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Thread: Do you have a signature?

  1. #1
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    Do you have a signature?

    Do you have a signature?

    I refer not to the blurb at the bottom of your posts which lists your name, Web site and camera brand of choice, but rather, to a stylistic or thematic element inherent in many (or all) of your images.

    What got me thinking about signature is the comment someone left elsewhere on one of my seascape images.

    The commentator told me that he loved the mood I captured, and that he believes it is a signature of my landscape images.

    So what is a signature?

    A signature element could be represented by any one or a combination of the following elements:

    • composition (let's ignore the basic rule of thirds for this discussion);
    • colour saturation or lack thereof;
    • aspect ratio (eg, you shoot 3:1 panos exclusively);
    • some particular subject matter (rock, teapot, old chair, etc.);
    • post-processing techniques which achieve a certain 'look';
    • use of vignetting; and
    • use of extreme darkness or lightness.

    There could be even more types of signature elements.

    More importantly than aesthetic elements, is there a theme or pervasive message in your images?

    What about your images would cause people to recognise the photographer from the image alone, and say "Oh, that looks like a <name>."?

    Looking at my own images, here's what I can offer about them in terms of signature:

    1. Firstly, I am very fussy about light. It needs to be golden, blue, stormy or bleak.
    2. I like a lot of contrast and colour saturation in my 'scapes, but not too much colour to the point of excessive saturation, though.
    3. My seascapes often capture either movement (cascading water) or at the opposite end of that scale, the complete lack of water movement.
    4. I like wide vistas for 'scapes, and tight crops for portraits.
    5. In my portraits, I tend to almost always shoot at quirky angles. Straight-up head-and-shoulders shots don't often do it for me, so I like to skew the camera's angle for some dynamism.
    6. In my post-processing, I use a lot of selective processing techniques to enhance contrast, colour, texture, darkness and lightness.


    I'd be interested in hearing what people recognise (or have been told) to be signature elements in their own work. Naturally, I'd like to see some images which illustrate these signature elements.

    Perhaps many people have not consciously thought about the existence of signature elements in their images, so if nothing else, hopefully this line of discussion will conjure some self-analysis of one's collection of work, to see if there is a consistent and perhaps recognisable signature present.

  2. #2
    As Keen As Mustard NikonNellie's Avatar
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    Members have often told me they can pick my images in the comps as I have a certain style - maybe they are more aware of my signature then me as I don't think I really have one.
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    Yes, according to wedding and commercial clients, my style or 'signature' is unique and is very noticeable. However, its hard for me to judge my own work and its best left to others.

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    I would have to say high contrast and graphic images arew my signature style. I shoot plenty more that isnt anything like that, but if some one said - best photos you ever took, work or not.. they would be the ones.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NikonNellie View Post
    Members have often told me they can pick my images in the comps as I have a certain style - maybe they are more aware of my signature then me as I don't think I really have one.
    I think it would be worthwhile for you to understand what it is about your images which causes people to think "Oh, that's a NikonNellie".

    If you have a certain signature, it's firstly a good thing, as it's something that makes your work recognisable. I think it's important to be aware of what you do and where/how/why it works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    Yes, according to wedding and commercial clients, my style or 'signature' is unique and is very noticeable. However, its hard for me to judge my own work and its best left to others.
    Your signature isn't really something you need to judge as such; but I think it's important to understand the signature(s) you have in your work, and in your case, operating as a commercial/wedding photographer, it may be what gets you the gig instead of the next guy.

    I'd imagine a lot of portrait and wedding photographers have a signature, and this quality of their work is what people know and want.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xenedis View Post
    Your signature isn't really something you need to judge as such; but I think it's important to understand the signature(s) you have in your work, and in your case, operating as a commercial/wedding photographer, it may be what gets you the gig instead of the next guy.

    I'd imagine a lot of portrait and wedding photographers have a signature, and this quality of their work is what people know and want.
    In Adelaide and Australia alone, I can mix a bunch of photos together, and instantly be able to tell who shot what based on their distinct style and processing, in the wedding and fashion world.

