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Creating a Signature Look in Photography

May 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

In this blog, I talk about creating a signature look within photography and why you should have your own personal style. 
 

montage of images of female modelsCreating a signature look in photographyCreating a signature look in photography

 

Welcome to Part Two of my bumper issue blog If you missed Part One then click the link below.

Click HERE to read Part One Daredevil Stunt Riding and My Teenage Years.

 

Creating My Style of Photography and a Signature Look

What is a signature look and why do I need one? Your signature look is the flagship look of your own personal style, it is what makes your work recognisably, yours, a style which will set you apart from other photographers.

 

Some photographers use colour gels to create their look, others process their images using custom presets to define their personal style, while for others, it's a technique they have created within the camera defined by how they use the camera settings, for example; highlighted areas, dark and moody shadows, slow shutter speeds to create movement and so on. Being unique and recognised as a photographer can be difficult as I'm sure you would agree. It took me two to three years of experimenting with techniques, retouching and lighting to produce images I felt had a style of their own but I still felt they didn’t have a personal or signature look which I was happy with but developing your signature approach is an ongoing progress. Every photographer at one time or another has altered their style throughout the course of their work as their mindset has changed and a new style has developed.

 

It was while I was helping a good friends son on work experience placement I discovered my colour-coordinated look. Work experience for me was always allowing students to be hands-on, be it using a camera, retouching or designing. My student, James had arranged for his sister to come in and model for us in the studio and I had the idea to purchase a selection of props to complement what she was wearing and experiment with colour coordinating the shots and create my own in-house images I could use on design projects.

 

I was really pleased with the images and especially our use of colours so a few days later we popped out on location to capture some more images for a brochure I was working on. A few months later I had arranged to shoot with model Sophie. When Sophie and her mum saw the photos of Danielle they mentioned how much they liked the colour coordination, so we decided to play with colours and props a little more. This continued over the next few shoots with different models and it was suggested, more than once, that I should continue with it as my signature look.
 

Below: The early days of experimenting with colour and props with Danielle who just happens to be my goddaughter!

  Colour coordinated lifestyle photographColour coordinated lifestyle photograph Colour coordinated lifestyle photograph of young woman with shopping bagsColour coordinated lifestyle photograph of young woman with shopping bagsYoung woman with shopping bags Test photoshootTest photoshoot

 

Below: I had the pleasure of working with Sophie and her family on a regular basis to help build her model portfolio and I'm really grateful for the times and experience I was given back in the early days.  A could literally fill a blog of images we created but here's a small selection of some of my favourites of Sophie and other early practice shoots.

Young woman with pink shopping bags and clothingYoung woman with pink shopping bags and clothing Photograph of young woman smiling using phonePhotograph of young woman smiling using phone Teenage girl writing in padTeenage girl writing in pad Young student making notes in padYoung student making notes in pad
 

portrait photography of young womanportrait photography of young woman Close up portrait photography of teenage girlClose up portrait photography of teenage girl Photography lighting testPhotography lighting test Photography test with camera anglesPhotography test with camera angles

I’m pleased to say my style has been well received by followers, models and clients and has been requested on many commercial shoots to help promote a brand. In an extremely competitive industry, it has, without doubt, helped my images become recognisable, and more 12 years on, it is still working for me.

 

Below: Amber Gains was the first makeup artist I worked with and was stunning in front of the camera too. 

Colour coordinated photographyColour coordinated photographyYoung woman working in office Colour coordinated image of young woman in officeColour coordinated image of young woman in officeWoman working in office Colour coordinated portrait of young woman outdoorsColour coordinated portrait of young woman outdoors Colour coordinated image of young woman wearing pinkColour coordinated image of young woman wearing pinkAttractive woman smiling wearing pink
 

Below: A combination of portfolio shoots and client shoots with models Sophie R, Victoria, Zoe Jay and Susuzie Houlihan.
model portfolio build photoshootmodel portfolio build photoshoot creating commercial images for modelscreating commercial images for modelsYoung woman holding cup laughing Colour Coordinated photography for Commercial photoshootColour Coordinated photography for Commercial photoshootLady in wating area checking the time Corporate photoshoot for marketingCorporate photoshoot for marketingSuzie Houlihan

 

Let's do the ‘Why is the watch worn inside the wrist’ conversation, shall we!

I’ve had so many of people ask me over the years ask me why do I use wristwatches in my shots and why are they always worn with the face inside the wrist or upside down, backwards, inwards or the alternative way? For a lot of guys especially, this seems to be their biggest pet peeve ever! I’ve always worn my watch this way, it feels natural, comfortable and I like the style. No, I never used to be in the military or I was never a sniper. Did I use to be a secret agent? I can’t guarantee your safety if I answer that question!  Seriously, here’s the story. 

