Chapter 1: Finding Your Style
Finding a photographic style and aesthetic takes time, and it will inevitably change over time too. A change of style may come abruptly as you intentionally pursue a new type of client that you feel drawn to, or switch to a completely new preset in your editing. But it is more likely that your style will slowly and gradually morph as you learn new things and incorporate them into your work, or you see something that inspires you immensely and becomes a permanent influence on how you capture or approach what you do.
A great way to "define" your style to the extent that is possible, is to create a mood board of objects, images, colours, art, people, books you love (nothing wedding related, or if you must, keep it to a minumum). It is worth noting that just because you LOVE or admire a certain style of photography it doesn't mean that that is your style. Your style of photography will eventually prove itself to be incredibly natural. It is what you are always drawn to, what you keep returning to and shooting again and again. When you see a photo you love, don't just stop there, really examine WHY you love it: the use of light and shadow, the couple's body language, the surroundings, the mood (quiet and intimate, powerful, fun etc). Figure out all those small elements of your attraction.
Consider how much or how little you like to insert yourself and your energy into the photos you take. If you are naturally a very quiet person it may be difficult to create high energy expressive photos, but one of your strengths may be to create a truly intimate space for your clients to feel safe to reveal their tender side in front of the camera.
And of course none of us are ever just one thing. You can choose to challenge yourself and train yourself to express a different side when you are working than the side you normally rest in in your everyday and with those closest to you. Being a wedding photographer forced me to shed some skin and develop a new side of myself in order to bring the interactions I wanted to capture out of the people in front of my camera. Although I am naturally withdrawn and shy, I taught myself to make the first move in conversation, to look them in the eye and put out my hand first or to hug strangers and make them feel welcome and like we've known eachother for years even though we've never met in person until 10 minutes before their elopement ceremony is about to start. I made sure that they felt my excitement!! about doing this shoot with them.
You may feel insecure or scared even before a shoot. I hear so many new photographers almost going into a coma when they suddenly can't think of anything to do or shoot or tell their clients during a portrait session. Until guiding your clients just feel like second nature to you, spend some time the day before to think of ideas in advance, sketch them out, or make a list of cues, so you have something to work off of if your mind goes blank as you start the shoot. This way even if many parts of the day for one reason or another don't go as planned, you will at least come home with 3 or 4 photos that will help drive your portfolio forward and thus attract more clients who want the same kind of photos that you love creating. You don't have to worry that it seems unprofessional to stop for 10 seconds to consult your notes. Being thorough and considerate about your work is never unprofessional. Just make sure you have an actual piece of paper in your pocket, don't use your phone. Looking at your phone during a shoot could risk coming off as unprofessional, and it could seem like you are looking at others' photos online to copy them.