This article is a guest post series from IFB Contributor, Monica Murgia.
Pursuing a career in a creative field is both rewarding and challenging. There is nothing quite like the feeling of putting together the perfect outfit, styling a great editorial, and taking a beautiful photograph. You have the talent. You have the ambition. But how do you differentiate yourself in an almost endless sea of other visionaries?
Answering these questions is an ongoing process, and ones that you should revisit throughout your career. Every brand has to be attentive to the pulse of their message. This includes you. Defining vision and brand identity was the main focus of a course I taught at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). Regardless of your message, photography is critical in documenting and distributing your brand as a fashion blogger. Here are some key takeaways from my course that will help develop your brand identity through photography.
What Are Your Style Signatures?
Are you able to easily describe your style in words? Photography captures the feelings and atmosphere that are indescribable in language. However, having a robust vocabulary will aid your creative process. Having this talent can help you network with other creative professionals, brands, and customers. A well-crafted message can land you an interview, an opportunity, or a sale.
These chances to collaborate come up often. However, the timeframe to act is usually short. Collaboration is also necessary to have an accurate gauge of how unique you are in comparison to others. Collaboration requires succinct communication to be successful. Be prepared by having a concise message about your vision and who you are.
Something else also happens with the development of vocabulary for self-expression. It impacts the creative process across media. There will be an improvement to how you style and photograph editorials. Your work will have new and interesting compositions. The confidence you gain from feeling understood will change the way you see everything.
These changes are real, and documented in neuroscience. New experiences and growth alter the structure of the brain. New pathways are built in different regions of the brain to store and recall learning through memories. These new pathways can be used to think more creatively.
Language is that powerful.
When teaching, I have students keep a weekly journal. I ask specific questions, adapted from the book Fashion Now, and allow them to free write. How would you answer them?
- What is the most important lesson you have learned?
- How have your experiences affected your work as a creative professional?
- What are your design signatures? Please give examples of themes and elements that continually show up in your work.
- What is most important to you, the process or the product? Why?
- How would you describe your work?
- What inspires you?
- Is being creative difficult for you? If so, what drives you to keep going?
- Who do you have in mind when you design? Do you have a muse or ideal client?
- Is the idea of creative collaboration important to you?
- Who is your favorite designer/editor/photographer? Why?
What is Your Vision and Flexibility?
Each photoshoot should have a clear theme. Sort out ideas in a sketchbook. Research other imagery based on this theme – and don’t limit yourself to photography. Go to museums. Watch movies. Listen to music. Walk in different neighborhoods. Explore the world around you – and keep your camera handy. The right location and opportunity sometimes magically appears.
When I redesigned my website, I wanted some photos that captured what I’m like in my personal life. When I went on a beach trip with friends, I found the ideal location. The photo shows how happy and natural I feel in a creative environment.
(Photo credit: Carlos A. Garcia)
Thoroughly developing a concept cuts prep time in half. It simplifies selecting accessories and props. It also aids in selecting a location (which we will talk about in this photography series).
However, don’t be too rigid while shooting – especially when shooting on location. Often times, the exact idea doesn’t translate well in reality. Experiment with variations on your theme. Try a different camera angle, filter, or pose. Relax. Have fun and work with in the environment as it is. Keep an open mind and trust your eye.
It’s important to be spontaneous and flexible with the results. One of the most interesting shoots I participated in was one that went awry. One of my colleagues is a portrait artists. We were on location by a river, creating study images for a historically-themed painting. As time passed, I was so inspired by the natural lighting and water that I styled some of the clothes and fabrics to make myself look like a mermaid. The photos have so much whimsy and playfulness – which is a large part of my work.
(Photo credit: Glenn Harrington)
Be a Discerning Editor
Take as many photos as you need to get the perfect shot. Then, step away from the project and revisit the images a few days later. Distance helps to sort out the best shots. Make sure each of the photos aligns with the concept of shoot and reflect your message. Acknowledge when something isn’t working quite right.
Fix or cut the images that don’t make you excited. Your message has to be clear, and if you don’t love it isn’t furthering your brand. Cutting down to only the essentials gets easier with practice. Having difficulty? Ask a trusted friend if the shots you took reflect your message.
Acknowledging the Past and Future
No brand is static, including yours. You will change. You will grow. Your style will evolve. That's the way progress occurs. Keeping track of your work is important to your growth and development. It gives you a clear indication of how far you’ve gone on the journey.
Make an archive of your accomplishments by organizing and saving projects. Keep backup copies of your digital work. Over time, an archive will clearly illustrate the major elements of your style.
Another benefit of an archive is that it contributes to future endeavors. The more organized you are, the easier you can use your past to inspire your future. Some content can be reused or revamped several months or years later. Review your archive periodically. Refresh your digital presence to reflect where you are now while illustrating where you’ve been.
Being honest and authentic about the process garners relationships that will follow you through your career. That’s an identity worth developing!
*For more information on Monica, visit her website here: Monica Murgia.