Style Evolution

For our next “Find Your Eye” assignment, Kat asks: “What is your shooting style?”

Shooting style is the sum of all the choices you make about your photography. Your choice of equipment, lighting, time of day, location, camera mode, intention – each of these aspects influences your work. So, what makes up my “shooting style”? And how has that style evolved over the past two years?

In photographic circles, I travel ultra-light. It’s just me, my Canon G11, swinging from a wrist strap, and an extra battery. No gear, no lenses, no filters, no tripod, no lights, no reflectors. Simple; lightweight; unobtrusive. For me, it works. In a previous post, I documented the reasons why I decided not to upgrade to a DSLR. Obviously, that decision has had a critical impact on my shooting style.

This decision impacts both the kind of images I can take as well as the quality of the outcome. I understand that to a large extent I am limiting my photographic possibilities by sticking with a point-and-shoot. But at the same time, part of me is thankful for those constraints. For drawing lines around what is technically possible and forcing me to be creative within those restrictions.

In the past, it was photography’s technical demands that kept me away from this art form. What opened up the world of image-making was the option to minimize the technical aspects and concentrate on the creative.

And in the name of full disclosure, I have to admit to a tiny competitive streak – to prove that I can create arresting and significant images without fancy gear. I’m not sure who I am proving it to but the feeling is there. (I didn’t say I was proud of it.)

And in turn, my choice of subjects reflects my camera choice. Things found on the street, shadows, windows, urban architectural details, textures and abstracts, are chosen partly because the technical constraints of my equipment support these kinds of images.

When photography first entered my life, my camera became my side-kick during my daily walks. The overriding purpose of those walks was exercise; image-making was secondary. I became intimately familiar with my neighborhood and its surrounding streets. My photos from this period are filled with shots of nature and macros of detritus discovered on the street. And for a while, this was enough.

The greatest evolution in my shooting style came on the day when I gave myself permission to go out for the sole purpose of taking photographs. When I realized my camera was no longer the side-kick – it had become the star, the leading lady. That I deserved to allocate time and focused attention to this hobby. That there was a world larger than what was within walking distance of my home.

And this realization, more than my choice of camera, more than my aversion for the technical, is the source of the most significant sea-change in my style. The simple act of giving photography priority in my life changed everything. No longer was driving 20 minutes to the next town a foolish folly; a frivolous waste. No, these forays became inspirational fuel, providing new subjects, new challenges – a style evolution.

I still walk daily for exercise  – but those walks occur on the treadmill while catching up with the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Now, when I leave the house, photography is my purpose.

Just me and my camera.

Written for “Find Your Eye: Journey of Inspiration” 


Posted on October 25, 2011, in Photography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Wow, I had no idea you had a point and shoot . . . . . your images are always stunning and your the perfect example that it’s not about fancy gear it’s about having a photographers eye and skill.

    • Kathryn,
      Oh no, your comment is feeding my nasty competitive streak 🙂
      I do know that fine gear does indeed make a difference in the quality of the image and the options available to the photographer. I don’t have the ability to create the amazing out-of-focus backgrounds and bokeh like you can. And there are certainly times when I wish I had those capabilities. But in my heart, I know that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that kind of gear – so I create with what I have.

  2. Brenda,

    I had to laugh at the last paragraph; you walking on the treadmill and catching up on Grey’s Anatomy! I just love that!

    Thinking of your camera as the leading lady is so powerful. What a transition you have made, and you describe it so eloquently.

    Thank you for sharing this evolution of your style.

    • Deb,
      Yes – the only way I can do treadmill walking (so boring!) is to do it while watching TV. That way I don’t feel quite as guilty about time spent watching the “boob tube” – I’m building strong bones and (trying) to keep post-retirement weight gain at bay.
      And then, my forays into the outside world can be all about making images – photo walks don’t count much as aerobic activity.

  3. I so enjoyed reading this! I love that you wrote about the transition of camera from side-kick to leading lady. That is a huge evolution in shooting style! I am in full belief that photography is not about the gear, and your post is in direct support of that. The equipment you have is only there to support your creative vision, and you are making choices that support that. Thanks for sharing this, I think it will be inspiring to others.

