be the creative director of your work

As photographers we are constantly changing and growing. As we discover more about the world, we instinctively discover more about ourselves. Our tastes, likes, dislikes, wants and needs, all influence who we are as people, and who we are as people ultimately shapes who we are as photographers.

For a time, I was confused about who I was as a photographer. When I first started shooting, I would just photograph things that interested me or the things that I instinctively thought would make a good composition. Yet, if someone asked me what type of photographer I was, I had no idea and couldn’t give him or her an answer. I was stuck. I was stuck in the black hole of comparison. Trapped by other people’s images and ideas and felt as though my own vision was being drowned in a sea of bokeh circles and 50mm macro shots. When I started to become bored by my own images, I realised that something had to change.

I realised that I was paying too much attention to the crowd and not enough to my own vision and voice. Who was I shooting for? What story was I trying to tell? I had started shooting for myself in the beginning, and then somewhere along the way I got caught up in the crowd. It was time for me to go back to what was important to me.

Once I let go, I felt free again. I felt like my whole world opened up and I could start shooting for me. It was liberating. Over time, I started to pay attention to what I truly liked about photography, what gave me goose bumps when viewing other people’s photography and what gave me most satisfaction when shooting for myself. By paying attention to my own likes and dislikes, I started to gather pieces of the puzzle that pulled together my own photography style.

I have been shooting this way for a long time now and it’s what makes me happy. I am particular about what I shoot, when I shoot and how I shoot. Every image is sketched out in my mind before I shoot it and they may not all work or have meaning for others, but to me, they tell my story and share my voice.

Through photographing this way over time, my style has developed. I have a set of adjectives I use to describe my photography and I remind myself of those when I shoot. Style is never finished and can always be improved upon. It takes many years to perfect and I am always working on reaching that objective.

I do know this; to nurture style, one must have a goal. We need to figure out where we are now, where we want to be and how we can close the gap between the two. It’s a work in progress and cannot be achieved overnight. We are the creative directors of our own work and we are the only ones who can speak with our own unique voice.

Do you have a clear vision and voice that you share with others?

Please share images that you think best represent you or your style with us!


Today Amanda is giving away one spot in her Shoot By Design: Refining Your Photography Style photography e-course where she will teach you all she knows about molding your signature style, finding your own voice, share technical tips to get the best out of your camera and show you how to creates strong, passionate images. Leave a comment here before Tuesday 24th 12pm PST to win a place in the Shoot By Design Spring session, starting on March 5th!

You can find out more about Amanda’s work on her portfolio and popular blog Mocking Bird. She is also the co-author of the anticipated Instant Love: How To Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids (with Jen Altman and Susannah Conway) published by Chronicle Books.

The winner of the giveaway is Mary! Congratulations, you will receive an email from Amanda shortly.


  1. says

    I have been struggling with these same things for a while now. I don't have a cogent answer to the question of why I shoot what I shoot and what about a subject or composition inspires me to reach for my camera. I love your post and will be re-reading it many times. Thank you

  2. Rebecca says

    I never thought of developing a style in my photography. I just shoot what I love and try to emulate the photos that catch my eye. I would love to evolve as a photographer.

  3. Barbara says

    I haven't really considered myself a photographer – maybe hobby photographer or photo Mom. My photos are to capture my daughters growing up and living life. I also love taking landscape photos of places we visit. Although these do not completely capture the feeling of being together or beautiful places we have been, they trigger memories when we look at them.

  4. Kimberly K. says

    Im still trying to figure out how to use my camera, so style isn't so much my focus. I hope it will be … soon.

  5. says

    That is one wonderful polaroid image you have there – such an inspiration to forget my own polaroid failures and keep clicking.

    My current vision, which has evolved almost subconsciously, is to present small vignettes of order in the middle of the chaos that is the world we live in. I shoot these with my phone in square format wherever I see that just *this* framing will pick out a detail that would otherwise be invisible in the larger picture. Like this one:

  6. Ally says

    This is just what I needed today. thank you! I just bought myself a new camera for Xmas and so am still learning all of its little quirks, but I find myself yearning to really develop a style. I think that I know what I want my images to look like, I just dont always know how to get them there!
    This would be a true God send for me and I really appreciate 1. the info, 2. the chance to win, and 3. the encouragement that this post provides.
    I love this site :)

  7. says

    Hitting those points where your own images feel stale is one of the real challenges of evolving as a photographer. I tend to rely on finding something completely new rather than trying to zero in on what feels right and running with that. It's something that I personally need to explore more deeply.

  8. says

    I am still struggling with defining my style. On the one hand I take a lot of everyday ordinary life shots (I am an avid scrapbooker), but I am also interested in more artsy type photography. This post is a great reminder to me to put some more thought into this.

  9. says

    Wow, really good food for thought. I try to tell a story through my photography, but I guess I'm not at the point of being able to be my own creative director.
    Great giveaway – checking into the course details now.

  10. says

    Finding your style is something I grapple with too…I started out shooting family, life and special events and dabbled some in photojournalism when I worked for a newspaper. Today as I reacquaint myself with photography I'm searching for my niche and the best way I can do that is to try a number of things and see where I am most drawn. I do believe ultimately one of my goals is to tell a story.

    Thank you for the great post.

  11. says

    The question what my voice and style is in photography is has been on my mind for a while. I still don't have an answer. I'm hoping to find out this year.

  12. Irene says

    What you say is so true! I have started to worry less about what others are doing and am trying to be more confident in my own images… your course sounds interesting!
    Cheers :)

  13. says

    I too found myself drawn to interesting subject matters this last year ~ photos to illustrate a poem, the dance of morning sunlight, playfully playing out images of "harold and the purple crayon" (which I made into a yellow paintbrush with my son's help). It was liberating to not do things that were in the "business collective" and see how my mind & heart were being stretched behind the lens.

    I love your post today~

  14. says

    I feel like I am all over the place and really need to figure out how to even find my style. I would love the chance to win a place in that class :) Thanks!

  15. rachaelmarie says

    this has been a question forefront in my mind as i entered 2012 + i am excited to look at the world through my own viewfinder and have there be more thought and meaning behind each frame. this would be perfect for where i am at right now.

  16. Nicole a Alley says

    I love that connection between my personal style and what interests me. Thanks for putting it so clearly. It makes so much sense, but I've never seen that connection before. I DO feel a little bored with some of my photos lately so your post have given me much to ponder. Time to do some exploring, experimenting and playing!

  17. rakusribut says

    i shoot my pictures for me, and for me only. i shoot what i see, what attracts my attention, what moves me, what takes my breath away. i am still developing as a photographer and i can see where i have come from and have some idea of where i am going, and allow myself to follow my heart and my dreams (and make detours)
    my photography blogs are a means to share what i see and learn, to communicate my vision, hoping to inspire others with the beauty of my images….. somehow it seems to be working, people tell me they have started looking around more, taking notice of their environment, looking at things from different angles. i love to get their feedback.
    the only time i get bored with my own images is when i start comparing myself to others. of course it will make me feel inadequate and one dimensional. i am not those other photographers and if i try to imitate them i will be untrue to myself and get stuck. so i try to be kind to myself whenever i feel in awe of someone else's work (like yours, amanda, lol) and continue on my own journey

    here's a link to my daily snapshot blog


  18. says

    I always felt like I am "everything" photographer. I just love photography. But last year brought many unexpected twists and turns in my life and my photography and I changes. I know that I'm no longer "everything" photographer. I FEEL like I don't want to be that way anymore. I feel like I'm turning towards "people" photography that strangely enough never was my strong side. It was the opposite – the most weak side.

  19. says

    Since I don't get paid to take pictures, I don't shoot for the feedback. I love it, after all, I'm human, but I don't shoot with it in mind. I know I could bokeh the heck out of a street scene, and get tons of comments, and sometimes, when the mood hits me I will. But not for the boatload of comments – I'll do it because that's the way that scene appears to me.

    As for my style, I don't know. When I'm not shooting my kids, I seek out subjects that have some history.

  20. dee says

    How timely. I was just having this conversation with myself this morning. I look at others' work and think I "should" try that style, but is stretching in too many directions an upward growth? I need to be more confident that my approach (style), is just that – mine. My honest passion can definitely fuel my creative energies for exploration, but I'm ready to set goals and like you said, be the director of my own work. Thanks for the inspiration.

  21. says

    I love nature and wildlife and find myself instinctively drawn to those elements. I've especially loved focusing on the smaller details this year with macro shots, they seem to speak to me more and draw me in.

  22. says

    This post is so interesting-it's exactly what i've been thinking about lately. I started my blog a year ago in order to give me a reason to practise photography. Over the year I've joined in on various prompts, which I love, but it's got me thinking about which prompts i really enjoy, and it seems that they're mostly the ones where i can creatively express little things about my day & my life.
    THis recent post is an example:

  23. says

    I know exactly how you felt as that is where I am now. I think I have a style but then I view other photographers photos and wonder should I really do it their way maybe my way is not the main stream should I go with the main stream to be noticed or do what I see as my vision. I think it is a battle we all have as photographers it would be nice to find my way out of the circle

  24. Karen W says

    I've just recently started reading and thinking about this a lot, but I've yet to come up with a clear definition of my style or focus. Sometimes I feel like I'm all over the place. I'd love to win a spot in this class.

  25. says

    It was great to read this post from you, I start to pose myself these questions: why and how do I want to photograph? Thaks for making me think more about my intents and reasons!

  26. Laura says

    Thank you for this post. This is so true. This struggle to truly embody who one truly is. To live and photography from that genuine center. I would love to hear more about this journey. These are ideas I have been playing with lately. Who am I as a photographer. Why do I create photos. What is the reason or driving force.

  27. claudia says

    Wow, I am all over the place. One look through my stream and you'd realize I like bouncing around. But when I get paid to take photographs it would be nice be able to say.. this is an example of my work. Gee, I've only been taking photos for over 30 years, you'd think I'd have it nailed down by now – maybe not since you said "As photographers we are constantly changing and growing." Thanks for the chance to be able to possibly refine and shine :)

  28. Mary Jo says

    I think this course could help in many areas of my life — how do I reconnect with MY voice and let it sing out through my work?

  29. Kanoti says

    Inspirational advice for me to keep in mind as I begin this wild and passionate adventure into photography. Thank you. And thanks for the chance to learn more from your class.

  30. says

    well said indeed. i'm struggling with this very concept at this time. and while i think we all struggle with this at some point or other, it is this point that makes us grow. we have to get here, our lowest point to rise above and succeed. thanks for spelling it out so well. it makes me feel better reading this and knowing that I will get past.
    this what just what i needed. =)

  31. says

    I've been thinking a lot about my love for photography and what I want it to convey. There has just been one minor problem- my pesky inner perfectionist, who is quite judgmental! : )
    Enter this insightful post about being your own creative director and developing a voice and vision in your photography. After reading it, I realized that wrecklessly pursuing these elements means parting ways (permanently!) with my perfectionist tendencies . That nagging, judgmental voice does nothing but put a chokehold on my creativity; that's where I AM.
    Through listening to the sweetly sublime chatter that is my inner voice, I have found my vision: emotion. I don't want others to look at my photos and say, "That's nice." No, that simply won't do. I want them to feel something. That's where I want TO BE.
    Read my complete post here:

    Thanks for inspiring me today! :)

  32. says

    I started out with a style of my own – bright, colorful, abstract macros – but I've noticed that I've started to be influenced by popular trends and incorporate some other people's styles a bit in the last year, especially in my choices of processing and subjects. I've been struggling a bit to decide if this influence is moving me forward in my development as a photographer, or if it's diluting the "me" in my pictures. Thanks for this post that's making me reflect on it a bit more overtly.

  33. Af says

    Capturing emotion in a picture – that is my ultimate goal – as opposed to just capturing an event or a scene. Whether that be through framing/cropping, post processing or just straight out of the camera. But that is what i strive to achieve. The workshop sounds like an amazing opportunity! thanks!

  34. merlin says

    My camera and I are finally, after years of animosity, developing a friendly relationship, and this course sounds like just the thing we need to move our relationship to the next level.

  35. says

    I like to shoot just about anything, but I am wanting to narrow down and define who I am as a photographer. The e-course looks like it would help me define myself as an artist. I would love to win this course.

  36. Christine Hickey says

    I love this instant photo. Impossible's film tones have such a timeless quality. In trying to find my style, I've been experimenting a lot with analog and instant films.

  37. says

    Last year I made the switch from point-and-shoot to using my SLR in manual. So I shot everything I saw. Now it's time to find my voice :-).

    Thank you for this inspiring giveaway!

  38. says

    I'm almost one month (23 days) into the 365 day photo challenge (366 because this year is a leap year)… My dad challenged me to it and I thought it would be a good way to learn more about my camera and over the course of a year develop my style and my interests. Right now I'm just capturing images of my day and trying to convey little things that are on my mind. The opportunity to win spot in the class aimed at developing style would be amazing.

  39. M.M. Buckley says

    This post brought the hopes of my vision in photography alive. Before I press the shutter button I often ask myself in one way or another "What am I trying to say?" As a beginner photographer I am searching for my own voice in storytelling through visual communication. What a wonderful opportunity you are offering.

  40. Alyssa says

    I've been struggling with the exact same issue and would love a bit of help "letting go" and creating a coherent personal style. Thank you for the chance to win a spot!

  41. says

    This describes what I've been grappling with for what seems like forever. I feel like I'm figuring it out, but I think sometimes I have too much of a good thing with all of the inspiration I enjoy from other photographers. I'm so enthusiastic about so many types of photography and so many styles that it kind of pulls me in all sorts of directions. The one thing I do know for sure is that light is my favorite muse and here's one of my favorite photos where this is evident:

    I would LOVE to be the lucky winner of a spot in the Shoot by Design course!

  42. says

    "We need to figure out where we are now, where we want to be and how we can close the gap between the two."

    This post was worth reading, just for that line alone.

    After six months and a big move, I decided it's time to reconnect to my camera again. In the past, I don't think I ever really found my voice in photography, but I do sometimes hear really loud inner critic which makes me shy away from appreciating my own work and pushing it further. Because of this post, I'm ready to really explore my style and my voice. Yes, I would love a spot in your class, but I think in this post you've helped figure out that I need to not be afraid to shine through my work or tell my stories.

    Thank you!

  43. says

    Yeah, I know what you mean…I'm stuck in the 50mm rut myself. I know what I like when I see it, but the big challenge is to intentionally produce it!

  44. says

    I started that way, just shooting with no design, no idea, no vision. It took me about four years to form my vision and make it my own, and then, it changed, I went from nature, to urban. My wife and I had moved, and it was a narrowing, a focusing of my vision and interest from the broad to something more specific, the city.

    Then it changed again, and for the last couple of years my vision has narrowed further as I pursue a self portrait series. I don't shoot things that don't interest me anymore, and every once and awhile I feel a little guilty about it, but then I don't.

    Thanks for reinforcing that. :)

  45. says

    Im still trying to figure out how to use my camera, so style isn't so much my focus.My current vision, which has evolved almost subconsciously, is to present small vignettes of order in the middle of the chaos that is the world we live in. I shoot these with my phone in square format wherever I see that just *this* framing will pick out a detail that would otherwise be invisible in the larger picture.I am still struggling with defining my style. On the one hand I take a lot of everyday ordinary life shots (I am an avid scrapbooker), but I am also interested in more artsy type photography. This post is a great reminder to me to put some more thought into this.

    Would love to take this course.Style and design are my photo needs.Thanks for the opp to win it.

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