 

The first shoot I did where I added colour accessories, the model also wore her watch this way, as do a lot of people I know, it just looks natural and the ‘right way’ to me. Shortly after this shoot, another model saw the shots and commented on how much she liked the look and the clever use of colour, so we decided to try it again but this time using a different colour watch and strap to colour accessorise the shots. After sharing the image on a photography site I had a lot of businesses contacted me asking if they could purchase the image for their marketing, in my eyes it was a success. 

 

I specialise in People and Lifestyle Photography and having a model wear a watch keeps the image real, which is what Lifestyle Photography is all about. It used to be that most photographers and art directors insisted models remove their watches during a shoot, where for my images, I’ve ended up doing the opposite. 

 

If you know me, you’ll know I’ve had many conversations about this topic, I've also had many messages, emails and DM's from around the world, so for some, it's a topic of interest, for others, they don't care how you wear your watch!

 

For the majority of my images, it's about introducing colour into the shot. I feature the strap as part of the colour palette as if it were more like a bracelet than an actual watch.  If I’m asked to include a brand colour into a lifestyle shot, it’s an easy, quick and effective way to do it and unlike a clunky bracelet, a watch strap looks neater, in my opinion. I will also use other props such as books, mugs or clothing to introduce additional colours to play with. If it is important to see the watch face then it's just a question of the models pose and/or the position of the camera. This can be achieved the 'traditional way' of course, but remember it's my style.

 

Below: Model Grace Gray on a commercial lifestyle photoshoot lifestyle shoot for MaGa London watches. The brief was to be yourself, to be an individual and wearing her watch inside the wrist answered the brief perfectly and looks very cool. Take a careful look also at the colours and how they all balance with each other.

Wearing her watch inside the wrist looks really cool and answered the brief perfectly. Wearing her watch inside the wrist looks really cool and answered the brief perfectly. The brief for this photoshoot was to show your individuality, wearing her watch inside the wrist answered the brief perfectly and looks really cool as I'm sure you would agree. Take a careful look also at the colours and how well they all balance with each other. Model Grace Gray on a commercial lifestyle photoshoot lifestyle shoot for MaGa London watches.
 

Below: Although it was important to create images which showed the face of the watch, it was as equally as important to create stunning images which express your individuality and a lifestyle. Using a 'Hot Rod' car was a perfect prop as each custom car is as unique as the owner. 

ginger hair woman sitting on running board of carUsing the Colour Palette in photographyUsing the colour palette on this commercial image of model Grace Gray for MaGa London watches

Wrist watch commercial photoshootWrist watch commercial photoshootWrist watch commercial photoshoot for MaGa London Watches
 

Royalty Free maternity photoshoot for shutterstockRoyalty Free maternity photoshoot for shutterstockRoyalty Free maternity photoshoot for shutterstock of model Nikki Chislett Using watches to colour coordinate photographyUsing watches to colour coordinate photography Maternity lifestyle photoshootMaternity lifestyle photoshoot

Above: I specialise in People and Lifestyle Photography and having a model wear a watch keeps the image real and can really help the colour palette. Model Nikki from and from my set of Royalty-Free Images available from Shutterstock.
 

 

Below. Retouched for this blog. While looking through my library of old images I came across this set of shots with model Sian. Following our 'A Dark Fairytale' shoot, Sian kindly agreed to work with me to create a set of images I could sell as Royalty Free Stock Images. I loved the images we created but had honestly forgotten how many great shots we created that day. I was fortunate enough to have a very lovely client of mine allow me to use their board room to shoot in, which had amazing light and office furniture. I purchased the Businesswoman's suit and went about acquiring the appropriate props to colour match.

Commercial image of Business woman at workCommercial image of Business woman at workBusiness woman at work using laptop

Below: A selection of unedited Raw images from our Stock Library photoshoot. Visit Shutterstock to purchase. Click Here!

Young Business woman wearing watch inside wristYoung Business woman wearing watch inside wristYoung Business woman wearing watch inside wrist (Photo by Phil Jones Photography) Young Business woman frustrated using laptopYoung Business woman frustrated using laptopBeautiful young woman frustrated with laptop Using accessories to colour coordinate photographyUsing accessories to colour coordinate photography

Young woman using telephone and holding penYoung woman using telephone and holding penYoung woman using telephone and holding pen Portrait of beautiful young woman in office leaning against deskPortrait of beautiful young woman in office leaning against deskPortrait of beautiful young woman in office leaning against desk Beautiful young woman in office leaning against desk wearing black and whiteBeautiful young woman in office leaning against desk wearing black and whiteBeautiful young woman in office leaning against desk wearing black and white, holding white mug with watch worn inside her wrist

Commercial photograph of Business woman at work using propsCommercial photograph of Business woman at work using propsYoung Business woman with telephone headpiece in office, wearing smart suit and looking at laptop. She wears her watch inside the wrist to colour coordinate the photograph.

