Tyler’s Tips Episode 23: Find Your Voice


Welcome to Tyler’s Tips. Today, I’m going to talk about finding your voice.

So as photographers we are often told, especially when we’re emerging and we’re learning this craft to find your voice. And that sounds wonderfully romantic. It sounds awesome. It sounds cool and to me, it always sounded really intimidating and anxiety-provoking because even when I’d been shooting for a long time and I had an established photography business, I would look at my own work and I couldn’t see a voice there. I couldn’t see it.

And honestly, it really affected my confidence and my ability to say, yeah, I’m a commercial creative. I’m an artist. This is what I do. Because I couldn’t see it.

And what I’ve come to realize, and this is why I wanted to share this story with you, hopefully to allow you to jump over some of the time I spent wallowing in a bad place with this, is that what I’ve done over the years is I’ve taken photos, I’ve created photos that feel right to me.

That’s been a really guiding force in my photography. That’s what I put in my portfolios. It’s what I send to my clients. It’s the photos I keep when I shoot photos of my family. They just feel right. That’s what at the end of the day makes a photo pass or fail, in my mind, of my photos. That’s it.

Upon reflection or over the years of kind of thinking about this, I have come to realize that that actually is my voice. As obvious as that sounds, saying that out loud, I could not see that. And I think the reason I couldn’t see it is because I was looking at my photos and they just look right to me. It doesn’t look like there’s any pattern. It doesn’t look like there’s any intention to me, to make them be a certain way so that they all look the same.

That’s not the way I’ve approached it. While I’ve come to realize I did and I do have a strong voice, it was invisible to me and so I wanted to share that story with you in the hopes that it gives you a little bit of a different perspective when you’re looking at your work and I also want to share with you a technique that I used a couple of years ago that really helped coalesce this idea of voice for me and quantify it, which was really important to me.

So you’re like, specifically what are we talking about here? And the technique is I went through all my photos and when I say all, I don’t mean like all whatever, how many hundreds of thousands of photos, but all of my favorite photos. So you know, I probably went through 5,000 photos and I picked my top 100 and I’m talking about all of them.

I went back to looking at photos I shot when I was a teenager and I pulled my favorite 100 photos and I looked at them and I looked at this collection of photos and I looked for patterns and this was just my favorite photos, just very personally that I’d taken not photos that clients have said they loved or that got the most likes on social media, just for me. What do I like?

And there actually were a lot of patterns to find in that collection of photos and looking at those patterns and seeing things like the very kind of a consistent look in terms of the light. Like I realized, you know, I can play around with that light and I can experiment with that one and I will. I will always continue to do that, but boy, when I land on these certain types of light, it’s like coming home. It feels so good.

And so now I know that that’s a good place to start because I’m going to wind up there half the time anyways. And certain types of compositional elements just make me happy when I create those. And part of that is voice and part of that also is just the way I see the world. There’s a very fine line, I think, between being intentional about this and being very organic about it.

But anyways, I hope that idea is useful. If you’re struggling to quantify or define your voice or if you think maybe you don’t even have one, take a different look. Take a closer look. Collect some images, maybe 100. Get maybe 500. Could be 20. Whatever you want.

But look for patterns and you might find that you actually do have a really strong voice. You just couldn’t see it.

So, there you are. Tyler’s tip for the day. Maybe your voice is strong and you’re the only one who can’t hear it because you’re the one talking. There you go.

All right, well I hope this was useful. Thank you for your time as always. And if you have any questions or ideas that you’d like me to discuss in a future Tyler’s Tips episode, please drop me a line and I’ll work it in. Until next time.