    • Kat,
      Isn’t it amazing what it takes to give ourselves permission? To give the camera priority, leading lady status? There are certainly times when I wish I had the capabilities of a DSLR – don’t we all want to play with the Crayola 64 box? But then I come back to the whys of the choice that I made and see what I can color with the box of 16.

  4. I do not say this to suggest that you should do anything different from what you do, because it WORKS. But everyone seems to be talking about (and shooting amazing images with) this new Olympus Pen camera. It is tiny – which could appeal to your minimalist side – and has lots of in-camera stylistic options… also can change lenses, if you so desire.

    But having said that, I love looking at your work. After visiting here for a while I feel like I can see YOU in it every day.

    • Corinna,
      Ah, you temptress you! Now that I’m retired, and budget-watching is a priority, I really try to ignore all the new advances in cameras and repeat to myself – “you do NOT need a new camera – get thee behind me, tiny-camera-with-changeable-lenses!”. (Which I am sure I would love.)
      I am grateful to know that I have developed a unique style and voice that says “ME” – wasn’t so sure about that when I started down this path.

  5. Wow, gobsmacked you achieve all this with a point and shoot, I had no idea! I think it’s great how you shoot – part of me is always thinking …if I had more/better equipment, if I took more technical classes, if, if, if …..but you’re right, the big change came for me when I allowed myself to go out and just take photographs. I love that you focus on the creative, your photos are amazing and Kat’s right, it is very inspiring to read this. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Becs,
      I hope the “gobsmacking” was painless. 🙂
      I think it is really easy to get caught up in the whole equipment thing in the photography world. But I am certainly not saying that it has no impact – because it does. For me, I just found that the whole subject of gear makes my eyes glaze over – so I came up with a “style” that works for me minus having to think much about equipment.

  6. I truly enjoyed reading this.
    So many good thoughts here!

    • Lisa,
      I started out with a real case of writer’s block on this assignment – spent a day staring at the same blank screen. Glad to know that I finally managed to put together some good thoughts. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. Wow! I also had no idea that you used a point and shoot! Very impressive, and I say if it works for you, don’t stop now! 😀 Your images are always so beautiful and intriguing. I am loving this post!

    • Laura,
      Little danger of that – my retirement budget does not include a camera upgrade. So it’s a good thing me and my camera have a good working relationship.

  8. May I add another WOW….because I was aware that you used a Baby Mama camera (meaning doesn’t break your neck) I was totally caught up in the fantastic photos that you take. You have shown that the creative eye is what is important, commitment, and yes a wee touch of competitiveness can propel things along. I am glad to have given our son my point and shoot (a good one like yours) but also really regret it. Honestly, this Big Mama can hold me back, make me nervous and wishful for something more simple. Who knows you may convert many followers to rethinking the use of their cameras that are hiding in a drawer somewhere. Such a well thought out description of your photography style. Kudos to you. smiles. sharon

    • Sharon,
      Ha! Baby Mama – love it! And you have touched on some of the reasons why I am glad that I stayed with a point-and-shoot – I just wouldn’t feel comfortable with a “Big Mama”, both physically and mentally. When I see shots that I know are outside the capabilities of my camera, I feel twinges of regret but for the most part, I am happy to have made the choice that I did.

  9. Hey Brenda-
    Just the other day I was thinking there are times I miss my point and shoot….I could get some great images from a low POV that I can’t seem to get with the DSLR. I could totally do the P & S again, but would need a better quality one than the 3 megapixels. And I already know your images are amazing. I think people think that if the images are amazing, then it must be amazing gear. I sort of chuckle when people as “what kind of camera do you have?” I take that as code for “I like your images”.
    I too have changed my walking style to camera first. My dear sweet Tula Dot thinks this is NOT such a good thing, so a few times a week I take walks in places she can run off lead or as a super special treat do a walk without camera just for her. (I want to come back in my next life as my dog!!)
    Keep snapping. I think it’s so cool that we admire each other’s styles and images yet they are pretty different. Happy day to you.

