Photographic genre More or less?

So, the question is, do I concentrate on just one or two different styles or carry on with a larger range of genre?

This has been, not only a personal question recently, but it crops up in discussions frequently. There are good reasons to go in either direction and can be both personal or have a bearing on your photographic career.

To start with, my own situation is probably similar to many photographers and artists out there, which is: on analysis of my work, I have a wide range of image subjects and styles of photography. This is on-going and I think that there are definite advantages to this 'approach'. I've put quotes around the word as, in my case, this isn't something that I've consciously aimed for. It has evolved throughout my career and has probably increased in its diversity over that time.

I believe that the diverse nature of my own work is partly to do with a somewhat obsessional interest in looking at images on Instagram and Behance. When I'm not making images myself I'm looking at the work of others. I find so much inspiration in other artists' work that it isn't a hardship at all ploughing through creative photography and art on the internet!

Browsing the 'net is one reason I'm interested in different genres, while the subject matter is another for me. I'm interested in many different subjects from industrial heritage to steampunk and many in between. Each subject seems to warrant a different approach to image making and hence, the different styles and general mish-mash of my portfolio.

Now, is this all bad? It could be detrimental to a photographers' work in that there's no definite direction; that is, jumping to different subjects and styles doesn't lend itself to a cohesive body of work.

So I don't have one of two styles. So what? Well, showing a vast range of styles and genre tends to confuse an audience; people like familiarity and one gets noticed when your work has a defined style and subject matter. That's not to say you have to be stuck to just one area, but it certainly helps cement the viewers' opinion of your work as a whole.

Are there advantages to pursuing a multi-styled selection of styles and subjects? Well, I think there is. One advantage would be the personal interest in exploring different subjects. Being multi-dimensional as a person is generally considered a good thing. Styles may be different to match their subjects but they can cross over and inform each other. I may use light painting, for example, with a still-life but wonder how that may look with a portrait. It may or may not work of course, but playing (experimenting) with different techniques is a good thing when building a repertoire of technical and creative skills.

But, here's the thing, the two viewpoints conflict. One says you will confuse your audience and possibly put them off viewing your work, whilst the other suggests you may stagnate if you just hammer away with a limited genre / style.

So, should we attempt to combine the two somehow? Well, I think it may be possible by simply not showing all your work. Pick an area to highlight what you want your audience to see and know you for and continue with your other photographic interests behind the scenes, in secret, so to speak. At least that way you will satisfy both camps.

I think, on balance, it's important to experiment and be allowed to have multiple interests to which you use photography to record. You will find that you're less likely to adopt someone else's style. You may be inspired by them, but you'll likely to develop your own style by combining different techniques, forged for your wide interests in multiple genre.

All images made by me

Created By
Dayve Ward


Photography by Dayve Ward