As a teacher in photography, one of the most significant challenges is to help people become more creative as photographers. When I met my friend, Tobin in Kenya, he had essentially confessed to me that style was something that he struggled with a great deal, despite him having much recognition from the world over, having his photographs in newspapers everywhere as he photographed the war and development of Somalia for the United Nations.
Photography is perhaps the easiest medium to work in but the most difficult medium to create original work. Some people respond to this by embarking on a great deal of post-processing, be it digital or in the darkroom. Others specialize with certain lenses and perspectives and become known for that particular style, and yet others like to explore the field of photography figuring out what they like and what they don't. Ultimately, every artist wants to be known for a particular style and in order to get anywhere remotely close to such an ordeal, we need to become rather exceptional observers.
In our intermediate classes, we go through a series of exercises where we try to internalize aspects of composition and style. The goal of this is two folds:
1) To help people really find the artist within and a style that resonates strongly with the individual
2) To help train their eyes and notice these elements in play in the real world
Together with enough time behind the camera, this technique will help people become better photographers and turn ideas into images.
Here is how to approach the exercise:
1) Download and preferably the Valley Viewfinder guide here
The Guide is rather extensive but I think it has immense value to the studying of the images. We recommend going through them and trying to observe details in about 10 images a day.
2) Get involved in seeing detail in everyday life
Every time you are bored in traffic, or observe that the light is of a certain quality, or even happen upon a photograph in a newspaper, try to critique
3) Experiment with your camera and explore different perspectives. Make it a point to get out as often as possible and take as many photographs. Involve yourself in the process of comparing your images and don't forget to get some objective feedback from some friends and family.