Staying inspired to create stunning photographs consistently is a tough challenge.
In this article, I present seven methods you can use to find inspiration. If you take them on board they will propel you to your goal of making phenomenal photographs.
Most photographs you see in your day are mediocre at best. You will scroll past them rapidly and hardly notice most of them. Other people will do this with your photos on their social media feeds too.
Seeking inspiration from social media is not effective in the long run if you desire to make truly outstanding photographs.
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” – Jack Kerouac
1. Read. Read. Read.
Read a lot. Read books about photography by photographers. Read stories of how photographers became successful. People’s stories will teach you many varied ideas you will not read in how-to books or find on Youtube tutorials.
One of my favorite photography books is called, On Being a Photographer by David Hurn and Bill Jay. These authors were longtime friends and both accomplished photographers and teachers. I am inspired by their conversations in this book every time I pick it up.
Find a few photography blogs to follow. Search for photographers whose work you admire and can relate to who are writing their own blogs. Read everything they write.
Keep reading the diversity of articles here at dPS. When you find a topic or author you appreciate, search back through their archives and read more. Find the author’s website and social media feeds and follow them.
There are not so many photography magazines published nowadays. Read them if you can find some you like. Pick up old copies if you see them in second-hand stores. They often contain well written, carefully edited articles and follow styles and themes. I still have photography magazines that are 20 years old in which I can still find inspiration.
2. Seek Out the Masters
Learn from the best. Keep watch for when photography exhibitions are held in your area. Make a point of seeing major photograph exhibitions, even if you have to travel some distance. Take a photographer friend and make a day of it. Having someone else who’s interested will mean you have lots of good conversation about the photos you see.
Buy books. Check books out from your local library. Books of photographer’s life work or long-term projects. Big picture books you can browse through and learn from. Look for what you like, images and styles you want to emulate.
Finding some photography heroes will help keep you looking upwards. Learning how the masters have succeeded will encourage you to new heights in your own photography. I have been incredibly inspired by the work of Irving Penn and many others.
3. Do Something New
Commit to learning a new technique. Research on the technique and how it’s best used. Practice it every time you use your camera it. When you have mastered it, learn another.
Do the same for your equipment. If you buy a new flash, reflector, filter or another piece of gear, don’t let yourself buy anything else until you have mastered it.
It’s easy to become uninspired doing things by half. If you have a new piece of kit or have started learning a new technique and not become familiar with it, you will not be able to use it effortlessly. By committing to becoming proficient you will enjoy it more and be more creative than frustrated.
4. Do a Photography Project or Two
Always have at least one on-going photography project you work on regularly. Set goals and make yourself challenges to keep producing better and better images for your project.
Incorporate the other six points in this article to help you stay inspired for your projects. Generating a body of work you will be able to look back over in time can be incredibly motivating. To see how your photography skills and ideas grow over a period of six months, a year, five years or more is a valuable source of inspiration.
5. Find Photographer Friends
Solo indulgence in any form of creative expression can leave you in a vacuum unless you are completely confident and never lack inspiration. I don’t think I know anyone like that. Being a photographer, whether for a living or as a hobby, is often something people do on their own.
Having someone to bounce ideas around with can breed creativity like nothing else I know. It’s not always easy to find people to do this with. If you seek them you will find them. Creatively compatible people often gravitate towards one another. Be open to relating with other photographers.
Have coffee or a beer together:
- Swap stories.
- Share ideas.
- Encourage one another.
- Ask questions.
- Help each other.
- Collaborate on projects.
6. Crave Constructive Criticism
Have the photos you are taking critiqued by someone you respect. Find someone that can give you positive input on technique, method, and style. It may take some courage at first but this will help keep you inspired.
Receiving uplifting feedback about what you are doing creatively is important to personal growth. Learning to critique your own work is a valuable exercise to provoke motivation. Taking a step back and having your photos critiqued, by someone else or by doing it yourself, will stimulate fresh photography ideas.
7. Find a Mentor
Someone you can trust and has real experience as a photographer is about the best way to help you stay inspired. A good mentor will incorporate both #5 and #6 as a friend and a critic of your photos. They will do more than that though.
A capable mentor will help guide you through all the points in this article. You will gain so much from their seasoned years of having a camera in their hands and living and breathing photography.
Finding a mentor you can connect with and who you feel comfortable with is important. You need someone who listens to you rather than just shares what they have done.
You can ask local photographers near where you live or seek out someone online who’s photos and opinions you respect and appreciate. Even if they do not offer a mentoring service, just ask. They can only say no.
You may have to pay a mentor for their service, especially if they offer some kind of structured learning program. If you are serious about photography this will likely be the best investment you can make. It will do far more for you than upgrading your camera or buying a new lens.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh