Friday, August 28, 2009


Photography is all about vision, and it is our unique vision that sets us apart from one another. It is also our vision which lands us our jobs. But how do we develop our vision and our signature style? How will you know that this is a Mike Campbell?

This is a question asked by many. Many of us will shoot a lot as photographers, but most of that shooting will be intended for someone else. We change how we shoot based on what the client is looking for. But when all is said and done, you will be left with a body of work and portfolio that is indecisive and doesn't show a unique vision or style - it will be a collection of styles that others have wanted from you. This also exists when you look at graduates of photography schools, where people are taught different styles, lighting and subject matters - but their portfolio doesn't show themselves.

To grow as photographers and actually define our work as ours, we need to shoot for ourselves. I've heard too many photographers complain that they are too busy to do any other photography than their commissioned work. This excuse is unacceptable. In every other profession you are required to undergo continuing education of some degree to keep relevant, and the same is true of photography. We need to grab our cameras and go out there and shoot what we love, what we hate, our desired subjects and subjects that are new. We need to experiment with new techniques, either through lighting, composition or post processing. There are times where we must shoot with no purpose at all. We must do test shoots!!

A test shoot is just that, a test of something new. Something that will push our creative boundaries or to explore something new that is too risky to try on a paid shoot until you know the results you'll get. Please note that this is not a portfolio shoot. Do not be photographing with the intention of adding any of these images to your portfolio. Our portfolios are supposed to showcase what we can do as a photographer and be a concise collection of our visual style. We test to develop our style, but until we're proficient in it, a test is not our style.

I recently had the chance to do some experimentation with multiple large lights. I have played with them before, but here was a chance to test with some different 3 light setups and multiple light qualities. I was not shooting for portfolio images, in fact, little consideration was taken in creating interesting compositions. You'll even catch bits of equipment in the corners of the frames of a few of these. I do use some similar techniques in my daily photography, but this was an excuse to push it a bit further. You will also notice some use of different post processing techniques. Nothing has gone to photoshop, so this was an excuse to try a few different Lightroom techniques.

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