The Fine Line Between Formula And Formulaic

After you first 1000/10,000/100,000 photos (delete as applicable) I’m sure like me you realised you’d started to find your own style. 

The kind of subjects you like to shoot, the equipment you prefer, the compositions, the colours (or lack of, with black and white), the processing (or lack of), and other factors that all add up to making photographs that somehow feel like they belong to you.

Finding our way through virtually unlimited choices in all of the above aspects and more, gradually gives us a kind of reliable formula – a series of steps we can follow to set up our cameras to create the images we like best.

But then there’s a danger that your trusty formula spills over into being formulaic. 

You end up going through the motions and churning out near identical photographs time after time. However beautiful they might be.

Which becomes dull for you as the creative photographer, and possibly for your audience too.

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May 2012, Nikon Coolpix P300
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March 2019, Panasonic Lumix GF1

So we need to find ways to keep our photography interesting enough to still be a challenge, but consistent enough that we don’t feel like we’re a complete beginner every time we pick up a camera.

What works for you? How do you walk this fine line between formula and formulaic?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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16 thoughts on “The Fine Line Between Formula And Formulaic”

  1. I have the things I like to shoot and the compositions I like to use with them. But I keep feeling satisfied with my photos, and people keep telling me they like them. Every now and then I’ll discover a new composition or even a new subject and then I’m down the rabbit hole again.

          1. Thanks Dan. In many ways posts of that type are among my favorite to write and publish. I wish I had more time right now to get out and make photographs like those and share them.

          2. I think you’re a natural photographing cars, especially the more vintage ones. I’m not a big car fan really but your pics make me want about half of them, ha ha!

            I’m sure the times will come as life settles more for you again. Any car shows later this year you could schedule in as something to look forward to?

          3. It might have been on Ming Thien’s blog I read an admonition to simply double down on the kinds of subjects you’re already good at so you can become great at them, and forget all other subjects. For me that’s cars, roads, and old buildings. Things I’ve liked most of my life. Feels like good advice to me!

          4. Yeh, I think it has to be the subjects you enjoy looking at most yourself.

            I’m goign to try to visit a car show or two this summer. It’s a “safe” place to photograph in public as plenty of other people are too!

          5. ps. There are two regular muscle and exotic car shows near me that I need to make time to visit now that the weather is turning.

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