How do you get inspiration for your photography? How do you stay creative? How do you get ‘creative’ to start with?
I’m hoping to open up some answers here, but you’re welcome to help me add to this list in the comments section.
Keep Your Mind Open
There’s nothing on this planet that can ‘not inspire’. If you look at a piece of trash and say “How could I possibly be inspired by this?” you’re not looking beyond the obvious. Here’s a couple of different ways in which to look at a piece of trash:
- If it’s an interesting piece of trash (not at all as rare as you may imagine), look for interesting shapes, colours, reflections, juxtapositions, etc…
- If it’s not, look around, look at it in the bigger social context. What can you find that is relevant (or irrelevant) 10, 15 or 20 feet from it. What are the kinds of people in the vicinity? are they affected by its presence?
- Or you could just figure that the piece of trash should not be there in the first place… so why is it? you could do a series of pictures on why and how it got there.
So, you see, its only a matter of looking at it with the right mental perspective. After all, they say that beauty is in the eye (mind) if the beholder.
Practice helps you reach perfection. It Keeps you tuned and humming, in sync with your chosen skill, and the mastery over its functions that turns you from a mediocre user/artist into a master…
It also helps you keep in good form. Photographers who take pictures daily are more likely to ‘see’ an interesting picture where others may miss it. That’s why I’m going to buy a simple point and shoot camera to carry around with me on a daily basis… so that I remember to practice seeing, composing and making pictures.
Look For, and At Light
Light is light, is light… it’s diffused, it’s direct, it’s reflected, it’s coloured… yes. But it’s also different in each context because it changes the mood of a photograph. A park at noon is quite likely to be much drabber than a park in the morning. Both in direct sunlight, but the morning’s sun is a bit more yellow/golden, and streaming through the branches at an angle… That small difference makes it much more appealing to a viewer.
Light is all around you, but actually looking for interesting light will help you understand it better. I’d also add that looking at just the light is not enough, look at the textures, effects, patterns and paths that it creates, look for colour casts, reflections, flare, and sparkles as it reflects off various surfaces…
If you’re a photographer who wants to work in a studio at some point of time, looking for, and remembering lighting moods and feels is invaluable when you’re trying to recreate emotions in a studio environment.
Understand your subject. They’re always a better source of inspiration and creativity than most other things when it comes down to shooting creatively. Think about it… what could inspire you more about a subject than the subject itself? You need to be sympathetic/enthusiastic about it though!
If you are, you’ll automatically think of possible tangents, related fields of interest… and be enthusiastic about it. It is awesomely hard to be creative and pepped up if you’re not enthusiastic about what you’re shooting.
Look at Other Photographers’ Work
Look at it, and try to figure out what’s important to their photography. Look at it upside down, left to right and inside out… How do you know what is important to them? Usually it shows in their style of photography, choice of subjects, treatment of the subject and a whole lot more.
Derive Inspiration From Other Arts
I recall an old interview with a documentary photographer who was photographing the devastation in the wake of WW2. He’d noticed a trend in his photography at the time, and on reflection figured out that it was an influence from Beethoven’s 5th symphony which BBC was using at the time as an opening for their news programs.
What was the trend? Three tall structures and one fallen/broken/destroyed structure… don’t get the resemblance? listen to the music… again…
Well, the point here is that if other arts can influence our subconscious thinking, they surely can influence our conscious thought processes. Use that influential power… soak up all of the art that you love, and let it empower your photography.
Let Your Mind Wander
A wandering mind gathers no dust. Um, is that right? Yup, I think it is…
Give yourself time, and space to think outside the box. Think about anything/nothing/everything… personally, I feel that it relieves you of all ‘requirements’ and lets you go on a flight of fantasy, where the only limits are what you cant imagine… (if that’s a limitation you need to let your mind wander, rather badly). Give yourself time for this activity/inactivity, you can’t rush it…
Know Your Equipment
Yeah, it always creeps in, no matter how much you try to kick it out the back door. Equipment. My suggestion; get back to point 1. Practice… that’s the best way… use it, use it till you know every groove in the handgrip, every speck of dust that you’ve removed from the viewfinder, every dash in the text of your LCD…
Phew, that was intense… well, you get the point, don’t you? Understand your equipment so that you can get the most out of it.
Well, now by no means do I think that this is a comprehensive listing of good creative habits for photographers. So, I invite you to add your thoughts in the comments.
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What do you think?
Published: July 5, 2007 | Last Updated: July 21, 2021