5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Re-inspire Your Photographic Creativity

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Re-inspire Your Photographic Creativity

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A Guest Post by Claire Woollam the Digital Iris.

Every few months I feel a lack of motivation creeping in and I realise that my daily photographs in particular (I’m doing a 365 project this year) are starting to become a bit dull and lacking in inspiration. Happily I’ve managed so far to climb back out of that hole and get creative again – here are my top tips.

1. Get Surfing

A few minutes spent on Google Images, Flickr and sites such as DPS never fails to help me get my photo-mojo back. I find pictures rather than words stimulate the creative juices best. If you blog, you may be able to find a tool which lets you view the pages of other bloggers’ who have similar interests to yours (I use Blogger where you can link to other people’s sites through your Profile page).

2. Exhibitions

photographic-inspiration.jpgI’m lucky – living in London means there is always a fantastic range of galleries showing pictures from all manner of photographers, many of which are free. An hour or so spent looking at someone else’s shots in ‘real life’ rather than on a computer screen always manages to inspire me. I particularly enjoy seeing less well-known works, which tend to be displayed in more intimate and interesting spaces, often a source of inspiration in themselves. But no matter where you live, you can usually find something going on near you, be it at a local library, community centre or even a shop window on the local high street.

Get online and check out your area’s listings to make sure you don’t miss any up and coming exhibits. I like to do a bit of quick research before I head along to a gallery – having some background knowledge on the photographer and their style means you can better appreciate the pictures in front of you and you don’t waste time when you’re there reading reams of gallery pamphlets or stuff on the walls.

I particularly like that many photography exhibitions are quite small scale, meaning that you don’t end up with the ‘museum fatigue’ experienced when trudging around a large, expensive art gallery, feeling obliged to see everything at all costs because you’ve paid for it and you’re damn well going to see it all! (or is that just me?!)

3. Library Books

photographic-inspiration-2.jpg

We visit our local library most weekends. Admittedly some of the photography books are looking rather old and might be considered to be a bit technically out of date. However, big anthologies of pictures are always a pleasure to flick through and can help bring fresh creative blood to your brain.

The bonus of libraries is that there’s no bookshelf space dilemma at home and they’re free! You can always make like me and fill in a suggestion card for new titles – a few months after asking for ‘more photography books, please!’ low and behold a nice fresh little stock appeared on the shelves: if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

4. Change your Daily Routine

Always walk the same way to work? Take the same bus or train? Comfortable in the same Saturday morning routine? Make up your mind to introduce a change next hour, next day, next week. Find a new area or some different streets to roam during your lunch break. Get up an hour earlier and walk in the opposite direction than you usually do from your house. See where your feet take you and what your lens comes across.

5. Submit Photographs, Enter Competitions

It’s always helpful to get feedback on your shots via sites like Flickr, but nothing beats the buzz of seeing a picture you took in the local paper or short-listed for a competition. When you know you’ve done good, you can’t fail but want to do more and better!

Local papers often look for pictures from your area and most nationals run regular competitions, both in paper and online. A quick search of the Internet may bring up some interesting and inspiring opportunities. Why not give it a whirl – you may be pleasantly surprised! So these are the kind of things I get up to when I feel the need for a digital energy injection. It would be interesting to hear what other people do to revive flagging photo motivation.

Get more from Claire Woollam at her site – the Digital Iris.

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Some Older Comments

  • Colin January 24, 2011 07:22 am

    Another thing you could do is just look through old DPS assignments and complete them.

  • simis October 1, 2010 06:34 am

    I agree that the 365 project helps to inspire. I am currently working on my third year of a photo a day it is hard and requires discipline but it gives me a lot of practice at looking at what is in front of me to photograph. I have had 4 years of photo a day projects that have helped improve and inspire creativity.

  • Rob | Atlanta Real Estate September 30, 2010 08:07 am

    Also, try checking out different and new lenses. Rent them, buy them, whatever.

  • Joel September 27, 2010 06:34 pm

    I found a project 365 very useful. It forces you to evaluate where you are and somehow develops the passion within yourself. Nothing feels greater than a little perturbation to find your passion.

  • Prashant September 20, 2010 04:07 am

    Inspirational article. Often face this. Am keen of doing project 365 but am skeptical of myself. Not sure if I would be able to do it.

  • Doc Canary September 20, 2010 02:55 am

    Good stuff. There is a lot to learn and it is not second nature to a lot of us.

  • Kathy Wess September 18, 2010 02:01 am

    Oops. Tried to leave a comment on the 10-Tips article to no avail.

  • cam September 12, 2010 12:02 pm

    one thing that i do a lot of is when i'm out of town, i take the camera with me and hunt around for subject. lately, denver and particularly downtown, are my favs. when i'm in denver for a few days and i'm away from the family, i have nothing else to do besides go on runs and photograph. what i love to do is put my running shoes on and do about 8 miles around the city and scope out subjects. i cool off, go back to the car, and change close and i'm off into the night for some shots. a great night indeed!

  • Leandro September 5, 2010 12:00 pm

    Nice tips! I just love to do #4 every now and then, it feels so good to do something different

  • Geren W. Mortensen, Jr. September 4, 2010 05:19 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/gerenm/4936447804/' title='IMG_0554' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4097/4936447804_82f89e20b3.jpg']

    Here's one -- buy a new camera. Well, sorta. If you've got an iPhone (3G, 3Gs or 4G recommended), spend under U$10 and get the Hipstamatic app and the add-ins for it. It's a blast!