    You can also tell a Ken Duncan one from the crowd easily too hehe

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    Yeah, usually dark/moody, probably borderline melancholic and often featuring an abundance of blue.
    - oh you mean the photography??
    Ah yeah, umm - same.
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    It's in my metadata
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Sometimes!.. I often take photos that suit a style I like and process them in the way I like, however, I also still like to experiment quite a bit and will get outside my own comfort zone with my PP and learn new techniques for processing that take me away from by style. I think having a style is great, but you also have to not rely on it to heavily (unless requested by a client), cause the 'public' can be fickle and by this time next year they might be onto some concept from a photographer from overseas that becomes the 'next big thing' and you start getting requests to shoot in that style. This is more important as a portrait artist, than say a landscaper.

    I commend those like Jackie that have a style that makes their work instantly identifiable, but also think that occasionally breaking your own mould is good, even if just for personal satisfaction of learning a new PP style, and no-one ever sees the actual result, except yourself.
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    I don't think I have a signiture, as I try for something different all the time. I'm still learning, so my processing skills change all the time.
    If Rick or Dylan put in a portrait, I'd be well and truly stumped. Or if I @ M put in a landscape I'd be amazed.
    I couldn't tell the difference between your images (Xenedis) and that of Williams. There are a few others that have the same style.
    Others you can pick by the genre, and others by how they present the image.
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    Dunno about my own signature but I reckon I can pick Marianne (my wife's) quite well.
    She loves the strong foreground subject leaning into a background with a curve of some sort to a background object of interest that is diminished by the wide angle focal lengths she tends to use.
    When I'm at a spot and she's not been able to make it there - I even try to take a 'Marianne' type of image.
    I reckon I can tell Bill's landscapes, John's landscapes, Arthur's landscapes,Jackie's and Paul's wedding images (to name a few) in this forum - it's always fun clicking on the big reveal at every week's competition end to see if my guesses were correct!
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    I have a slightly different perspective on the 'signature' concept. I did a 365 project last year and received a lot of (positive) feedback about my 'style' and the fact that people could apparently pick my shots out of a lineup. I spent quite a bit of time reviewing my images and started to see what others were referring to - simplicity of composition and use of negative space was the key feature to many of my images. While the comments I received were complimentary, I started to feel a bit uneasy about being a one-trick pony. So yes, I think I was developing a 'signature' or 'style', but I don't think it was a very good signature to have. I think I developed that style simply because it was easy and felt comfortable. I just wasn't being creative enough (and if I'm honest, I think I knew that at the time).

    This year I have been focusing on stepping away from that simplistic approach and pushing myself to try new genres, use more creative lighting and develop my PP skills. There are so many aspects of my photography that I need to improve and it's going to take some time. I'll let you know in a few more years if I've developed another style. Hopefully, if I do, it will be one worth having.

    Oh, and just to be clear, I'm not saying that other people's signature styles are the result of creative apathy like mine was - quite the opposite in fact. There are some incredibly talented photographers here who have developed a style of their own for all the right reasons.
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    I find my style hard to really quantify, but I think most people who have hung around here would know my images if they saw them (not that I post in huge volume). Why exactly that is, perhaps its my mentality to creep away from the rules and explore how to really play with the viewers mind...I don't really post that many where I don't work on this concept so I guess this makes it somewhat of a signature...I just don't like the normal. This probably means I fit into a whole bunch of the sort of things to look for as I don't necessary break with just one technique. There are probably other aspects that give it away but I leave that to others to establish...I think my storm shots probably stand me out a little. I would say my wedding images don't quite have that signature stand out, but it takes time to develop).

