Stand by Me – A comparison of Photographic Styles

Jay and I usually shoot together – and sometimes we find ourselves standing side by side – tripod legs crossed one over the over – as we prepare to shoot. Sometimes we come away with shots that are pretty similar, but most of the time, we find that our finished images are completely different from one another.


We have very different photographic styles. Jay tends to include as much as possible in his images. He wants more details, more beautiful color, and more drama in his imagery. I, on the other hand, work to simplify my compositions. I search for simplicity, and I love subtle light. A single shoot at one location results in completely different images from each of us. Of course, we are both influenced by each other’s work as well. So you’ll see some of Jay’s high-contrast imagery in my portfolio… and some of my subtlety in Jay’s collections.

So, what do we shoot when we are standing side-by-side? Here are some fun examples of our photographic styles…

  • Bedford Reservation, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (OH), USA

    Jay’s Photo – Bedford Reservation, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (OH), USA

  • Varina's Photo - Bedford Reservation, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (OH), USA

    Varina’s Photo – Bedford Reservation, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (OH), USA

Jay’s shot of bluebells blooming in Ohio shows the overwhelming beauty of this Brecksville Reservation in Spring. Although I came away with some photographs of the pretty blue bells as well, my favorite shot from that day doesn’t show the flowers at all. It’s a simple image of a water droplet clinging to a fresh, green stem. Is one shot “better” than the other?

We don’t think so. They’re just different.

Vermillion Cliff, Arizona

Vermillion Cliff, Arizona

And how about these photographs from Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona? We were both shooting at the same time – a few hundred meters apart. (Jay’s hoodoo is actually visible in the upper left-hand corner of my image… though it’s nearly impossible to see at this size and resolution.) The finished images look completely different… even down to color balance! Why? Because Jay used a flashlight to “paint” the stones in his image… and a shutter speed of around 30 seconds. The light in his image is golden because of the color of the light he used.

My shot looks totally different because I used ambient light. The sun had already set – perhaps a half-hour before we took these shots – and the sky was dark except for a soft afterglow on the Western horizon. The extremely subtle light cast a soft, pink glow on the rocks, and a very long shutter speed – 266 seconds – captured enough light over time to show off a strange, magenta landscape.

Residual Light - Varina Patel - Vermillion Cliff, Arizona

Vermillion Cliff, Arizona

Here’s a shot Jay took at Pine Glades Lake in Florida. His goal was to capture the reflected light on the water, and that cuddly little alligator in the foreground.

Jay's Photographic Styles: Everglades National Park, Florida

Example of Jay’s Photographic Styles: Everglades National Park, Florida

Once again, I captured something entirely different. A few minutes later, the sun dropped below the horizon and the golden glow of the sunset disappeared. I photographed the deep blue light scattered in the sky and across the water… using a long shutter speed to smooth the ripples from the surface of the lake. Once again, the two shots are as different as night and day… and yet, both represent the same beautiful location.

Example of Varina's Photographic Styles: Everglades National Park, Florida

Example of Varina’s Photographic Styles: Everglades National Park, Florida

Is one better than the other? That depends upon your perspective. Which images appeal to you? What do you look for in your own photography? And how do your images differ from those of the photographer standing next to you? 😉

Jay and I both photographed double rainbows over Loch Eilt in Scotland, but I zoomed in to fill the frame with a single tree and the colorful double arches. Jay went wide to include more trees on the island, and the grass in the foreground. This is pretty typical of our differing styles. Jay tends to include as much as he can to show the whole scene, and I’m always looking for ways to simplify.

  • All Inclusive Jay's Photographic Style - Glen Eilt, Scotland

    All Inclusive Jay’s Photographic Style – Glen Eilt, Scotland

  • Varina's Minimalist Photographic Style - Glen Eilt, Scotland

    Varina’s Minimalist Photographic Style – Glen Eilt, Scotland

We took these shots of Pine Glades Lake during a workshop in the Florida Everglades. I used a 10-stop neutral density filter to get a long exposure shot just before sunrise. Jay waited until after the sun rose and captured dancing raindrops, and the early morning glow on the surface of the water.

  • Jay's Photo - Everglades National Park, Florida (FL), USA

    Varina’s Photo – Everglades National Park, Florida (FL), USA

  • Everglades National Park, Florida (FL), USA

    Jay’s Photo – Everglades National Park, Florida (FL), USA

Shooting in the rain forest in Olympic National Park in Washington means you might get rained on. After playing with a variety of compositions in the woods, I took this soft-focus shot through the windshield of our parked car. The heavy rain produced a soft blur for an abstract effect.

Through the Rain - Varina Patel - Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

Jay took his shot a few minutes before the storm really settled in. He wanted to show the distinct beauty of the arching branches against a backdrop of tall pines.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

We stood on a steep hillside above the beach on Oahu to take these shots. I chose to frame a shot of palms with backdrop of surreal “water-sky”. Jay zoomed in to capture a more traditional portrait of the islands that showcased the shifting colors of the scene.

  • Lanikai, Oahu - Hawai'i, USA

    Lanai Kai, Oahu, Hawaii (HI), USA

  • Lanai Kai, Oahu, Hawaii (HI), USA

    Lanai Kai, Oahu, Hawaii (HI), USA

My shot of an iceberg at Jökulsárlón in Iceland is very different from Jay’s. He chose to include the motion of the water for a more dynamic image. My shot is quieter and my focus is on texture and tonality. You might notice that our colors are different here, too. That’s because Jay took his photo a little later than I took mine. He is starting to get a bit of color in the sky as the sun thinks about rising. I took my shot well before sunrise, while the world was still a deep blue. Of course, we see a bit differently, too. Our color choices reflect our own memory and interpretation of the scene.

  • Jay's Photo - Jokulsarlon, Iceland

    Jay’s Photo – Jokulsarlon, Iceland

  • Varina's Photo - Jokulsarlon, Iceland

    Varina’s Photo – Jokulsarlon, Iceland

And here’s a shot from Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. We waited for a long time for the fog to lift that morning, and we captured a collection of photos. My photo is very simple, and I chose a black and white conversion to simplify it even further. Jay’s shot is wider – once again – and makes the most of the gorgeous colors that showed up a little later in the morning.

  • Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

    Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

  • Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

    Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

It’s always fascinating to open up our photos after a trip and compare our different collections. We’ve learned to see through each other’s eyes in a way – so I often have a pretty good idea of what Jay will be shooting when we arrive on location. Of course, there’s nothing better than having someone to travel with – especially if that person is also your best friend.

One of the most interesting aspects of shooting with others is seeing how different your images are in the end. How do you challenge yourself to come up with something unique when you’re shooting with others?

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.