Defining and cultivating photographic style is a "long term" endeavor. Samuel Elkins shares his personal journey through this process.
Samuel Elkins is a lifestyle and portrait photographer based in Los Angeles, California. His passion for photography began with the purchase of his first camera, which was in his iPhone, while he was living in Washington state. Living in Washington, he was very much inspired by the wonders of the natural world around him and gravitated to landscape images. He confesses that his early work isn’t his favorite, in hindsight.
But you don’t really know that at the time. Photography is such like an ‘in the moment’ kind of thing.
Style is something, he continues, that isn’t so much cultivated looking forward, but rather shooting and then looking back at what you have done. You have to keep shooting and over time, look back at what you have created. It’s less about an individual image, or even an individual shoot, but rather about how all these images fit into your body of work.
As he began to move across the U.S., he shifted his focuses to creating portraits. Only when he moved to L.A. did he challenge himself and explored different styles until arriving at images that are clean and timeless. It’s very important to try new styles until you find one which works for you creatively; sometimes what is popular or works for other reasons may not inspire you creatively, in which case it is completely alright to try something different. Elkins also states that style is genre antagonistic; it’s not so much about shoot products or landscapes or people, but rather having a singular approach to whatever you photograph.
Often times I find that the stuff I love the most isn’t’ received the best on the internet or social media. It’s funny how that works. You know, the stuff that you are most proud of or the stuff you put the most effort into. It’s not usually what does well on the internet these days.
Despite this, I’d agree with Elkins that it’s paramount to find and cultivate your own voice. It’s infinitely more rewarding to be an original you. Originality, freedom, sincerity, and experimentation: are all romantic ideals of a traditional artist, and are things that we should all strive for.