    Dylan. I believe I could pick one of your shots a mile away. There is a surreal and ethereal quality to many of them, that sort of impossible landscape and they stand out in terms of their processing, balanced but leaning towards the level of saturation. Jackie and Paul as Dylan said definitely stand out in their own ways, Jackie trending more towards the fashion end while Paul to me is more of a beauty photographer/classic wedding photographer. I reckon I could generally pick a Xenedis or a Ricktas as well...you guys while trying different things do seem to drift towards a similar feel to your photos. An I@M portrait is fairly easy to pick as well...its just different. Arthur's landscapes also get me noticing a particular feel, but for most I don't get such a feel, I wonder whether perhaps its a case of the more experienced photographers trending further down that stylised path as they go and hence becoming more distinctive? (Please note If I haven't mentioned you its not a slight, I just haven't seen enough of your images to really establish whether you have one).
    Last edited by Xebadir; 18-07-2011 at 11:00am.
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    nup, i dont have a signature... well not that i am aware of.

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    My "photo signature" include:
    -Poor composition,
    -underexposed,
    -out of focus,
    -slight lean to the right,
    -uninteresting subject matter.

    Mark


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    Quote Originally Posted by mpb View Post
    My "photo signature" include:
    -Poor composition,
    -underexposed,
    -out of focus,
    -slight lean to the right,
    -uninteresting subject matter.

    Wow you and I share the same things!
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpb View Post
    My "photo signature" include:
    -Poor composition,
    -underexposed,
    -out of focus,
    -slight lean to the right,
    -uninteresting subject matter.

    And that is ART!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    Sometimes!.. I often take photos that suit a style I like and process them in the way I like, however, I also still like to experiment quite a bit and will get outside my own comfort zone with my PP and learn new techniques for processing that take me away from by style.
    Absolutely. It's something that can evolve over time.

    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    I think having a style is great, but you also have to not rely on it to heavily (unless requested by a client), cause the 'public' can be fickle and by this time next year they might be onto some concept from a photographer from overseas that becomes the 'next big thing' and you start getting requests to shoot in that style. This is more important as a portrait artist, than say a landscaper.
    Definitely in that arena.

    One's signature is perhaps not something onto which one must staunchly hold. Mine evolved over time, and I've found by looking at my work that it has certain stylistic elements that could quite easily constitute a signature.

    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    I commend those like Jackie that have a style that makes their work instantly identifiable, but also think that occasionally breaking your own mould is good, even if just for personal satisfaction of learning a new PP style, and no-one ever sees the actual result, except yourself.
    Post-processing, for me, is an ever-evolving set of techniques. I've delivered presentations in the camera club arena on post-processing, and have also started showing one of my shutterbug mates the techniques I use.

    I've learned more about post-processing in the past two or three years, to the point where it's had a significant impact on how my images look. It's spawned a sort of signature (in terms of the look achieved by post-processing; eg, high contrast, vignetting, rich textures, etc.).

    As time moves forward, I'll find new and exciting (to me) ways of doing things. I only delved into HDR processing this year, and have so far had very pleasing results; it's something I'll continue to do, and it's yet another tool in an arsenal which, for me, goes towards the result of my final image.

    As I see it, styles, signatures, etc., can be fluid.

    Certainly there's a certain something about the images of a number of people here, whereby one can recognise the photographer by the look of the image.

    That's a great thing to have consciously or sub-consciously achieved, but as you say, deviating from your signature can be, and is, a good thing.

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    I commend those like Jackie that have a style that makes their work instantly identifiable, but also think that occasionally breaking your own mould is good, even if just for personal satisfaction of learning a new PP style, and no-one ever sees the actual result, except yourself.
    I agree with your comment about break the mold part

    I think any decent photographer should always seek to evolve and improve upon their skills and style, even if you are good at something already. If one takes a look at my 3 wedding albums from 2011, 2010, and 2009 - you can see a shift in the vision, post processing and overall feel of the photos - as I get better and better and seek to push the boundaries more - if and when possible.

    The worst thing I can think of is when a photographer gets into a comfort zone and produces the same things over and over again, ie. same poses, same directions, same PP etc for years down the track. IMO it is good to refresh and show your diversity every now and then.

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