As another follow up to the article I wrote aboutfinding your own photographic style, Chuck Vosburgh offers his experience and sheds some light on how his style has influenced his work as a commercial photographer.

How have you developed your style and continue to do so?

My style developed partly from responding to clients' needs and partly from works that I personally like. I think it's vital to continue learning from masters of the craft. I remember when I joined the Tampa Area Professional Photographers Association, I discovered a whole new level of work that I didn't even know existed! Learning from the people in that group took my work and my career to the next level where I felt comfortable competing for work on a national level.

Where does your vision and/or your inspiration come from?

For commercial work, the art director or photo editor usually has a concept, then we collaborate to make his or her concept the best it can be. Sometimes, completely new ideas come from the collaboration and that's when it's the most exciting! In cases where I am responsible for the concept, I rely on my library of images that I've saved for inspiration. Looking through them will usually spark an idea that can be built on. For portraits, I've been heavily influenced by Dutch painters Rembrandt, Vermeer and others. The influence of their work finds its way into any portrait work I do.

How has developing such a strong style benefited you or held you back?

My motto has always been"if it's legal, moral and not a wedding I'll shoot it". That said, one thing I learned very early on is that you can't do everything. For example, I don't do weddings or babies. It's just not my thing, and likewise I don't know any wedding or baby photographers who do commercial work. It is a good idea to be able to have a bit of a range of style since many of my clients have come to me with something specific in mind.

Any advice for other photographers who are struggling to find a voice?

Don't obsess about it! It will develop on its own over time. I recommend finding someone whose work you admire and follow their lead. That will provide a foundation that you can expand on and make your own. None of us have invented our styles. Everything is an extension of those before us.I am certain that most if not all of the masters that I admire will say the same.

And any other thoughts or feelings you may have on the topic.

Remember we're providing a service. Service demands being flexible and understanding that not every single piece you do will be a portfolio piece. I know that goes against what some say, but I have 30 years of earning a nice living and it's worked for me. I've frequently asked clients why they chose me. There are plenty of talented photographers to choose from and without exception they all had basically the same answers: None of them mentioned the quality of my work. Excellent work is expected and it's the minimum requirement to be chosen. No one mentioned equipment for the same reason. All of them said it was that they knew I'd show up, come through for them and be pleasant to work with. It's just that simple. I've built my career on the promise that I will show up and get the job done no matter what and it will look great.

Chuck Vosburgh did his first paid and published work in 1984 and earned his PPA Certified Professional Photographer in 2014. He has been fortunate enough to have been awarded many honors over the years and loves to teach. You can see Chuck's work atwww.ChuckVosburgh.comand on his blog,www.LightingIsEasy.com. Chuck recently released a new online course titledHow to sell photography without becoming a salesmanwhere he condenses his 30+ years of sales and business experience down to a series of ten-minute lessons covering everything you need to know to be successful. You can learn more about it atvosburghphoto.com.

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Last week we published a post about finding your own photographic style. As a follow up to that, I reached out to a favorite photographer of mine name, Kristi Sutton Elias, who was kind enough to share some of her personal opinions on the subject. Kristi is one of my favorite photographers because her work embodies a very strong personal style that is artistic, distinct, and incredibly memorable. Kristi’s amazing work has earned her a litany of awards and recognition over the years, such as:

  • “International Photographer of the Year” - Professional Photographers of America- 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

  • “California Photographer of the Year Award" - 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 PPA

  • "Photographic Artist Photographer of the Year Award " - 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

  • "Portrait Photographer of the Year Award" - 2014, 2015

  • "Illustration Photographer of the Year Award" - 2014

  • "Child Photographer of the Year Award" - 2014

  • "Judge's Choice Award" - PPA

A full list can be found on Kristi’s website.

How did you develop your style and continue to do so?

I create the worlds that attract me and visually I want to live in. Creative editing in Photoshop has been a big part of defining my style. I continue to try to refine my style with every session by upping my game in styling, propping, dramatic posing and editing.

My dramatic lighting choice, is also a big part of my style. I spent years learning how to light anyone and everything. I started to notice the images that I favored most, had a dramatic, directional light source. Now that same lighting style has become consistent throughout my work and helped to define my style.

Where does your vision and/or your inspiration come from?

A lot of my inspiration comes from what I am attracted to. I do not see in high key palettes, nor do I create with them. I am intrigued by low light paintings and scenes. When I enter a museum or gallery, I beeline to the darkest piece in the room. That is home to me. Where others see darkness, I see light. There is a richness of color, and warmth that can be seen throughout even the darkest of paintings. I am always looking for the stories and detail that can be found or hidden in the shadows and darkness.

No matter the medium, I create what I crave. I am drawn to art that is timeless, stoic, and drenched in a chiaroscuro palette. I strive to create stare-able portraits. A portrait capable of swallowing the observer. Each observer, on a different journey, unearthing their own story in the subtleties. I am constantly evolving, discovering how to be the best storyteller I can.

Movies are a great inspiration for me. I like anything by Marvel comics and fighting action movies. Not only do I find the story line entertaining but, the lighting, color palette and composition burns little visual memories in my mind that later I pull from for creative inspiration.

How has developing such a strong style benefited you or held you back?

My style is not for everyone, nor do I want everyone to be my client. I have developed a sought after niche that clients will not only pay for but travel from different states and countries for.

However I will only create in my low key chiaroscuro style, so I do turn away potential clients who are looking for high key portraits. I recommend other photographers who create in the style they are looking for.  It’s not that I can’t create in high-key, I simply don't want to. Holding true to my style and vision has tightened up my work and portfolio.

Any advice for other photogs who are struggling to find a voice?

I get asked, “How do you create a unique style?”, my answer is simple, “Leave behind any thoughts of acceptance. Create what you crave.”. Do not worry about what others are creating or what others think about what you are creating. You will never please everyone, so work on creating what amazes you!  You are the only one who can create what is in your head.

Spend your time shooting and editing instead of looking at other photographers work. What goes in must come out! If you spend your time looking at others work, your work will look more like theirs.

And any other thoughts or feelings you may have on the topic.

I highly recommend doing your own editing. If you want to create a unique style, editing is a big part of that. Just like anything else in life the more you practice the better you will become. Experiment, try new things just to see what will happen. A lot of my success in editing is from experimenting. Fail, a lot, for if you are not failing, you are not trying new things. Some of my greatest pieces started with an epic fail. Embrace happy accidents and write down the steps on how to recreate them.

Write down your ideas, you might think you can remember them, but you will forget. One simple idea, built upon, can become a Masterpiece.

“For the Art that we do not create, no one will.”

All images are the copyright of Kristi Sutton Elias.

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