    • Susan,
      I upgraded from a Canon Powershot to the Canon G11 – I wanted to shoot in RAW as well as have aperture and shutter control. For me, the G11 gives me all the technical control that I need and supports my post-processing requirements. I’m sure there are even better high-end P&S options out there now but I just ignore it all. I’m happy with what I have (and don’t want to be tempted).
      And yes, I am a great admirer of your style and your voice. And so grateful that we crossed paths here inside the virtual world.

  10. Oh Brenda – I so get this!! Me too – my camera has become my leader..and my inspiration..and there is nowhere I won’t without it!!!

    • Marcie,
      My camera has certainly become the star of my show, leading me in ways that I never imagined. Here I am, writing a blog, sharing my images – rather unbelievable really. Thank you for coming along with me.

  11. I love your story which kind of includes your photography philosophy- that great photos don’t necessarily come from great equipment & of course the opposite is also true- a great camera doesn’t always mean great photos!
    I’m glad you decided to go & photograph just for the experience of it- you do create some great images. Love the one in this post.

    • Leanne,
      Believe me – there are times when I wish I had the capabilities of a DSLR. But in the end, I don’t regret making the decision that I did. This shooting style suits me. And I think when we surround ourselves with equipment and an environment that suits us, we can be more creative. (At least, that’s what I tell myself!)

  12. I always look forward to reading your post!!! I think that what you do with a point and shoot is so inspiring!! I still use mine quite a bit, especially for macro shots! I love your style of photography. The reflection in the one above is fantastic!!

    • Cathy,
      I’m glad that you look forward to my writing – I can’t think of a bigger compliment. And the abstract reflection in this shot was one of my favorite things about it – those are the kinds of surprises that I love to capture.

  13. “The simple act of giving photography priority in my life changed everything.”
    I started writing again during my youngest daughter’s naps, about four years ago. At first it was just meandering — like a walk with words swinging from my wrist. I remember the point where I realized that I was actually writing a novel. It was a shock. Sounds silly, but it was! After that, I felt a greater commitment, a purpose in what I was doing. It did change everything. I know exactly what you mean!

    • Lisa,
      What a moment that must have been – when you realized that the writer in you had already mapped out a goal, your novel – and you just had to catch up with what it was you were doing. Our heart often knows better.

  14. Aren’t we lucky that we can take the time to go on photo outings? I find some of my happiest moments when I discover a new location to explore with my camera.

    As far as equipment goes, I agree that the photographer’s “eye” is much more important than her equipment. Your images are fantastic — you have found what works best for you. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Gina,
      I am grateful every day that my life situation permits these opportunities – how could I be any luckier? And I love both scenarios – the exploration of the new and coming across that “a-ha” moment in a familiar place. Both are opportunities for discovery.

  15. I loved reading your post! You know what works for you and why. Your confidence & strength comes through in your work. I too like that your camera went from side kick to leading lady. Why is it so difficult for some of us to accept pleasure simply for pleasure’s sake? Your work and spirit…beautiful!

    • Cheryl,
      I’m not sure why we feel we must seek permission to fulfill our creative urges – as if they don’t carry as much weight as the other things in our lives. But I can remember that feeling of freedom when I granted it to myself – and haven’t looked back since.

  16. Well I love the journey you have taken. I got a DSLR from my husband for Christmas a few years back and cried because I felt so inadequate, not knowing how to use the darn thing. It sat in it’s box for about 18months while I took all my shots with my point and shoot, I got some great shots using that. I still use it but now find it hard to look into the screen and not the eye cup. Taking dedicated drives onto the country is something I do too, I love finding bales of hay or a field of flowers or run down buildings, so much fun and if I am on my own I don’t feel guilty dragging my poor husband along for the ride.

    • Kim,
      It is all a journey, isn’t it? It sounds like you are taking huge steps forward into creating your own shooting style. Getting past the fear and frustration and giving yourself permission to go out on solo photo explorations. I think that is what we have to do to grow.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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