Style and You

As a photographer/videographer the way my content looks is indeed very important to me. Who doesn't want to be able to take images that any viewer instantly knows are yours. This is also a subject that many creatives constantly fret about throughout their lives. Not something I feel we have much direct control over either...

It isn't what it seems:

Style or personal style is not something that in most cases can be "made", in photography everything is inevitably being recreated. Odds are someone already did your amazing idea in the 1920's with film and soft optics. Also a Lightroom preset isn't a style, it is adding to your images, and this isn't just the journalism ethics or a focus on realism speaking. The time and effort required to produce a near perfect image out of camera is up to the shooter whether or not they feel like really applying themselves that day or not. Development of a personal style takes years of hard work that doesn't include focussing on ones personal style however it requires pure focus on technical proficiency, applying skills, and two whole tons worth of learning and critiques. 

The more attention one pays to relationship between the triad (Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO) the faster they will begin to see strong out-of-camera content. This obviously requires years of practice, and it should. No one masters anything in a year, and photography/videography requires an expansive amount of peripheral knowledge. If this scares you, be prepared for a rough life. 

I was photo editing years before I was shooting therefore early on in my photographic pursuits I would often attempt to fix things I shot incorrectly in post. BAD, BAD, OH SO VERY BAD! It took years to break this habit, (which included becoming much better at hiding things in post) and years more to learn that fixing it in post never looks as good as shooting it correctly and that studying the mistakes teaches huge things. Shooting correctly is a never ending learning process that even the most seasoned Visual Journalists, and Photographers are never actually there. Always more to be learned, thus why photo/video is such a rewarding hobby to become obsessed with. 

"Well I'm not a purist, I don't care about things appearing real." I ask you why. I ask also, why you picked up a camera and didn't just go into graphic design. I'm saying that if you are posting out of focus nudes of yourself that are poorly toned in B&W complete with fake film grain, applying presets to a ton of images all with different lighting, or tagging clothing brands because you used a flash in an image then you have yet to create "art". Art being an innately subjective concept therefore it has actual guidelines for quality and execution, especially concerning photography. Do what you want, just don't expect to be taken seriously because you tried something. Accept the fact that making something isn't expressly "art" and holds no intrinsic value simply because you made it. Learn what makes something worth being proud of however understand that most people won't share the sentiment. Take risks and take your time, professionalism is something others see in your actions not something you can call yourself to be taken seriously.

Light is literally the only thing that matters:

Developing an "eye" for photography is to develop a sense of what is good light and what is bad light and then learning how to use both of them with equal effectiveness. And no matter what the only thing that allows photography to be is a little light. So that being understood, if you shot something with bad light, you aren't going to be able to fix it in post. "Blown out highlights are my style", translates to "I shot it wrong and/or I know very little about the relationship between light and the triad." Light is your best friend so don't hide it, being able to tell where a flash was in a portrait isn't a bad thing, actually it makes your images much more interesting. Obsess over light, use it dramatically, respect how critical it is to good images.

Knowledge is Patience:

Patiently learn, explore, and try your best. The better you understand your settings the better your quality of content will be. Just because you took some meh images of people doesn't mean you are ready to start up a business. Take your time and deeply study the craft. Once settings in Manual mode (everyone should stop fearing it and make it work) are second nature is when your compositions start to become your own. Once you begin thinking in terms of Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO your "personal style" will shine through. You have at this point developed command over your imaging system. The more challenges you put yourself through, the more limitations you subject yourself to the more you will learn and grow. Thus patience.

Closing:

I am a purist, sue me, I don't understand why anyone would pursue something such as photo unless they wanted to truly know that they were doing things correctly in camera. Ignoring convention, especially early on is usually best left for true professionals, that is to say those who have effectively mastered basic concepts and skills, not that you shouldn't take risks. Take a ton, they make you fail and this is what truly teaches us what is correct. Winning everything creates shallow, unwise thoughts and people. Hardship spawns wisdom, patience, and deep technical understanding which in turn will reward you for your efforts with an eye that is your own but only if you choose to learn rather than get upset. Growth and failure go hand in hand. So worry not about how your images initially look but about your exposure accuracy and focus. Everything else falls into place when you least expect it to. Keep challenging yourself, scrutinize all aspects of your images, and find a wise old professional. Go shoot something you haven't shot before, get out of your comfort zone, fail a lot, and keep a level head.