How To Build a Signature Style

How To Build a Signature Style

I think that we have an innate desire to put our stamp on things, whether that is as a person, as an artist, or something else. In my years of teaching photography, I’ve never once conducted a workshop in which no one asked how to build a recognizable style. I’ve asked myself that question plenty of times.

It is a beautiful thing to look at someone’s work and know, without looking at the name, who made it. Those are my favorite artists. Their essence is in their art. It feels like a natural shine.

As an artist, I have thought about this topic for years. What makes someone stand out as being original? What makes someone’s work recognizable? What makes mine?

Here’s the truest answer. More true than any technique in Photoshop or lens choice.

It is the way my mind works. The way my brain functions. The way I see the world. The way I create in this world.

If you don’t like that answer, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a certain technique to set you apart, stop.

Yes, they help tremendously. Yes, they can make you stand out. Yes, they are the medium that us visual artists exist in.

BUT, and I believe this firmly, there isn’t a successful artist out there who doesn’t have their art in their bones.

If you gave your favorite artist a guitar instead of a camera, it’s very likely that their original music would match their original images.

What we want our art to look like is in us from the beginning. From Day 0.

My art is not just what it looks like or feels like. It is the culmination of who I am – visually, emotionally, experiences and reactions and decisions combined. It is my expression of myself.

That is not to say that finding a style is instant. Why? Because we hardly know ourselves. The more we understand who we are, the more fluidly our style can evolve.

At least that’s what I believe. And I really, really believe it.

There are certain visual ways that my style has evolved. I used to create very monochromatic images, almost always indoors. I shifted from that to incorporating more color in my wardrobe and visiting new locations outdoors. I then started to get into more complicated composites, more detailed sets, more props. I evolved. And I am evolving.

If I had to choose 3 visual cues to my signature style, I would say:

Square Format
Yellow highlights/blue shadows

There are more:


It’s hard to define a style with just a few words, and not entirely productive, either. We shouldn’t feel trapped by a style, but able and willing to move in and out of it.

I used to fear my style. I felt stuck in it. But now I recognize that my style is mine because that is what naturally comes out of me. No matter what I pursue, it will be mine.

I hope you enjoy this video detailing how I found my style and a few different tricks in the editing room to achieve a polish to my work.

How do you describe your style?
How do you hope to evolve?

9 thoughts on “How To Build a Signature Style

  1. Thank you for sharing and inspiring.
    My style? A very hard question to answer. The best I can say is it is eclectic, but I always try to evoke emotion. The days of film I spent many hours in the darkroom, trying to make things painterly. Then came digital and the learning curve continues and is endless and new everyday as well as exciting.
    Your work is beautiful.

  2. Great video, and probably the best explanation you can get for explaining signature style. Like you said, it’s not easy to explain.
    I just create what I like, and hope that a signature evolves out of it, since I know I can’t force it.
    “How do you describe your style?”
    I don’t know if this is my style, but I would like to think it is:

    How do you hope to evolve?
    Thought provoking.
    More engaging.
    Maybe a little happier. Right now everything really leans to the darker side for some reason.

    This is a great subject I will have to bring this up in the next PPC Skype chat.

  3. Thank you for sharing and for the constant inspiration!
    My style is eclectic, but always my main goal is to evoke emotion.
    In business for decades (I’m now one of those old timers, I guess), I have gone from trying to create painterly prints in the darkroom to moving my darkroom onto the monitor and learning everyday. Not all of my work is artsy, sometimes I am in a more documentary mood. What do I want people to when looking at my work? I want people to stop and look at the photo, not just scroll through, and feel the emotion.
    Your work is beautiful.

  4. This was awesome, as always! Monday have become my favorites again 🙂
    How do you describe your style?
    I am not sure if people look at my work and think “Anna Bruce” but in all of my work I like to incorporate these feelings: Moody, dramatic, warm tones, edgy, dreamlike. I have certainly tried to experiment with cool tones and blues and it always makes me freak out. I like warm tones – perhaps because I like warm weather? Because people don’t look dead or frozen? I don’t know. Ironically, in other artists’ work, I am drawn to blue tones (as you know from the piece I purchased). Very interesting.
    How do you hope to evolve?
    I will let time decide for me. As I learn new things, grow or change in life my style will evolve. I know that moody, dark and dramatic will be words that will remain with me for a lifetime – I have been pretty consistent in creating works that evoke those three. Thank you Brooke! <3

  5. You have articulated style perfectly, it’s definitely what’s inside you and that is so hard to explain to anyone. When people ask you what I do I get stuck trying to explain as it is bound up with my style rather thane technique (as you explained it)…finding the words makes me stumble.
    My style is quirky, whimsical, mysterious, inviting. How I hope to evolve? I want to make images that have something more to say…I’m not sure what I have to say, want to say…I like making images that make make-believe, believable, but I want to include more message somehow, at the moment I am exploring being alone but not lonely.

  6. Thank you for your beautiful work!
    Can you tell me about your monitor/workstation?
    It is huge. It is touch screen! I’m curious!!

  7. Wonderful video of a difficult to describe subject.
    I found my style when I found my business name “Kymerical imagery” which is defined
    Kymerical: existing only as the product of an unchecked imagination.
    imagery: the art of making images.
    I recently wrote a paper for my business class where I described my style as
    Phantasmagorical with an etherial quality. Yes, I was using the thesaurus. I enjoy making images that would suit a children’s book, princess party, my granddaughters imagination come to life. She is the fairy in my images. I get lost in space and time while creating these images, it’s the same way I feel when creating a new dress for Emma. That’s how I know I have found my style, I love creating it.
    There is still a lot of distilling (evolving) that needs to take place but I am on the right track. I hope to reach the point where I know the colors as Brooke does and am able to consistently produce work that says that was done by Kymerical imagery.
    Oh and I don’t put my name on my real name on my work because I spent 25 years as a prison guard and don’t want to make it easy for any of them to find me. Just in case.

    phantasmagorical: having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination.
    having the appearance of an optical illusion, especially one produced by a magic lantern.
    changing or shifting, as a scene made up of many elements.

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