Sunday night during dance practice, our instructor Cory forced everyone to stop dancing. Then she said "I want you all to remove the styling, and I ONLY want to see your footwork." It was so frustrating, challenging, and probably the best exercise she made us do. She then said, "if you begin to draw attention with your styling to cover up your footwork, you're not making yourself a better dancer."
DEEP! Seriously! Do we exaggerate something to draw attention away from the foundation of our work?
I have rewritten this thought. Over. And. Over. I hope y'all can understand what I'm trying to say. There is a) your technical foundation (understanding the technical aspect of photography and b) your personal style (how you use light, your composition, your editing ... opening PANDORA'S BOX here!).
So how do we challenge that?
Find where in your work you can push yourself. What might make you uncomfortable, but you can still hold on to your style? This could mean location change, new posing, or maybe using manual focus. Then ask yourself, "I changed ______ and _____, but what stayed consistent in my work?"
My challenge was to test a little bit of both. Hannah (model and photographer) and I met, planned our concept, and shot within 5 days of our coffee talk (I'll share that session later ;). Stepping out of my comfort zone (for me) was with the first look Hannah and I did. Goodbye soft, romantic, gentle styling. My posing and composition were tested -- I pushed for rawness... more hardness. And for foundation, I decided to use manual focus (moments at a time). What stayed the same? My intimate composition and details. This is how I always, always, always shoot. Yesterday's shoot affirmed it, despite a change in environment or styled look.
So stop for a second and go back to the basics. Find at least one thing to pull you out of your comfort zone. Pick a model/friend who you can be vulnerable with to let them know you want to try something different. This is not to change your style, but in fact it's to discover/affirm WHERE your foundation and style are. When Cory asked us to stop styling with our hands and arms -- it completely exposed our foundation: our footwork. Styling is the creative, more personalized part (that we all LOVE) -- the branding ... and will only be more thrilling when your foundation is strengthened.
My next challenge is creative location shots during a session. I love people and intimate details, so I tend to zone in on that & forget the buildings. Or an entire portrait session on manual focus. Test subject anyone? ;) What's challenging for you?