Back in the day, as I was starting my career as a photographer, one of the main challenges I found was developing a style that would separate me and my work from all the other emerging photographers. I realized that there are three specific steps that every shoot should have and it was the way I approached and viewed these stages that helped me organically shape “my style.”
PRE-PRODUCTION is everything that happens before the "camera click” and it can be days or weeks. It is all of your research, it is when you get to know and prepare your subjects, choose and understand your locations and make decisions on the gear you will use and the team that will work with you. This phase is incredibly important. It includes location permits, transportation, catering, meals, releases, budgets, the list of logistics goes on ... but, most importantly, it involves every book you read, every picture you analyze, every trip you make, every life experience you internalize and everything that has happened up until that shoot to influence the "what" and "why" of the photo that you are going to make. Staying focused on your internal motivations for the shoot, and not getting too sidetracked by the logistics of pre-production, is key.
PRODUCTION is when the magic happens. This moment requires your full-attention. It is the moment when you will be able to take advantage of all you have planned for and learned during pre-production. You've already planned all that you can. Stay confident and let the magical "camera click" happen.
POST-PRODUCTION is all the processing between the picture on the camera to the picture the final viewer will see. This is not always in your hands. Sometimes clients will take the photos and edit themselves. But during the beginning stages, it is quite normal for you to do your own editing and it can have a huge impact on your style and in the way people see your work. It is a chance to revisit the shoot with a newer perspective, giving you another layer of artistic involvement in your final product. It is not something you should rush through and is just as important as the shoot itself.
In my many years in the industry, I've found that paying attention to, staying involved, and having respect for these three stages will help you develop a style of photographing that is unique to you.
Josue Pena is a Mexican audio-visual artist based in Los Angeles, Calif. Pena specializes in clean, commercial, and sensual photography. Working internationally, he creates characteristic images by combining clear aesthetics with a genuine commercial sensibility and high-attention to detail. View his work on his web site