5 Tips for Using Pinterest for Photography Inspiration

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Let me just come right out and say it – I think Pinterest is amazing. Not only is it a wealth of information when it comes to recipes and easy craft projects for my two kids, but it is also an incredible source for both photography instruction and inspiration. As a photographer, I am constantly inspired by the images that I see while browsing the “Photography” category on Pinterest, and I think it can be a really valuable tool in terms of identifying your personal style in photography as well as pushing yourself as a photographer.

That said, I think it goes without saying that Pinterest is not always used appropriately. We’ve probably all had a prospective client email us asking, “Can you do this?” with a link to a particular pin on Pinterest, where the client means that exact pose, backdrop, and that exact style of post processing. This isn’t inspiration, it’s flat-out stealing. But Pinterest really can be a great resource when used correctly, so here are some tips on the best way to use Pinterest for photography inspiration:

1. Don’t (Only) Browse Your Favorites

If you’re a newborn photographer, don’t just search Pinterest for newborn photos. Rather, try browsing the general photography category, or searching for more general terms like “golden hour” or “high contrast photos”. I’m a firm believer that portrait photographers can be inspired by landscapes, and vice versa. There’s no good reason to limit yourself!

2. Click Through

Once you find an image that you love, take the time to click through the link and make sure that (a) the pin leads to the proper photograph or specific blog post, (b) the correct photographer is credited (Google is not a photographer), and (c) that the photographer wants the image to be pinned. Many photographers pin their own photos and encourage others to repin, or include “pin now” buttons on their blog, which generally makes me feel comfortable with repinning their work. Others install a script that will not allow images from that website to be pinned, which is pretty self-explanatory that they’d prefer their work did NOT appear on Pinterest. If you’re not sure whether or not it’s okay to pin an image after visiting the original website, it’s a good idea to shoot the photographer a quick email or leave a comment asking if they’re open to their images being pinned. This is really new territory without much legal precedent, so I just think it’s better to be safe than sorry!

3. Caption Everything

Leave yourself thoughtful and detailed comments about what, specifically, you love about the photo. Is it the lighting, the pose, the processing, the coordination of outfits? Or is it the emotion behind the image? Whatever it is, try to identify something concrete that speaks to you about each and every image that you pin. I also think it’s good practice to include the photographer’s name in your caption, especially if the image isn’t watermarked, not only to help ensure that the images are properly attributed, but also to begin to identify who inspires you as a photographer.  Here’s an example of how I captioned one image that I pinned as inspiration, coincidentally from this article by Oded Wagenstein about using reflectors here on dPS.

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Text Reads: “I love this portrait by Oded Wagenstein. It’s full of emotion in a way that doesn’t feel posed. Also? Great catch lights even with darker eyes, which is something I struggle with sometimes!”

4. Reflect Regularly

Every couple of months, be sure to go back and look at the images that you’ve pinned, and see if there’s anything that you can glean from what they have in common. Are you noticing a lot of photos with a particular style of processing, or that you’ve pinned many images from a different genre of photography that perhaps you’d like to try? Are you noticing that you’ve selected lots with strong posing, which is something that you could possibly brush up on a little? Try to identify at least one theme across the images that you’ve pinned.

Several years ago I realized that nearly every photography blog I followed was written by a newborn photographer. After months of admiring from a far, and soaking up everything I could read about newborn photography, I finally decided to ask a couple expecting friends if I could come over and take some pictures of their new babies, “just for fun”. My first time photographing a newborn certainly wasn’t perfect, but it ignited a love of a whole new genre of photography that I may never have pursued otherwise. I’m sure this won’t be the last time that I discover a love of something new photographically!

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This is an image from that very first time photographing a friend’s newborn. Years ago, I never would have guessed that this would be a genre of photography that I now love!

5. Put it into Practice

Once you’ve identified some common themes about images that you admire, carve out some time with your camera to put it into practice. Are you a portrait photographer who was pinning lots of images of food? Make some time in your schedule to read about techniques for food photography, and then give it a shot.

Here’s a personal example: one area that I’m not as confident in is posing several people together. I recently did a session for a friend’s family, and checked out several of her Pinterest boards before the session. I noticed that many of the captions on the images that she had pinned were about how she liked how the siblings were posed in the portraits – arms wrapped around each other, holding hands, etc. So, I made it a personal goal to really spend some time looking at small group posing before their session, which made me more confident in posing in general. I think that I was more able to encourage her daughters into a pose that would emulate the feel that their mom liked, while also being more natural for them than it would have if I had tried to recreate one specific pose that I’d seen on Pinterest.

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 Do you use Pinterest to find inspirational images? Any dos or don’ts you’d like to add to the list?

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Meredith Clark is a wife, mother, native Oregonian, complete bookworm, Top Chef lover, and new quilting addict. She can also be found blogging at La Buena Vida and Meredith Clark Photography.

  • edwin-r-buckley

    Great article. I have to confess that I didn’t “get” Pinterest or why my daughters are obsessed with it. My coach at a photography class showed me how to set up private mood board for projects. Huge timesaver and great to have on hand when traveling.

  • Michael Owens

    I too like Edwin below me, didnt get what all the fuss was about. I thought it was just about images being pinned to a fake cork board for your personal crafting.

    But… my Mrs joined (for crafting lol), and said no, you can create boards of whatever you want, private or public, and about whatever subject you require.

    Not only that, but its NOT just images, the images are the article headers basically, and link to various websites with tutorials mostly, on how to achieve whats in the image.

    So, I signed up, and I began making various Photographic boards for myself, public and private, and would you believe it, I actually found some interesting ideaas for myself to try.

    So I’m a convert, and I can’t get enough of it!

  • Meredith

    Yes, I totally agree–it is a great resource for both articles AND inspiration photos!

  • Meredith

    Great point–I haven’t made much use of the private/secret board function yet, but I think there are lots of great possibilities!

  • Clever tips!
    Do you use Pinterest to find inspirational images? Sure I do: https://www.pinterest.com/regiscorbet/

  • Geoff

    I can’t say that I’ve ever been influenced by anything seen on Pinterest, Meredith. Reading the comments here I’m obviously not using it correctly.

  • RiverRat2u

    I’m an avid Pinterest user! I’ve made a board for each subject that I shoot on a regular basis to help me with posing ideas or a certain feeling/mood of a photo. For instance, I have Posing Maternity, Posing Seniors, Posing Toddler, Posing Baby, etc. Then, when I have a shoot coming up, I go back to that particular board for my inspiration! Love it!

  • Meredith

    That’s a great way to organize your boards! I just have a general photography inspiration board, but it may be just about time to break it up.

  • Meredith

    That’s interesting, Geoff. I don’t often find much on the “main” Pinterest page, but really do find a lot of great material when using the categories. DPS also has a great Pinterest account that makes finding tutorials really easy as well! I think I essentially did the same thing before Pinterest (collecting photos and tutorials), but really appreciate having everything in one place, visually.

  • Adedotun Ajibade

    Great read!

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