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/gerenm/4927764863/' title='Beached Whale' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/4927764863_d97596a695_z.jpg']

  • Rose September 4, 2010 02:30 am

    I am from chennai. I would like to purchase Olympus fe-46 12MP digital camera, where do i get good price in chennai only.

  • Biswajit Dey Photoblog August 31, 2010 03:05 pm

    The 4rth and 5th points are very important....to get our own passion going.. :)

  • Paul Howard August 31, 2010 02:48 am

    Check out the Jim Krause books too - he has three Photo Idea Index books, one each for Things, People, Places. You don't necessarily want to copy what he's done but he does start you thinking. He gives minimal technical information as the goal is just that - to get you thinking. Any photo book can do that, but he does so with specific purpose. I found them quite inspirational!

  • Arun August 31, 2010 01:36 am

    Totally agree with all of the above, although I haven't done all of them...

    I think, no matter what, monotonicity creeps in what ever you do - and it's no different with Photography! Plus, given the fact that it's something with creativity, you generally tend to lose sight of what you want to do. Infact, currently, I've not shot like in about weeks together, but I know I'll get back to shooting as soon as I get myself inspired. I'm in the process of choosing some competitions - that way, I know I have a theme to work towards!!!

  • Caroline August 31, 2010 12:43 am

    I just got myself out of a photography rut. Here's what I did:

    1. Took an inexpensive photography class: I didn't learn a whole lot, but it forced me to be out shooting for three hours, which got me back into the groove.

    2. Started reading photographer biographies: First Shutterbabe, which then got me interested in reading about Diane Arbus.

  • Karen Stuebing August 30, 2010 09:27 pm

    I agree with Paul. Participating in a 365 or Daily Shoot forces you to shoot a photo a day. With the Daily Shoot, the topic is predefined. With a 365, you pick your own subjects. You don't have to get all OCD about it either. You can skip a day here and there.

    This is a great article for those of us who don't travel to foreign countries, although some of the back roads in West Virginia could qualify for that :), or take wedding photographs or formal portraits.

  • Timo August 30, 2010 09:11 pm

    Yesterday I finished my Project 365 (http://fotografzahl.wordpress.com).

    I can only recommend doing such a project - you really learn a lot, improve your skills and your ability to see. You go through the world with very open eyes and pay attention to many details.
    Since you are "forced" to take a picture everyday, you make it a habit to really carry a camera with you all day and you don't miss "that shot" anymore.
    And as a side-effect you meet new people in the internet and get a small network of fellow photographers who share your passion for photography.

  • Timo August 30, 2010 09:11 pm

    Yesterday I finished my Project 365 (http://fotografzahl.wordpress.com).

    I can only recommend doing such a project - you really learn a lot, improve your skills and your ability to see. You go through the world with very open eyes and pay attention to many details.
    Since you are "forced" to take a picture everyday, you make it a habit to really carry a camera with you all day and you don't miss "that shot" anymore.
    And as a side-effect you meet new people in the internet and get a small network of fellow photographers who share your passion for photography.

  • Nikhil Ramkarran August 30, 2010 07:08 am

    Weird that I would come across this article while I am wracking my brain trying to come up with something different to photograph today for today's photo. My hardest problem recently though is not so much finding the photo as it is getting the motivation to even try.

    I find that I am feeling more and more pressure to produce a "good" photo every day and that itself is de-motivating me. Thanks for the helpful tips though, you've just inspired to go take a photo of my bookcase which is currently bathed in a beautiful, golden afternoon light :)

  • Paul Howard August 30, 2010 05:41 am

    Awesome, thanks! A 365 project is tough! I'm on my first one http://howardpa.zenfolio.com/p152260100 and while the first 90-120 days weren't bad, the last couple months are a killer.
    The only other thing I've come up with for inspiration is patience. Even on a 10 minute walk around your own yard, if you stop and just wait, looking at things from above, below, ground level, etc., something will usually strike you as an opportunity.
    And if that doesn't work, start playing with post processing. Just changing saturation and grain can make a ho-hum shot into something cooler. This is my Day 237. [eimg url='http://howardpa.zenfolio.com/img/s10/v17/p463665051-3.jpg' title='p463665051-3.jpg']

  • Tyler August 30, 2010 04:45 am

    Be careful how many competitions you enter. 40 bucks here and there adds up. I have some pretty expensive rejection letters to show my ambition. Doing group shows with other local artists can be fun too.

    I like to seek out blogs to show work on in addition to exhibiting. I'll be tryng my first art fair in a couple weeks.

  • IPBrian August 30, 2010 03:55 am

    Another thought would be to participate in a photography project like a 50 of 50 (50 pictures in 50 days with a 50mm) or a 365 project. If this is a bit rough try for a weeks worth of pictures to start with (produce one every day for a week). It is a bit of an exercise, but bound to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Scott August 30, 2010 03:30 am

    Another idea, go to local trade shows. They offer some very unique photographic opportunities.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4429279243/

  • Wayfaring Wanderer August 30, 2010 01:49 am

    Awesome suggestions! I was just thinking this week that I needed to do a tour of our local gallery, since it's been a while.

    This past weekend, though, there was no shortage of inspiration as I did my first maternity photo shoot and then spent the next two days photographing a music festival. I've got A LOT of sorting to do, but that's a good thing!

    ~WW