital representation upside down and look at it. Yeah, oh! Gretchen's like oh yeah, that would work! Uh huh. Because it fools the mind's eye to not look at it for subject matter, but to look at it for emotion, feeling, and consistency. Your eye picks out the wrong spots. It picks out the things that don't fit. Does that make sense? We're gonna do this tomorrow, and we're gonna basically flip Lori, Allison, and Amy's work upside down, and we're gonna say okay, what fits, what doesn't? What's consistent, what's not. And you'll be amazed, and I have yet to look at the work in that grid yet, but you'll be amazed at what kind of consistencies you see. You'll also be amazed at what your mind creates for consistency. Which is so valid, and I know you think you don't want to create something that isn't there, right? That's not true. When your brain goes to that place, it means that you are interpreting a work of art as a viewer and an emotional response to that work and that's a good thing. That's what you want the viewers of your work to do, right? Everybody looks at artwork and interprets something different. That's the beauty of why we call it art, right? You want that to happen, so your brain will start to go places where you're like "Oh! I didn't see that in my work! I didn't see that!" And all of a sudden you'll start to see these consistencies, I want to shoot that more. This is the 40,000 foot look at your work. Ask yourself a couple of questions. Ask yourself what are the common physical traits, physical threads that run through this 20 image body of work. Those elements we talked about, and this is not an exhaustive list, but what are you doing all the time? What's automatic? Do you shoot with a 105 lens all the time? Is that kind of your go-to? Do you shoot full body? Do you shoot vertical? Do you shoot horizontal? What's the common threads that go through in a physical aspect of your work? Making sense? Then from there, we're going to ask ourselves what are the common emotional threads and storylines, just like Bonnie was saying before. Is there consistency in story? In thought process, in emotions? How something makes you feel? And this is incredibly valuable to have your peers do this with you and not necessarily you yourself. Granted you have to do it you yourself because ultimately it is your style, but when someone else says to you "Oh look! You have this common thread of joy throughout your images. I feel joyful with every image that I see of yours." You might look at go "Oh, yeah. I guess I am pretty joyful when I shoot. Joy is something that's very important to me." It's that moment of recognition, and just having that moment of recognition and being cognizant of makes you go "Oh, I wanna keep doing this, and I wanna do more of it." It's just like when you go to therapy. I don't know how many of you have been to therapy. But when you go to therapy and the psychiatrist sits there and goes "Um, you know, you're kind of a selfish person." And you're like "Yeah, I am selfish." I mean obviously I'm talking extremes and trying to make a joke, but the point is that when you see something and recognize it and it comes to the consciousness you can all of a sudden decide what you want to do with it. You can go "okay, do I want to keep pursuing this in my work or do I wanna let that go? That's not my intention? I'm not joyful, I want moody. I want serious, I want that deep soulful connection, and my work is joyful, people are looking at it as joyful, that's not me, I need to change somewhere." It's the same thing in the psychologist chair when they finally make you realize that you're doing something from your childhood that you need to change, and you're like "Oh, okay, I guess I have a choice now. Do I want to change this or not?" It's the same thing. So look at these elements and ask how they make you feel emotionally in your work. And it doesn't have to be happy, sad, mysterious. It can be simply soft, light, fresh, clean, something, an adjective, a descriptive adjective that defines your work. I wanna look at my sister's work. This is Jenny's 20 images. So a body of her work. What visual common threads do you see here. Let's just start brainstorming. Crack that mike out and go. The more we talk the better. Microphone, pick it up, pick it up, let's go. Yep yep yep. Common threads, physical common threads. What do you see in her work? I see a lot of angles, especially with composition and with the boards at an angle, even Mom's, I'm following Mom's gaze, and then baby at an angle. I see compositionally she tends to prefer that line, that leading line of the angle. Yeah, she likes that diagonal flow. Softness, too. There's not a whole lot of really bright, bright colors. Even in the outdoor work, all the tones are very Soft. Soft, yeah. Muted. Ha! She's my sister. (laughs) Genetics play the funny thing, right? Yeah, what else? Let's just brainstorm. Keep going. Move move move. There's a lot of implied leading lines. So even though you see the angles, there's leading lines