What is style and how do we define it?

What is style and how do we define it?


For something or someone to have a style there must be consistency which enables the viewer to define a look; for this there must be clear and confident themes.

For these themes to be recognised they must be repeated, whether that is by design or subconsciously doesn’t matter as long as they are consistent.

Repetition creates familiarity and a signature style; it makes work easily identifiable. Repeating props and colours give the creator away like an artists’ brush strokes.

Successful styles are easy to identify and articulate. If you can’t describe a style; there isn’t one.


Repeating style choices takes confidence which is why so many people struggle early on; their lack of confidence stifles them (it is yet to be developed through time, practise and feedback).

Trying to produce content before you have defined your personal
or brand style (repeating themes) will kill your creativity like writers’ block or the blank first page of a new sketch book.



Confidence will come later, first let’s look more at defining and developing a style.




When you have learned to define different styles it is easier to mimic them or develop your own style or creative direction whether thats for an entire brand or website or just one project or shoot.

The trick is to look for recurring themes (repetition) in 

  • colour

  • angles

  • repeating props

  • lighting style

  • main scale of the product - does it fill the images or sit back?

  • content/copy themes (what are they showing you/talking about)

And add descriptions to each theme or element -

delicate, graphic, organic, hunger inducing, casual, editorial,
vibrant, moody, earthy, bold, monochrome, lifestyle, natural, fresh, cold, cosy, luxury, stark, contrasting, soft, textural, minimal, busy, modern, eclectic, nostalgic, flavour inducing, homemade, seasonal, what else?




It's worth taking time to explore styling and photography terms so you have a deeper understanding of what they mean and where they're best implimented.


These observations become the skeleton for your brief or creative direction - reference images and examples can be added to support and expand on the descriptions to clarify and avoid misinterpretation.

And it can be just as important to know what you don't want as well - what is it not?



Once you have a better understanding of what creates a ‘look’ and what you like and dislike, you can start to build a set of rules or ‘creative brief’ for your own styling. (‘Rules’ used loosely; you make them so can break them too!)

This may be hard at first – to make a plan for repetitive styling decisions before you have confidence in them – but if like most people you don’t have an innate, 100% consistent and natural way of presenting things, it is important to do it this way round and build yourself a framework to follow.

Trust me it’s how all the big brands do it – nothing is left to chance, nobody is that cool! Either a creative brief has been developed by a marketing team or (more rarely but often seen on successful content creators and bloggers) they have had the luxury of lots of time to develop their natural style ~ and confidence ~ behind the scenes.

The great thing is that if you stick to your brief your audience will quickly start to recognise your style and as it builds you will gain feedback and confidence ~ confidence that will in time replace your ‘rules’ because they will become second nature.

The most important things to remember in these early days are ~

Don't force it

Nobody can keep their energy up to do things that don't feel natural to them, you'll feel bad about it and your feed/brand will seem random or ingenuine; people can’t connect with or invest in randomness.


Keep it familiar; rinse and repeat your easy-wins and favourite props

See how consistent the most successful feeds are - are they boring, or do they create original content in a signature look which balances style, content type and tone?

Remember the phrase 'always us, never boring' to help you stay on brand but not play it safe, keep pushing creatively.


I hope you find this useful and have enjoyed reading!

This excerpt is taken from Chapter 1 of The Styling Handbook and forms the basis for a group discussion over coffee to begin each of our styling workshops.

If you'd like to learn more our styling workshop dates are here or if you have any questions or would prefer 1-to-1 or in-house team training please get in touch here! 

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