Personal Style
Introduction by Alain Briot
Essay by Michael Regnier

Other essays in this series

Developing a personal style is one of the most challenging aspects of photography. Not only does it take a lot of work, it also takes inspiration and the willingness to explore possibilities for which we have no model, no pre-defined path to follow.

I am in the process of writing a series of 4 essays on the subject of inspiration, creativity, vision and personal style. These essays will be published in this order later this year. The essay you are reading, is in a way an example of what I am discussing in my essays. Furthermore, it is an example that comes from a photographer other than myself, hence providing a different example of personal style.

I very much like Michael's work and I asked him to write a short description of his approach and of what led him to develop his style. What follows is his description, together with examples chosen by Michael.

Blowing Red Poppies
From left to right: original image, final image, texture detail from the final image

My style has been a long time in the making. It  began out of the chaos of my studio. One day I noticed on my light box a transparency lying on top of another and I liked what I saw. I then started working to duplicate that effect. I had just returned from France and I was to have a show and I decided this would be my style. I started shooting 4x5 transparencies of my prints and then shot film of background textures or paintings that I had done to come up with the textures. To do this I had to shoot through glass and white out parts of the image so that the previous image would show through. Long story short, I shot a lot of film for each image and I never knew if it would work or not. I had my own jobo processor so at least I didn't go broke. I worked this way for several years, refining my technique and then one day I saw a computer  retoucher work on one of my images for a client and my world changed. She was doing what I was doing but so much easier and it didn't cost anything to try different approaches.

I went out and got a computer and now my work just keeps getting more and more refined. Mainly what I do is layer and layer images on top of each other. I have my main image and then I put another layer on top of that which has a texture or a painting texture that I want to show through. I play with the layer styles (example : multiply, soft light, overlay etc.) until it looks right. I never know how it will look. Sometimes, I have 10 to 20 layers with a file size of 1.5 gigs or more. I stop when it feels right.

Mysterious Road
From left to right: original image, final image, texture detail from the final image

I don't use filter effects or brushes. It really is like putting transparencies on top of each other. I use masks to take away areas if the effect is too much. I usually take a camera with me where ever I go and shoot foreground, background, skies etc.

When I shoot, I am looking for a beautiful subject or landscape with the right composition. I still need a great shot, but I'm not too worried about the light or that perfect moment. Usually, what I do with the layering effects will add that special magic to the image. I love to travel and shoot different things and I believe what I shoot and how I shoot it is the most important part of my work, but I always know that this is just the beginning. As my Czech wife says,  "Jen Tak" which means "It just happens".

You can see more of Michael's work on his website at
Michael's website was entirely created with Apple's iWeb software.

Sunflower Storm
Fromtop to bottom and left to right: original images, final image, texture detail from the final image

Introduction Copyright © Alain Briot 2007
Essay and photographs Copyright © Michael Regnier 2007
All rights reserved worldwide