that are implied. Yes. Every single image is horizontal. Mostly centered, yeah. The really soft focus in the backgrounds in all the outdoor shots you can see that the sky is-- Boca is her best flipping friend. And her skies are pretty blown out in most of her outdoor photos. Yes. And backlit, she uses a lot of backlighting as well. She loves that backlit foggy look that's so popular right now. It's very, very, my sister loves the backlight. She's a backlight freak. Like she won't shoot unless there's backlighting. It's that bad. There's no backlight, I can't shoot this! (laughs) I'm giving her grief, she'll laugh because I'm giving her grief. Yes, that airy kind of soft exposed feeling. Her subjects are never that close in. It's almost always full body. Do you see that? Yeah. With the family outdoor shots there's only one where they're all looking at the camera but for the most part there's like a connection between the subjects, so you know, emotion and love and happiness. Yeah, and this one down here has the connection with the camera but for the most part my sister loves that connection between a family. And even with the baby, even with images that are camera aware, there's connection. They're not separated. I've seen some really cool (mumbles) camera shots where not one family member is touching each other. And that's a style. It's cool, okay? Different, but cool. Anything else you see? Yeah, almost the opposite of what you just said about them touching each other. You see, you're just seeing very small slivers of spaces between the subjects when there's more than one subject. They're, they're smashed in there good. Yes. Very close together. Strong connection. And in her newborn work, you're right. A lot of it's centered. Full body. Diagonal lines. Remember to look at these different elements. We've talked about these a lot, but I'm gonna kind of harp on them with you, and obviously remember this is not an exhaustive list. But let's look at the lighting. It's all very soft, ethereal, almost that hazy look. Even in her studio work, she has that hazy look to her work. We talked about line texture. Texture is sparse, clean, but definitely there when needed. Color, very muted. Mood. What do you think the mood is, of Jenny's work? Peaceful. Serene. Loving, very loving. She's always got a strong center of interest in her work. Her shadows are very soft. Nine times out of ten, in fact I know her post-processing so well she freaking cranks the shadows out almost. Viewing angle, camera angle. It's almost always eye level, right? Depth of field, story, there's definitely soft, sweet stories. What are the stories in her work? I see a real story of security in them. Interesting. That brought together that security, that warmth and togetherness. Togetherness. What else, Shelley? (laughs) She's like "I was so taken aback!" And this is different for everybody so keep that in mind, and that's perfectly okay, that's why we do this. It's supposed to be different for everybody. To me it's family. It's the story of family and that connected family togetherness as a family. Family is critical to my sister. She is, family to her is the be all end all of her life. Her faith actually, she actually believes that family is God-given, and I think that her work has a very heavenly, ethereal feel to it. Almost as if her God is blowing his breath on her images. And that's where you go next, is this emotional common thread. How does her work make you feel as a viewer of it? This will be different for everybody, and that's perfectly okay. Some people will go "Eugh, sticky sweet, I don't like it." Do you know what I mean? And others will go "Oh heavenly, love it, ethereal." Angelic, I love that feel of warmth and comfort." That kind of thing. So what is the emotional thread that ties it together? I came up with these words, but I want to know if you guys come up with others that reflect her work. Definitely innocence. That's the thing that it just screams at me. Screams at you, doesn't it? Absolutely, total innocence of these children and the connection between the parents and their children is just absolutely gorgeous. Oh, I'll tell her, thank you. I hope she's watching, that would be awesome. Anything else that you guys can think of? Okay, let's do a freaking 180. Kristy Sutton Elias. Kristy's work has just flourished in the last few years, and she's really developed an incredible style. Obviously. Let's talk about the physical components right now. Because right now what's hard about seeing these people's work is immediately you're struck by the mood and the feeling, right? Whoah, dark, dramatic! Mysterious, engaging. Secretive. Oh! There's so many words we could use for her work here that just suck us in. But before we do that, let's look at the technical components of the image that make us go there. What are the common core elements? Yes, Olivia. Okay, she said "low key, low key." What else? Kathy? I think that the composition, she doesn't do a whole lot of full-body shots. It's kinda