Webster defines voice as “the ability to speak”.
If we take that further as say what is your voice. It would be the sounds that come out of your mouth, the words you choose to use, but also what you’re trying to say and why you’re trying to say it.
And that is exactly what “your voice” refers to in photography. Your photographic voice is what you see and how you capture it, but also what made you want to capture it or what you used to capture it.
Since your photographs can’t speak, the metaphor better relates to the tools you use to express your verbal sounds in non verbal means– your tool kit.
Your voice is:
- what makes you stop capture a frame
- what you are shooting
- how you are shooting it
- tools you are using to express your content
- devices to deliver your intent
- and the delivery and final expression of the image
And that only leads to
- How do I find my voice
- and more specifically how do I know when I have found my voice
How do you find your voice?
Get out and shoot your ever loving ass off.
The more you shoot the more comfortable you will feel behind the lens. The more you can let your brain and autopilot give you natural and subconscious instructions. The more you will let your vision guide you instead of trying not to screw something up. You will begin to find what you like and don’t like. The more you will be looking to your own work and not the work of others.
Review your work.
You will begin developing your style. And mostly you will begin to SEE that style pattern develop. You will be able to group photos and see that there are things in common, even if you would have dismissed it at first.
Keep a journal and write down your findings. Consider it like a wine journal. What did you do on your shoot you loved. What did you not do well. Did you take a photo that stopped you in your tracks? Write down WHY! Did you love the light, the mood, the space, do the lines draw you in, did the perspective give you a new view… pay attention to what you are loving.
You can see it.
And if you can’t see it, you may be too close to your work. Pull together a gallery of images. Find 50 or 100 or 150 images you love. Put them together. Do they blend? Can you see your mood, style, and shooting methods begin to appear more consistently?
Ask some friends.
Sometimes you will still have a hard time seeing it, but others may be able to jump on it right away. Show your besties your work and see if they can point out some commonalities.
Need something more concrete than that? Yeah, I did too. So much so I wrote a whole workshop around it.
Analyze your work.
Look at your photographic choices. Do they repeat themselves? Are you reaching for the same tools or devices? Can you put into words how your work makes you feel or how you can describe it? If you begin to keep a score card of the things you are gravitating towards-light, composition, perspective, moments, processing, and many many more… you may be able to find that you lean on some choices more than others, and those may be your voice speaking out.
Want to play around with it more? Consider signing up for Introspection & Analysis and learn more about your conscious and subconscious choices that are making an appearance in your work.