Anyone in a visual art form is searching for their own style, something that speaks to them and allows them to speak to others in a way unlike anyone else has before.
For a little while I used to approach each project I was shooting by trying to ask myself "How is this film supposed to look?" I would look for the way that I thought it was objectively supposed to be lit and shot, regardless of the fact that I was the one shooting it.
I'd heard again and again that each project should be filmed in whatever way the story requires. The aspect ratio, the lens choice, the camera movement, they're all helping to establish the visual language that tell the story. A smooth dolly in on a character, as opposed to a handheld camera flying towards the subject, can have as big of an effect on the story as a line of dialogue or a musical cue.
While those are all true, it's important to still shoot the way you want to shoot. I don't mean ignore the director and create whatever images you feel like creating that day. I mean that if you tend to be drawn towards darker images with more contrast, then shooting a corporate piece doesn't mean it has to all be high key and washed out. Instead, it could be a great opportunity to use a striking and colorful silhouette, or to at least experiment a bit with contrast ratios. You get to shoot something a little spicier, and the client's happy too. After all, you're being hired for your eye, and if you as a DP can connect to an audience better through a certain look, you should work on incorporating it into your regular style of shooting.
Of course, this doesn't always work. There are times when you have to really abandon your expectations and preferences when going into a project. And those can be great opportunities to challenge what you thought you knew about your so-called style. But in large part, embracing the way you naturally tend to shoot is about being open to mixing things up. Once you're immersed in a project, you have room to ask, "Wouldn't it be cool if we did this?" and try out a look to see if it really jives with the mood you're looking for.
I'd like to caution though, that it can be really easy to feel the desire to hop on the latest stylistic trend while you're in the moment. When you're on set, you've got all the expensive toys out in front of you, and some cool looking imagery all around you, you might feel like copying some other image you've seen before. Be careful with this, and try to decipher whether that's inspiration hitting you in the moment or you panicking and latching onto someone else's idea.
When we was shooting Role Model, we had just finished our first shot (a dolly in on Oshea in the bathroom fixing his hair) and we were about to move on. I asked Allie, the director, if we could try one more take, where I'd dolly much faster than we had previously and start with the shot thrown out of focus. Just to try it and see if it wouldn't look like garbage. I wasn't really sure where this idea was coming from, but I knew I hadn't seen anything quite like it before and so I wanted to give it a shot. Allie obliged, and it ended up in the final cut. I had to actively remind myself that day (as I do on every shoot now) to embrace the images I dream up on the spot, and not just leave them in my head. It sometimes feels like going out on a whim with a weird idea, but it's also how some of the most creative choices can come about. You've just got to learn to trust your subconscious in the process.