Your Signature & Your Style

One of the things you have to understand about photography when you are starting out is that your style is unique. If I take a pen and sign my name it is my name in the style that I write. It doesn’t matter if I use a pen, pencil, crayon, it’s my signature and unless you are a world class forger you cannot duplicate it and even then a forensic signature expert will be able to tell that it’s not mine. The same is true for photography, my style and yours is unique and cannot be totally duplicated.

The camera companies don’t want you to know this, they want you to believe that a LEICA will make you shoot like Cartier-Bresson, a Hasselblad, or 4×5” will make you shoot like Ansel Adams or a Nikon will make you shoot like Galen Rowell or Chase Jarvis, because if you think like that, you are more likely to buy their camera. Below is an example of my style for shooting Forgotten Pieces of Georgia.


They don’t want you to know that the it’s you that make the image, not the camera. An image is as unique as your personal signature on a piece of paper, when it comes to photography, your images are your signature.

Cameras don’t know what to do and all cameras do pretty much the same thing when it comes to photography. Except for using filters, camera lenses are clear glass, and except for the Holga “toy” lens, all lenses are sharp when properly used by you. On the other hand, pens come in fine point, medium, heavy, gel tip, and so on, so not all pens will write your name the same way.

If I hand you my pen, will your signature look like mine? Of course not, no more than if I hand you my camera will your images look like mine. A moment ago I mentioned Ansel Adams shooting a 4×5” or a Hasselblad, Adams, used large format, usually 8×10” in the 1930s to the 1950s when he shot his most memorable work. But as he got older and maybe lazier, he usually settled for 2 1/4” Hasselblad after the 1950s, but did this make his images look any less like his own? Of course not, an Ansel Adams is an Ansel Adams. 2 1/4” and view cameras are as different as two cameras can be from each other and yet his work, his style stayed the same, because his style is as unique as his signature.

All photographs are reflections of the photographer who created them and good photographers are artists who have a style all their own. Crappy photographers are crappy because they spend their time trying to copy everyone else’s style or don’t think at all before they press that shutter. Buying the best camera in the world and leveling it on the most stable tripod and spending hours working over that RAW file in Photoshop is the best way to make completely forgettable images, but being yourself and showing the world your way of seeing things is how you make truly remarkable images.

Why are so many images boring? Because they lack a unique style and all look the same. Now get out there with whatever camera you have and make the world see things as you see them!