Mike Larson at WPPI 2011Developing Your Style
The following article is a guest post by Drexelle Park, a photographer with her other half, David Park, from Orange County, CA. More of their work can be found at www.dparkphotography.com
“IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOU ARE GOING ¦EVERY ROAD WILL LEAD YOU NOWHERE.
- HENRY KISSINGER
- An adventurer
- A surfer
- A musician
- A man who loves to make his wife laugh
- A loving father to his new baby girl, little Hannah
A photographer for 13 years, Mike Larson confided that he began with no style. Years of soul searching later, he found it. What’s his style? Mike Larson is a West coast photographer who loves shooting vineyards and weddings.
(Photos below courtesy of Mike Larson: www.mikelarson.com)
Having grown up in the Bay Area, Mike moved with his wife to where his style led him: the wine country in Central Coast.
You can view Mike Larson’s work here.
His challenge: Define yourself. Where? In 3 areas:
- Your Style
- Their Style (Clients)
- Your Business
1 | your style
To find your style, answer these questions:
- Who are you?
- What excites you?
- What do you love?
But how do you show this? Sometimes this means having another photographer or writer showcase you. But he boldly challenged all of us as photographers:
“BEFORE SUMMER HITS, BECOME A CONSUMER OF THAT WHICH YOU SELL, BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T, YO’UVE TAKEN AWAY THE ABILITY FOR YOU TO SELL CREDIBLY.
- MIKE LARSON
Hire another photographer. Be in front of the camera. Buy prints. Have photos of yourself at your home.
“IF YOU’RE A CONSUMER OF YOUR OWN PRODUCT, YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, DOESN’T THAT GIVE YOU MORE OF A LEG TO STAND ON?
- MIKE LARSON
2 | their style (clients)
“PEOPLE DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW UNTIL THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE.
- DALE CARNEGIE
Unless we care about what our clients’ style is, they have no reason to care about ours. We need to answer the following questions on our clients:
- Who is your client? Who could you work with? Fill in the blank: I want to attract people who are ____________.
- Where are your clients? Is it through a venue, a coordinator, wedding blog?
- Where are they searching for you? Spend less time developing a 4×6 in Lightroom and spend more time developing relationships with people who will connect you to those people. This will give unbelievable clarity in what you need to do everyday.
- What are the connectors between you and them?
- Why should they value you more? When you become an expert at what they value, you won’t get people calling you for discounts. You get people calling you because you’re the only person who does what they want.
3 | your business
Now, define your business. Organize it based on how you’ve defined yourself and your clients.
Be consistent, concise in your messaging. You shouldn’t be able to Google your description and find 500 people who do the same thing. Choose a category. You may already be doing it. You just have to claim it. This will enable others to evangelize you when you’ve chosen your category.
Keep things simple. Freedom from TOO MANY choices is actually a powerful thing. Make things simple. You’ll waste so many hours with little tweakings.
Become a helpful expert. Once you know where you want to be, become an advocate for your connectors to help with their brand. Pay it forward.
“WHO WE ARE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT WE PRODUCE. IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE A TO-BE LIST. WHAT GOOD IS A LIFE WITH JUST A COMPLETED TO-DO LIST? IF WE FOCUS ON WHO WE ARE AND WHO WE WANT TO BE, THE TO-DO LIST WILL FINISH ITSELF.
- MIKE LARSON
Mike Larson’s first question to each panel speaker, “How did you find your style?
It was all about Mike Colon’s connection with people. With his camera, people look natural, comfortable, confident. He can portray who they are.
Finding your style is something we can learn from children. If you stick a kid in a room filled with all kinds of toys, do you think that kid walks in and says, “Hmm, which toy is my style? That absolutely doesn’t happen. They run to the toy as long as it keeps their attention. They play with it as long as it interests them. At the very moment it doesn’t interest them, do they set it nicely in place? No. They throw it! There’s beauty and truth in that.
“DO WHAT DRIVES YOU WILD. IF IT DOESN’T DRIVE YOU CRAZY ANYMORE, STOP PLAYING WITH IT. THE STYLE SHOULD BE ABSOLUTELY AUTHENTIC AND COME FROM WHO YOU ARE.
- JESH DE ROX
For Jose, it was just about what feels good to him. He never puts his logo on a photo. His goal was to create imagery with a very organic and timeless look at the images 20 years from now and it can look exactly like it did the day of. He wants people to see his photo and know that he was the photographer. Now, people can.
The most touching style is when you, as a viewer, are taken into the photo, where you feel the love, where you want to be the bride in the photo. The image needs to exude emotion. The images need to reflect who you are.
Don’t make your client fit what you’ve seen everywhere. Not every client wants to hold a balloon and sit on a suitcase. Go with how your clients feel, who they are.
Bloggers have a catch 22: Brides recycle ideas on blogs. But blogs are dependent on brides and photographers to give awesome editorial content. Don’t use props to distinguish you. Be organic. Push your clients further to reflect their style and personality. It doesn’t have to be over-exaggerated.
Suggestions when submitting images to editorials:
- It’s okay to move the item to a better location.
- Do not frame items with water glasses.
- Do not shoot details with weird angles.
- Don’t forget the bridesmaids and their bouquets.
- Don’t put items on distracting textures.
Sometimes, you just need to put down the camera and look at what you’re shooting and go back and improve it.
A common theme: All the photographers on the panel hire a stylist for their shoot. So what does a stylist do?
- Tweak ¦a lot
- Touch up
- Move items
- Style the wardrobe
- Make sure the subject looks as good as possible
I was totally challenged about buying the product we’re selling: photography. So David and I are hiring a photographer to shoot us on location, the real us. Plus, we’re hiring a stylist to help us build a shoot and, hopefully, to help us find a little more of who we are through that experience and, in the end, show just that – the real us.
I think one of the hardest things is to be willing to show who you are to find your ideal client. It’s so much easier, and, frankly, it feels safer, to just be a carbon copy of another top photographer. I conclude with these challenging words.
“MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, THE ONE THING MOST PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF IS THEIR VOICE. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE ANYBODY ELSE’S VOICE.
THERE ARE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WHO LOVE YOU. YOU ARE SHOWING THEM PARTS OF YOU THAT ARE LIKEABLE AND ATTRACTIVE. IF YOU CAN FIND OUT HOW TO SHOW THOSE SAME PARTS TO THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU, I GUARANTEE IT’LL ATTRACT PEOPLE.
- JESH DE ROX
Article and Images by Drexelle Park of D. Park Photography
We’re David + Drexelle – high school sweethearts, complete opposites but God amazingly brought us together, 2 kids who were scared of marriage but now passionate about a lifetime committed to love, the good, the bad, the crazy, the lovely.
Our desire is to inspire a generation of people like ourselves who were jaded about love through incredible imagery that celebrates marriage: love – lifelong, lasting, and lovely.
We’re D. Park Photography. Modern classic wedding photographers for the truly original, authentic and timeless love stories.