 

Below: After purchasing a new Canon 5d mkIV camera and Manfrotto tripod, I was keen to create images to accompany my Vlog which you can see on YouTube. Both Canon and Manfrotto's brand colours are red, black and white. In this shot, our model Lucy dressed all in black apart from wearing a watch with a red strap. This was deliberate to link to the Brand's colours. The observant ones may have noticed the tripod has a small amount of silver as does the badge on the camera, which we reflected by using Lucy's rings and the car wheels. 

Using wrist watch worn inside her wrist to promote red from cYoung woman wearing wrist watch worn inside her wrist to promote red from clients brand identitylients brandYoung woman wearing wrist watch worn inside her wrist to promote red from clients brand identityYoung woman wearing wrist watch worn inside her wrist to promote red from clients brand identity, Canon 5D camera and Manfrotto Tripod

Business photography using the colour paletteBusiness photography using the colour paletteProfessional business woman meeting with client. Notice use of clients brand colours which consist of three tones of blue and magenta. As part of my signature look I use colour accessories and the wrist watch worn inside the wrist to promote a brand colour.

Above: On this commercial image of professional businesswoman meeting with a client, notice how I used my clients brand colours throughout the image which are three different blues and magenta.

 

Below: Although we did create images during this shoot where the watch face was clearly seen, in this image of model Rebecca White, she wore the watch inside her wrist purely for the overall style and keeping everything black with no additional accent colours was fine for this shot. Rebecca agrees with me, we both love this shot and think it looks dead cool! 

Model Rebecca White wearing all black including watch inside her wrist which is part of my signature lookModel Rebecca White wearing all blackModel Rebecca White wearing all black including watch inside her wrist which is part of my signature look

 

Below: The opposite of Black. In this Boho fashion Lifestyle image not only did Elle wear colour coordinated clothing but I also used a location where the colours of her surrounding would work perfectly in the shot. The foreground blur was created in-camera and is a technique I use a lot where I can. If this was more of a fashion Boho shot we would have removed her watch but as it is a lifestyle image it works and again becomes another one of my signature look shots.

Boho style photograph using props and location colours to coordinate the imageBoho style photograph using props and location colours to coordinate the imageBoho style photograph using props and location colours to coordinate the image

 

Below: Taken just before lockdown with model and actor Andrea Vasiliou. In this shot, we used tones of golds and black to colour coordinate our image for this designer sunglasses brand.

Andrea Vasiliou wearing accessories to coordinate the photographAndrea Vasiliou wearing accessories to coordinate the photographActor and model Andrea Vasiliou wearing accessories to coordinate the photograph

 

Chanel Boyfriend watchChanel Boyfriend watchChanel Boyfriend watch worn inside the wrist sam rollinson wearing chanel boyfriend watch  inside the wristsam rollinson wearing chanel boyfriend watch inside the wrist

Above Example: Credit Chanel. Model Sam Rollinson. Photography by Melanie and Ramon

 

Advertising from Chanel Boyfriend watch. Wearing a watch now is more of an accessory or fashion statement because everyone can check the time on their cell phones and since every single person carries a cell phone….no need to wear a watch…unless it looks something like this one by Chanel.

Price is around £18,900 if you're thinking of getting one.
 

These days it isn’t uncommon to see images from watch brands and influencers posting images of them wearing their watches inside the wrist, especially when they're making a statement. Personally, going by what I've seen it’s becoming a more and more common way to wear your watch. 

 

It may go against how most people wear their watch, and really "Tick" some people off, but for me and most of my models and clients would agree, it adds to the shots and is a great way to introduce colour to an image which reflects my style and personality in my photography and has helped me 'overtime' develop my signature look… and it just looks eye-catchingly unconventional!
 

 

Up Next

In Part Three I show you how using the Colour Palette can not only visually impact your image but how colour is used in advertising to convey meaning, emotion and promote a brand.

Part Three Published on May 12, 2020.
 

 

DM or emailing models.

Could I ask politely that you Do Not message models or members of the creative team about how they wear their watch and what's their style, as quite honestly it just annoys them and we don't want to do that? Thanks for your understanding and cooperation!
 

 

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