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Tips & Tricks

Five Ways to Develop Your Own Unique Film Photography Style

By Guest Contributor on June 23rd 2014

Becoming known for a particular ‘look’ is essential in becoming a successful photographer. Name any photographer legend, and they are more than likely to have a distinctive style that has set them apart from their competitors, and enabled them to make a name for themselves within their respective genres.

When you have a distinctive style or voice, your marketing becomes a lot easier and your profits much larger, as your clients seek you for the distinct ‘look’ that you provide. 

So now that the ‘film look’ is currently the latest photography trend, how do we prevent our work looking like anybody else’s? How do we create a distinct and recognizable style that we can become appreciated for? 

[REWIND: GIVING FILM A CHANCE, EXPLORING NEW PHOTOGRAPHY IN AN OLD SCHOOL WAY]

The following tips should help you to develop your own unique film photography style.

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1. Use Colour Pacs & Profiles

Building a close relationship with your professional film lab and utilizing their colour PAC/profile services can ensure that you have a personalized colour palette and tone.  Other photographers might use a similar palette, but when coupled with your unique choices of film, camera, etc; working with your lab to create a personalized colour profile for you is one key element of creating a distinctive look to your work.

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2. Select Your Film Type

Experiment with different film types until you find one that you love and that works for you to create a body of work with. It doesn’t mean all of your professional client work has to be shot with that film, but using it primarily helps to avoid the ‘another photographer with a Contax 645 + 400h’ type feel. While on the subject, don’t just stick with experimenting with your film – try out unusual cameras and different film labs until you find a fit that is right for you personally.

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3. Find A Unique Subject

So the pastel fine-art wedding photographer approach is already well known and well used.  But if you desperately love that pastel, fine-art approach and want to use it, you can still make your own work unique by carefully selecting your subject. Shoot a subject that hasn’t yet been photographed (or seen very often) in that pastel, fine-art style!

What are your greatest passions? Can you combine the two? If you are into hiking, you might shoot a ton of personal projects around your hiking trips.  Suddenly, you are known –  “Oh right! You’re that guy that does all those killer landscapes!” Use your personal style to shoot a unique subject and you are well on your way to gaining a distinctive voice and body of work.

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4. Look Outside Of Photography For Your Inspiration

Look outside of photography and film photography for inspiration.  Sometimes the photography world is all-consuming.  We could spend forever learning more, buying more, shooting more.  But when you take time to invest in your creativity, you will find your work and your approach becomes inspired and free.  Visit exhibitions, galleries, read, create something else other than an image.  Involve yourself in new hobbies, volunteer,  listen to a different genre of music. You can tell the difference between photographers that look purely to other photographers for inspiration, and those who find it elsewhere. Don’t be a copy, be an original. 

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5.  Consider Developing Your Own Work

If you really love film photography and want to create a distinct style for yourself, then you could consider buying the equipment needed to develop and process all your own work.  It’s not cheap and it’s labour-intensive, but it’s a labour of love, right? And you give yourself a real chance at creating a look that you love and is entirely original.  You can find our more information by talking to your film lab- they’re usually happy to share information. 

By following some of these suggestions about how to grow your unique voice within the niche of film photography, you are more likely to ensure that your business is profitable.

For an in-depth read about boosting the profits of your film photography business, you might want to consider reading this guide: Supercharge Your Profits, Learn To Shoot Film.  It’s designed specifically to make sure your film photography business reaches its maximum potential. 

About the Guest Contributor

Charlie Kingsland-Barrow is a film photographer based in the UK. She is the author of Supercharge Your Profits – Learn To Shoot Film, Writer & Marketer for the film photography site 35to220.com, and founder of the Female Photographer Association 

If you’re interested in becoming a guest contributor, contact us!

7 Comments

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  1. Rafael Steffen

    Great advices for getting inspired and trying new formulas to get more creative and help develop a style.

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  2. Joshua Ezzell

    I love shooting with film! I just can’t justify the money going toward it because it’s so expensive to shoot with. To make up for that I just spend time using Lightroom to mimic my favorite film stocks or just to get what feels right for me.

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  3. Servando Miramontes

    That first image is just so crunchy and punchy…. love it!

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  4. Tyler Friesen

    I love when there are articles on film here!

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  5. Chris Nachtwey

    Good stuff!! :)

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  6. J. Cassario

    Great article!

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  7. Ralph Hightower

    Wow! In this age where digital is dominant and “film is dead”, there’s a blog entry about using film! Don’t worry, I’m not bashing film. I’ve only been using a DSLR for 6 months; I’ve been shooting film with my Canon A-1 for 34 years and will continue; I added a used F-1N last year. I’d love to get into medium format with a used 6×4.5 or 6×7 system, but with a Canon 5D, I need to add buy lenses for the new system.

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