Cris Duncan on Finding Your Photographic Style


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"Everyone cooks, but not everyone's a chef. Everyone has an oven. Everyone has a camera." -Cris Duncan

Long-time friend of The PhotoTellers, recurring guest, and even an occasional co-host, Mr. Cris Duncan returns for another episode. There are 3 ilks of Photographers who will especially profit from today's conversation:

  1. The Photographer looking to define his/her own photographic style.
  2. The Photographic instructor.
  3. The moderately-advanced Photographer who wants to grow beyond the technical aspects of exposure.

How do you, Photographer, determine your own style? What are the pitfalls that derail your authentic voice? Once established, is your style static or dynamic?

For the instructor, you'll appreciate Cris' comments about teaching, and how it "reveals mistakes in a different way." I encourage you, instructor, to remember Cris & Dee Duncan's mantra for teaching: Don't "marginalize the half." If you're not familiar with the term, you'll also learn how the "curse of knowledge" immediately ends communication. I mention the book MADE TO STICK. In my humble opinion, it's an important work for anyone who has a message to share, and wants to be certain that it cuts through the noise.

For the advancing Photographer, tune in to hear Cris' definition of a PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER. Hint: "One who is proficient in their craft." You'll also hear the distinction between "proper exposure" and "correct exposure." They're not always the same.

Here's an excerpt where Cris discusses the difference between proper exposure and correct exposure . . . .


CRIS: We say that there's a big difference between a properly exposed image and a well-executed image.

BILL: Okay; explain.

CRIS: Proper exposures is just part of that execution . . . . I can get a proper exposure with my iPhone, driving, out of the car window. That's not necessarily a great, sale-able image for the client. I'm just getting good recording of highlight and shadow values. I think the next step is now using your your tools and other ingredients--lighting and composition and design--to put that dish [comparing the work of a chef and a photographer] together to create something.

So now that you understand exposure, how can we alter the light direction and the light quality coming into the photograph to enhance the narrative that you're trying to tell with your image? So I think as Photographers that's huge! We get a chance to change the narrative.


The super-cool photo of Cris on this post is from Yosemite, created by the illustrious Tony Corbell. If you haven't heard, Cris & his bride Deanna annually sojourn to Yosemite with a group of Photographers who want to reconnect with their love of the craft. CLICK HERE to learn about FIND YOUR FOCUS.

165 episodes available. A new episode about every 18 days averaging 30 mins duration .