Why Being Yourself is the Most Important Step in Your Creative ProcessSep 21, 2020
By Craig Turner-Bullock
Have you ever seen a viral dog photography series and wondered how people do it?
Take the recent work of uber-talented Polish dog photographer, Alicja Zmysłowska for example. Her Craving Miracles series sees dogs set in the most breath-taking cinematic landscapes. Her inspiration;
“Dogs settled among the incredible nature of Iceland, Norway and Alaska. I focused on this theme, which I admire the most and which fascinates me the most – water & ice – I looked for places such as waterfalls, glaciers & lakes.”
It’s not the only time Alicja's images have gone viral, with multiple series being seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers. The most important thing in creating these viral worthy images is to be true to yourself and create from your heart.
Images © Alicja Zmyslowska 2019, Used with permission. See more at alicjazmyslowska.pl
Of course, having images go viral isn’t the only purpose of finding your own creative style. It directly contributes to success in whatever area you pursue, whether that’s shooting for private or commercial clients, being a social media influencer or just working on your own personal work for fun.
So why am I telling you this?
I’ve seen it a hundred times or more, photographers are inspired by an idea they have seen another photographer doing. That’s great right, to be inspired by our colleagues and peers? Not necessarily. All too often it is much easier to copy an idea rather than be inspired by it and use that inspiration to create your own unique work. There is a clear definition between inspiration, homage and plagiarism.
I see people copying the work of well known photographers on an almost daily basis, I’ve seen direct copies of images that have gone viral and I’ve been copied myself, many times. It sucks to have someone copy something you put your heart and soul into. I can no longer count on my fingers and toes the number of times I’ve heard other photographers say “it’s all been done before” or “no idea is original nowadays”.
Let me just say this in response: If no idea was original, explain to me why images go viral? It is for one reason and one reason only, they are images that capture our imagination because we haven’t seen them before. Whether that’s a chance encounter someone was lucky to witness and capture or a carefully curated set of images, that is the reason.
The truth is there are an infinite number of ideas floating around the universe waiting for someone to think of them and bring them to life. You are far more likely to be successful at finding these ideas if they come from within yourself.
I truly believe that as photographers and creatives, we should all be striving to create work that comes from within. Work that makes us feel something, that helps us and those viewing our work connect to our subject, to tell a story or have some emotional impact. Work that is unique, that has our own stamp and only we can produce.
It wasn’t until I stopped trying so hard to be a professional perfectionist and started being myself that my business really took off. At one point I was almost robot like trying to be grammatically correct, to never make a mistake, never show weakness and never say something or be someone that might offend someone else. I was afraid to reveal much about my personal life, especially my sexuality. Over the years I’ve worked on the reasons for this with family and friends, at workshops and with a business coach. Now I’m me, I’m comfortable in my own skin and I do things my way. People can love it or hate it, that’s OK with me. I just put my energy into the ones who love it.
Finally being able to be myself was so freeing, in many ways, across all aspects of my life. What it did for the success of Furtography from a business perspective, it also did for my creative process. I found myself able to put my ideas and feelings fully into my work. To find inspiration in many things, art, nature, books, movies, places, to use it to create images that have an emotional impact, that really capture a dog’s personality and place in the world. It drove the ideas behind the creation of 3 bestselling books, my work with private clients and the growing commercial client base I have. It fuelled ideas for several ongoing personal projects. It allowed me to develop a recognisable style that potential clients now seek.
Some of my own personal favourite images taken recently. See more at Furtography.
Why is this important?
Having work that is instantly recognisable and makes you stand out from the crowd is your best way to achieve your goals. If only you can do what you do, that puts you in a pretty fantastic position for success, in whatever form success looks like for you.
Authenticity in your photography is as important as it is in your personal life. It is far more fulfilling to be successful being who you truly are, than it is by imitating someone else. It’s way more sustainable in the long term as well.
Finding your own style isn’t always easy, it takes work and dedication, it’s often the final piece of the creative puzzle to find its place. It can be found in a matter of days or it might take much, much longer. It might not be a comfortable process, and it is certainly not a fixed thing, style evolves as we do. But every step of the journey is worth it in the end. I am really excited to be able to help other photographers on their style finding journey.
That’s why we created Style Lab Workshop.
Our journeys are all different, we all start somewhere different and we all end somewhere different. The things we have in common as photographers, a shared interest, the process of learning the technical side of using a camera. Striving for a lifestyle that is of our own making, where we can be the best version of ourselves while doing something we love. These things bring us together as a community. Whether you intend to run a photography business, use photography as a creative outlet, as a means to relax from a busy lifestyle or as escapism to get you outdoors more. There is no right or wrong.
In creating Style Lab Retreat the goal was to provide a safe space where other pet photographers could come to develop and refine their own personal style. Free from judgement or fear of failure and build a better community. Where myself and other well-known photographers would be willing to share their knowledge on finding your inner creativity, being authentic and creating work only you can create. As well as how that leads to fulfilment and success.
Images © Charlotte Reeves 2021. See more at Charlotte Reeves Photography.
I’m absolutely thrilled that Charlotte and I have brought Style Lab Retreat to life.
Remember at the start of this post when I talked about Alicja? Well we are incredibly excited that she has joined us as a member of the Style Lab team!
Our first Style Lab Workshop took place in Tasmania in January 2020, just before Covid-19 got crazy, we were very lucky to squeeze it in before borders closed. You can read more about the first Style Lab Workshop here.
The three of us can't wait to be reunited and host this new breed of dog photography workshop again in September 2023, this time in the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland.
Missed out on Style Lab? You can still make a start on finding your true "you" by taking our Find Your Style course, available now!
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