How to develop a signature photography style

words Alexa Wang

He’s a rising force on the photography scene with a growing Instagram following, but Jake Millers hasn’t always been a big-time artist. Still only 22, he’s had to slowly and methodically build a portfolio, share his work and nab big-name projects – like the launch of the iPhone 11 Pro – to get his name known.

Here are his tips for growing your brand.

It starts with social media

Jake started out age 13 with a camera he received as a birthday present and a group of friends as his subjects.

Cue Tumblr, the microblogging and social networking site, a canvas for Jake’s formative snaps.

Almost a decade on, Jake is still using social media to his advantage, posting professional and impromptu work to Instagram, where he has over 7,000 followers.

Jake’s of the generation that grew up with social media, but budding photographers of all ages should leverage the power of new media as much as they can.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

No one can claim to know what’s beautiful and what’s not.  

For Jake, he gets inspiration from Manchester, and in particular, Miles Platting, where he grew up. “People think [the area is] grey and isolating, but I’ve always appreciated things that other people sometimes think are ugly.” He loves the brutal architecture and modernist interiors, things that people walk past without “a second look.”

Discover your own definition of beauty – and give it the care it deserves.

Portraits are about personality

“Some people freeze up as soon as they’re put in front of a camera,” Jake says. Your goal? To put them at ease and let their personality shine through.

As a bonus, think about the backdrop. A trick Jake uses? To position his subject far away from the background, thereby creating depth.

Don’t worry about the best equipment

Not in possession of a professional DSLR? Don’t let that stop you. It’s not about the “quality or size of your camera,” Jake says, it’s about capturing moments of intrigue.

“A photographer with talent can use any format or tool to create a good image – it just depends on what you have with you at that point in time. I’ve started to become really dependent on the camera on my phone, especially when it comes to posting on Instagram, scouting locations, or just [capturing] unexpected moments.”

Preparation pays off

Scouting areas to use in your work is part and parcel of photography life, especially if you’ve got a professional shoot on the horizon. It often pays to rise early too, when there are fewer people about, and the light has a different texture (this might give you inspiration to shoot at a different time of day in future).

If you get the opportunity to travel – take it

“One of my proudest achievements since becoming a photographer is the work I did in Indonesia. I went on a holiday there and took loads of portraits, just of locals and street life. I met some great people and stayed in contact with them.”

A signature style doesn’t come overnight

It takes practice, Jake says, to really find out what you like to shoot.

“If I was to look back on some edits/scans from a few years ago I’d be embarrassed,” he says.

But through repetition, Jake has owned a signature look, and his Instagram page is a blend of portraiture and environmental shots, with soft, muted colours in focus, and a sense of minimalism underpinning it all.

Read more about Jake’s story on his dedicated O2 x iPhone 11 page.

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