How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

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Inspiration and influence are important to every creative person. Being motivated to pick up your camera and make fabulous photographs is an essential part of your on-going development. But how to find inspiration for your photography?

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Always taking the same subjects, using the same lighting. Sticking with a composition style because you are comfortable with it. This will make you creatively stagnant. But how do you avoid that? Especially if you have enjoyed this method for some time.

wetlands landscape photo - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

I don’t often take landscape photos. Now that we are living in a rural environment, landscape photography is my new challenge.

Find motivation in other photographers’ work

Stat motivated by looking at the pictures by photographers whose work you admire. I’m not talking about drawing an emotional charge from the photo of your girlfriend’s lunch she’s posted on Instagram. Find some successful photographers who have good collections of images that you love.

food photography - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

If you like to photograph your food, push yourself to get more than snapshots.

Bookmark their website. Buy a real physical book of their work. Follow the photographer on Instagram. Research to find documentaries about the way they work and think. Find out what motivates and inspires them.

If you are not sure where to start, look at your own photos, especially ones you want to improve upon. What style are the images? What are your subjects? Are the images predominantly color or black and white? Search for photographers who like what you do and follow them.

How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography - desert image with one tree

I will continue to photograph the landscape around where I live. To find more ideas and inspiration I will be researching accomplished landscape photographers.

Check the source

To find the best, look at where their work is published. Or check out photographer’s collectives, such as Magnum. Or research which photographers have won major photography competitions, like Pulitzer or the Sony Photography Awards.

These days there are few magazines specializing in picture stories. National Geographic is always good for inspiration in general. Look up some of the historic magazines like Life, Picture Post, and Look. These magazines featured top photographers. The best fashion magazines may be a good place to look to trigger your creativity.

water buffalo - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

The internet is also a massive source, but be careful. Anyone can publish their photos online (we all do) and call themselves an expert. Sources of photographs which are not self-published generally are more credible. I think you are more likely to find more experienced, successful photographers will have a body of work you can admire. But do look at Instagram and photo sharing sites like 500px. Seek inspiration from the best you can find in the genres you love the most.

Go to photography exhibitions

Exhibitions of photographs can also be immensely inspirational. Seeing actual photographic prints, framed and hung is such a pleasure. If you have galleries close to where you live, watch for dates they will have photography exhibitions.

When you travel, seek out the galleries showing the work of photographers.

Landscape photo of Thai mountains - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

Books

I love photography books. I was bought up visiting libraries. Once I became interested in photography I worked my way through all the relevant books in my local libraries. Unfortunately, there were not that many. The ones which interested me most were the ones showcasing the photos of individual photographers. Books showing their photos and giving a little background on them, rather than the how-to books.

Now I have a collection of books on photography. Most of them are on individual photographers or are collections of photographs. Two of them are catalogs of Magnum exhibitions I have seen. I pick one up from time to time and am always uplifted, encouraged, and inspired to do better.

Tricycle taxi rider in a market in Chiang Mai - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

I have been more drawn to street lifestyle photography and influenced by many magazine photo essays.

Pick your faves

Find yourself a selection of photographers whose work you admire and look at them often. Maybe they are more historic and no longer producing pictures. Keep looking back at your favorites and study why you like them so much.

More contemporary photographers will be updating pictures on their websites and Instagram feeds. My Instagram feed photos are from people who have taken a workshop with us and photographers who inspire me.

Natural light outdoor studio portrait of a Karen man - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

I have been greatly inspired by the work of Irving Penn. Especially his use of a natural light outdoor studio.

I love the work of Irving Penn and have some of his books. You can find his images on Instagram, even though he passed away in 2009. I never get tired of looking at the way he exposed and composed his images. I’ve never been into fashion photography, but Penn did so much more than what he is most known for and it is the style of his work that has inspired me.

Documentaries on photographers can also provide insight. Seeing how they work and hearing them speak about it can be very motivational.

Photo montage of the Iron Bridge in Chiang Mai at night made in a similar style to Daivd Hocknet joiner photos.

The historic Iron Bridge in Chiang Mai. Photographed from three different positions and compiled into a photo montage.

Shortly after buying my first camera I watched a documentary about David Hockney. He was making one of his photo-montages he called “joiners”. I loved the process and results. Because of this one short video I was inspired and have been creating my own photo collages for over 30 years.

Many photographers are also teaching online. Find one who’s photography and teaching style you like. They will help keep you inspired and educate you at the same time.

Young Thai couple pose for a photo montage in Chiang Mai, Thailand. - How to Find Inspiration for Your Photography

This photo montage was made for an exhibition I had at the Le Meridien Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Look at the work of other photographers who inspire you. Your style and your passion will be positively affected.

Remember, Picasso suggested, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Copy what you like. Steal their ideas, and make them your own.

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Kevin Landwer-Johan is a professional photographer, photography teacher, and filmmaker with over 30 years experience. Kevin is offering DPS readers his FREE course for beginner photographers which will build your confidence in photography. You will learn how to make sense of camera settings and gain a better understanding of the importance of light in photography. Check out Kevin's Blog for a wide variety of photography related articles.

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