Let’s start with the basic meaning of the word ‘style’:
Essential Meaning of style
1: a particular way in which something is done, created, or performed
I don’t like the flowery style of his writing.
She has a unique style of singing.
2: a particular form or design of something
The car is available in several different styles.
a new dress style
Merriam-Webster (PUT THE REF IN)
Both of these simple definitions are relevant to your photography. Whether you take a quick snap or spend time styling a beautiful flatlay, you are making a decision about how to take it, where the focus should be and what’s in the background. As you do this, you are also reflecting your personal choices and preferences – for example, you might be taking a photo at a cafe on holiday, which reflects your choices in travel, how you spend your time and what you like to drink. This is a reflection of you and no-one else, and it tells a story about you.
I used to think that the idea of storytelling through photos (or even Instagram as a whole) was a bit cheesy, but now I believe that storytelling is actually the key to it all. On a personal level, you can tell your story through a series of photos (or even just one photo) and use it to document who you are at a particular moment in time. I love to capture really small moments with my little ones – collecting conkers in autumn and remembering the joy of finding the really shiny ones, taking photos of their hands close up as they create and make a big mess, or photos of them walking ahead of my which make me wonder what they are thinking at that particular moment in time. These are stories that can be captured through your photography, and if you focus on that it can really change how you take them.
With my business hat on, my photography style helps me to really show my customers and potential customers who I am – my Instagram grid is a mix of personal things (only ever publicly post what you’re comfortable sharing) and work and creative things. All of this comes together to show who I am as a person and how that’s reflected in what I do. Finding my style and thinking about storytelling has enabled me to take photos and not worry about continuity so much, because it happens automatically. I don’t worry about a content plan (sorry, marketing friends!) because I know that my colourful style will work whatever I post on Instagram.
Let me show you what I mean with this example:
This photo was taken to update the main photo for a recipe on my blog (it’s these breakfast bars, if you’re interested!). If we look at it from a storytelling point of view, you can see a breakfast scene (or possibly a mid-morning snack). The magazine and cup of tea suggests time to relax and enjoy some time to yourself – and people can relate to this, as it’s something we all like to do and often wish we had more time for.
Although it looks like a table, the background is actually some wrapping paper (I’ll cover this more in a later module), and the pink on the magazine compliments it. In fact all of props compliment each other – the tin with more breakfast bars, a white plate that matches the tin. The blue of my sleeve is also highlighted in the tin, which wasn’t planned AT all, but you can see how tiny pops of colour bring it all together! As we’ll see later, you need to make sure that props are working together and not distracting from the main subject. Most of this was unintentional at the time, but being aware of what works can really help you to style your photos and focus on storytelling.
The funny thing about this photo for me is that it was actually taken during nap time when our little girl was a few months old. That’s one of my breastfeeding tops that I’m wearing, and I definitely didn’t have lots of time to enjoy a leisurely cuppa 😂 I didn’t buy any props, I just used our favourite biscuit tin and a nice mug. Make use of what you have already – you don’t need to spend a fortune!