waist-up, isn't it? Yeah. For the most part. There's a few where the kids are full bodied, and those underwater images she tends to do full body. You can see this one here is an underwater image and this one here is also an underwater image. I wish you guys could see these more close up. They're absolutely incredible. Theme. Pirates, dragons, magic, and vampires. I mean like "waaaaah!" Subject matter and theme are huge for her work, right? I believe this is called "The Magician's Son" right here. "Snow Princess" over here. Oh, I forget the names of them. It's all have a strong emotional connotation. This one that is longing for, I forget the name of it, something around the lines of longing for him to come home kinda thing. What else do we see in her work? Think about camera angle, think about all those technical elements, center of interest, camera angle, lighting. Talk to me! You just said what I was going to say. No that's fine. What is it about that? I just see dramatic lighting. I see high contrast, I see very specific in the way that she posed all of them, Yes! To emphasize-- Almost cinematic. Yeah. Isn't it? Right? What else? Think about those core elements? Center of interest, mood. Well mood's more of a feeling, but. Color, she's very strong in her color. It's not bright, but it's consistent and it's rich and it's deep. Yes? I was going to say color but then also something I'm noticing throughout all of them is the light source is always, it's not the sun. It's the moon, it's the candlelight, it's a unique light source which sort of tells a story I guess, but it also stops you in your tracks. It does. It does, doesn't it? And story is huge in her work. Huge. And that's what I think I meant on theme. Yes, Kenna. Just wanted to shout out some comments from people at home. Tim C. had said that the cold neutral tones lend toward almost a gothic feel. Yes! So you have those-- A very cool Cool tones Cool tone to her work. Right, right. And then in InWish2 Photography had said "dark, mystical, magical." Yes, very much so, dark. When you meet her, she's like this six foot tall blonde. She's really pretty and very lanky, and so you're like "where did that come from? Whoah, I did not expect that outta you!" That's what I love about art and artists. Yes, Shelley. The engagement of the subjects to the viewer. To the viewer! Super intense. Yes. Super contrasty. But very, just strong, strong images that they're looking back at you for the most part. Almost like Mmm, staring you down. There's a lot of that in there, isn't there? But even her children work. I believe this is her son down here, and this is a child like work. These are children having a good time and fantasizing and imagining, yet it still has the same feeling of the rest of her work. And I think that answers your question Kathy, huge, where you can take a different subject, but still keep it in the same theme and style of what you're doing. Any more comments? Yes. I think it looks really Renaissance. It does, doesn't it? And really dramatic lighting, but everyone has a real formality, they're standing really erect, very vertical. So there's kind of a formality but mystical at the same time. Mmm Hmmm. Wonderful observations. This is fun. I could do this all day long. Yes, Amy. The depth of field is really, really deep, and the background you can see tons of detail. It's very well lit and it's like the shadows are not black, they're blue. Isn't that cool? Like a cyan tone. Yeah, it's amazing, and the shadows have a fogginess to them, like a haze to them. Have you noticed that? Which is very stylistic. Her work is just delicious in so many ways. And so not me. I mean compare, like Jenny and Kristy are polar opposites. They are, and actually they are in the same market. They compete. Yeah, no they don't.

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. :)


Wow - this may be my favorite Julia Kelleher class (and I own several). So much of what she talks about hits home with me, really speaking to where I am at in my photography journey and the struggles I grapple with every day. Lots of hard truths - the kind that remind us as to the necessity of good old fashioned hard work (really, really hard work) - the need to be truly technically proficient - the need to experiment - the need to practice every single day - repetition ("wash, rinse, repeat!") - and the need to continue learning all the time. I also really appreciate the fact that Julia touches on the PPA (Professional Photographer's of America) CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) process a bit. I just took my CPP exam and will be working my way through the image submission phase of the CPP process over the course of the next year; so it was nice to hear Julia's thoughts and experience in her own CPP journey. I NEEDED this course. Julia and Creative Live - thank you for bringing this to us. And Julia, thank you for diving deep into the hard realities that we need to hear and know in order to truly grow and evolve artistically and professionally.