Style. Some photographers have it, others don’t, many people don’t even know what style is and in photography ask five professionals and chances are you’ll get five different definitions about the word style itself. Established style however is a key ingredient that will identify a professional photographer from their colleagues and subordinate beginners.

Personally I define photographic style as the following:

Photographic style is a consistent, identifiable quality in a visual body of work that portrays the artistic personality of the photographer and the life-influenced reflection of what the photographer saw and felt during that depiction of time.

Normally photographic style is associated with those that have made it as the leaders in specific genres of photography. When one sees Playboy style images, few know that Ken Marcus influenced that style, though today it’s more associated with the current number one contract photographer for Playboy, Arny Freytag, Marcus’ former assistant.

Another photographer, Bruce Weber, noted for his regular contributions to Vanity Fair used his style of photography to help propel ad campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch while taking fashion and editorial photography to a sexier level. Weber will always be associated for his “chiseled,” youthful, erotic and sexy styled images made famous by Calvin Klein campaigns of young, “white-men” clad in underwear—a style often coined as “homoeroticism” and easily identified through the consistent, memoir-feeling black and white photos.

Like all photographers who’ve built their name, Robert Farber is no different with his painterly style. While Farber is known more for his commercial and nude work, his style was still evident in his latest book, American Mood, yet the inanimate subject matter of the landscape of America was brought to life though Farber’s style.

Annie Leibovitz raised eyebrows when she posed nude for Vanity Fair, 8-months pregnant, à la Demi Moore, a photograph representing Leibovitz’s photographic style, yet she was the subject in that image. Her style is identifiable that seems to come from the close collaboration between her and her subjects.

What many photographers don’t realize is that Leibovitz’s style primarily evolved from her work as the top photographer at Rolling Stone during the infancy of the magazine. Leibovitz credits the development of her style through the close and romantic relationship she held with Susan Sontag, a noted writer and essayist, who mentored Leibovitz with constructive criticism. Sontag once told Leibovitz, “You’re good, but you could be better.”

Ultimately style is something most photographers strive for but don’t know how to achieve it and those that have it are sometimes stereotyped into one genre of photography. All photographers passionate about their craft should set a goal to achieve their own style. Consider it as the ultimate becoming of a professional, the manhood of photography.

When a photographer’s work is consistently identifiable and often emulated by others, then it’s said that photographer has fully developed their style. Until then, photographers follow a path searching for their style and it’s often found through emulation of others, workshops, experience and ultimately life’s influences—though once found, a photographer is no longer just a photographer, this is the step in actually becoming a professional. Thanks, rg sends!

Every man’s work is always a portrait of himself. 
Ansel Adams, Carmel, California, 1979