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The Style Cycle: Discovery

Lesson 6 from: Finding, Defining, and Marketing Your Photographic Style

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

6. The Style Cycle: Discovery

Lesson Info

The Style Cycle: Discovery

The discovery phase is copying with knowing. It's copying knowing what you're doing and what makes your boat float. So let's talk a little bit about the discovery phase. This is an image of mine. She shoots architecture? What? No. This is my husband's building; he built it. So I took a picture of it. My husband has me; he's a commercial contractor. He built this building. It's the Culinary Institute at the Central Oregon Community College. So he built this building, and he's like, "Honey, I need portfolio images for my website. "Can you go shoot it?" Sure, okay? So I think this was sunrise. I went out. We turned all the lights on in the building and I shot it, and I started playing around with architecture photography. And his company paid me a pretty penny to do this. I hated it. (audience laughs) Who the heck wants to get up at the crack of butt dawn and go shoot an inanimate object? [Girl In Audience] Me. Really? (audience giggles) Wide-angle lens, funky, I mean, I don't have, l...

ike, an architecture lens or anything, you know, some really cool tilt-shift lenses out there that are really neat, but, of course, I didn't have the money for that. I'm just shootin' with my wide-angle. I friggin' had to fix it all in Photoshop and, oh my gosh, I was like, really? Learning what you love and what's just a crush on a trend, as we discussed in the last segment, is a very important component of your style. What is going to stick? Yes, I shot architecture. But I hated it, and it's terrible. I mean, look at all the fringing on the trees. It's awful, didn't like it at all. I'm not skilled at it, okay. But, had it made my heart sing, I would've honed that skill. I would've done it more and more and more, and my alarm clock would've gone off at 4 a.m. to go do this kind of stuff all the time. Mark Bryant, dude, the guy is a genius architecture photographer, incredible work. He schleps his lights to these different places and lights these rooms and shoots. I'm like, why would you want to shoot a room? I mean, come on, there's no people in it? What? So ask yourself what do you want to shoot again. You have to experiment and try things to see if you actually like it. Try the technique in multiple ways before you abandon it. Now, I knew shooting this I was begrudging doing this; I did not want to do it. I was not happy, and so I knew it wasn't me immediately. But there are times when you go, oh, I really like this, but then George starts to get on your shoulder and go, "You suck at it," even though you really like it. That's when you don't listen, and you go, "You know what? "I really like this though, "and I could see myself doing this "and I just need to master the technique and the skill." Use different subjects. Figure out what your outside sources of inspiration are that we talked about in the last segment. Apply those elements, whether it be mood, color, composition, technique, design, all into what you want to do, and experiment. Begin combining it with other techniques and moods that draw you in. So, you guys know that I love negative space. I love the wind. This session floated my boat. The wind, it's a place called Smith Rock, which is in Central Oregon, and it's a canyon with a river going through it and all these big, beautiful kind of red-toned cliffs. And this grass was kind of just starting to lose its green, so it was muted, and the wind was blowing through the canyon. And the mother was freaking out. Not freaking out, I exaggerate when I say that. She wasn't totally freaking out, but she was -- she's a cool mom, but she was definitely like, "Oh my gosh, the wind is blowing. "My hair is going to crap right now." I mean, poor thing, you can totally imagine her going, so much for getting hair and makeup done, you know? But to me, that was the epitome of the session, was that wind. 'Cause it had so much significance to my work. So every shot we did, I harnessed that wind. I positioned them everywhere where I could to get the wind blowing through that blonde hair, combined with the backlight coming through, and it made their hair glow. And to me, that sent an incredible message. I don't do a ton of ... I don't do a ton of outdoor work. Most of my work is studio, 'cause I feel like I can control it more. But letting myself be out of control helped me realize, oh my God, I can harness the elements that are me into the shoot, even though I'm slightly uncomfortable in the environment. Does that make sense? So what you wanna do is combine what you know into a situation that's different. So, I know I love the wind. I know I love muted tones. I know I love my subject matter, mother/daughter. I have a huge history with that in my own life that's not necessarily a positive one, so my work tends to shoot the positive aspects of the mother/daughter relationship. Okay, so all of a sudden, the elements that were true to my style started coming together, and I went, I can apply this to a new situation. How am I gonna do that? That's when you're tested and you're forced, and now, I'm like, I should be doing more outdoor work. This is really cool, I like it. I shot this with my F-200 -- F2 200 millimeter lens, big honkin' lens, because I wanted that compression and that depth of field. I am like feet away from them. Like, there on the other side of the room, is what, 50 feet away from them, shooting them like this, on the ground with a 200 millimeter F2 lens. The thing's frickin' breaking my back 'cause it weighs like 10 pounds. And there's even a little bit of shutter shake. You can see it in her face. Okay, because I was holding this heavy lens and it's windy, and I'm trying to get the shot. But, I was okay with the technical problem, because it satisfied my style button. It hit my style button. And I went, yes, this is me. So don't be afraid to take those technical elements of what you know and love and mean something to you, and apply them to a situation where you may be uncomfortable, it's a different subject matter, it's a different location, it's a different lighting situation, it's a different camera you're holding, whatever it may be. This is all part of that discovery phase, but discovering with intention. Discovering with conscious intention to what you're doing is going to help you find your style. If you just kind of let it happen and evolve all willy nilly, like most of us had to, it's going to take a long time. But if you do it with that intention, then, all of a sudden, it's ... It's going to come about with a more forceful, like, scream at you kind of, you'll know it, I guess is what I'm saying.

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Body of Work Artist Statement
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Ratings and Reviews

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

Student Work