How I Use Inspiration Shots From Other Photographers

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Screen shot 2010-03-09 at 14.47.28

jfdupuis.com

How do you gather ideas for your photography? It would be impossible for anyone to say that they don’t gather inspiration and ideas from the imagery around them. I’d love to share with you the process with which I gather ideas for my sessions and how I use other photographers’ work to inspire my own.

I’ve always sung the praises of Flickr. I logon every day (even if only for a moment) to check what my contacts have uploaded and grab a couple glimpses at Flickr’s ‘interestingness’ of the day. I also love to Stumble and find new photographers around the web whose work I can appreciate. So what’s a photographer to do when they find something they’d like to keep in their mind for their next date with the camera?

I keep a file on my computer called ‘inspiration’. It’s divided into subfolders for all different categories I feel they best belong to. When I’m preparing for a session, I go into the folders and pic a couple (and ONLY a couple:) shots which inspire me. It used to be that I would pick shots I’d like to try to copy verbatim but I soon realised that I was spending all my time worrying about the exact pose in the photo that I was missing out on other shots. Now, I use my inspiration to guide me in a general direction. Sometimes, I’m able to rip off the whole thing which looks good, but doesn’t exactly feel magical. Other times, something completely different comes out of it and that’s the most rockin’ thing of all.

So here are a few inspiration vs. end result shots and what I was thinking when I took them.

1.} This is quite a common concept for couples, but this image (left) was the first time I’d ever seen it done. And mine (right) was my first photo taken in my first ‘real’ photo shoot as a ‘professional’. I was so nervous about the session that I made a file of images on my ipod and copied them verbatim. Although lacking in inspiration of my own accord, it was an excellent first experience.

2.} This is an excellent example of how my Flickr browsing has changed from copying concepts to being deeply inspired by them. It wasn’t until I was browsing my inspiration folder to write this post that I realised that the image (left) felt strikingly similar to the image I took last week of this couple. When you soak in great photography and squeeze yourself once in a while, great photography will come out!

How do you utilise other photographers’ work to inspire your own?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a Hampshire Photographer and keeps a rockin' photography blog where she writes about photography and business in "real.plain.english".

  • Excellent post and as I begin my journey down the road to becoming a professional I will keep a file as you suggest.

    Thanks for the great work.

    Kyle Bailey, RookiePhoto.com

  • Kristin D

    Great article!! I’ve just started doing this myself as a new photographer and can completely relate to the initial temptation to copy vs trusting ones own instincts and inspiration. I felt at first that searching out new ideas was not very “artistic” of me and that I should be figuring it all our on my own for it to be authentic. But then my husband reminded me that even artists must educate themselves and search out what they like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t etc, while developing their own style. So far I feel great about the balance I’m finding, and I don’t think I would be nearly as engaged in the process of finding MY own style without the inspiration of others to help me begin.

    Thanks again!!

  • A recent booking with two high schoolers prompted me to look around on the web for “senior photos”. I intentionally did not “memorize” or copy any specific poses or composition. I just wanted to look at so many of them that the “style” I liked most just kind of absorb in my mind, but that the photo actually be original to me. It worked. See The People gallery at http://www.mymindseyephoto.com. Several are posted there.

  • I put every photographer I come across into my google reader and follow their work. If I don’t like them I delete them. If I do like them I try to analyze why I like and don’t like about their shoots. It helps me develop my own style by evaluating others.

  • Seeing how other people shoot certain subject matter has allowed me to familiarize myself with subject and minimize certain intimidation.

  • Keeping an idea file is a great idea. I often rip pages from magazines and stick them into a folder that I peruse from time to time. My iTouch has become a critical portfolio tool as well as an idea list for on-your-toes thinking. Great article.

    http://www.lightshootedit.com

  • I too use flickr to find shots that are inspiring. However, lately I have been using the Wall Street Journal’s “Pictures of the Day” blog because I really like photojournalism shots and to see what his happening in world events through their ver creative and inspiring photographs. It is one thing to be able to make a great shot in a totally controlled environment, and another very different thing to be able to walk into a very uncontrolled environment and leave it with a great shot that tells an interesting story.

    Wall Street Journal “Pictures of the Day” blog:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/photojournal/

  • so far, i’ve only really pulled from another photographer once. and i made sure to give them credit.

    here’s the original:

    and here’s my take:

    PS- not sure the html is going to work out…

  • well, turns out the HTML didn’t work. So…

    Here’s the original

    and here’s my take.

  • I used to spend a fair bit of time trawling through flickr as well but found that while there a lot of really good photographers out there they tend to get drowned with all the “snapshots” people upload. As a result, I’ve now started trawling through photo blogs!

  • I found that looking at inspiring ideas trains your eye to see…

  • I like your version of photo#1. I like browsing through photo blogs and magazines for inspiration. I try to develop my own style and interpretation along the way.

  • It’s a called appropriation. It’s the hallmark of the postmodern art movement. We see so many images photo, video, art – it’s hard not to reference someone elses’ work. It has all been done, and really I see no need for attributions. Any of those poses sampled above have been shot thousands of times (or more). I do attribute shots if they are modeled after a famous image (ie Cartier Breson, Egglestone, Frank), but for wedding poses, I am not sure I see the point.

  • And in turn I use you photos as inspiration. 😀

  • Thanks for the post! I am not understanding how you are organizing the photo ideas into folders? Are you taking them off of the internet and storing them in a folder on your hard drive? I thought that is a big no no. I’m not trying to call you out but trying to get an understanding of how you are doing that. Thanks!!!

  • Michael

    My method has always been to capture what looks interesting to me. Like most photographers, I am an observer at heart but I am limited to my own perspective on the world. Viewing other’s work helps me to expand my perspective and start looking for things that I may not have noticed before.

    It also helps me expand the use of my equipment. It pushes my comfort zone and forces me to play with the sometimes daunting amount of settings my camera has now [still getting used to the dslr world].

    Here are some of my favs:
    http://www.keithcarterphotographs.com/
    http://www.amyvcooper.com/
    http://www.dannyclinch.com/

  • Having looked at your shot, Kaytee, and then followed the link to your source. It seems that you are a part of a long chain of people. I think that’s just wonderful, that people can find simple inspiration in another’s work.

    If you’re interested, this is the “original”:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40889611@N05/3765960388/

  • Shyfotogrfr

    I’m happy to read that others find inspiration this way too. I was beginning to feel like I was bereft of any artistic inclinations at all because I constantly look at others people work and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I have tried putting my own interpretation on things and found that I usually like the original better anyway. This was a very comforting article for me.

  • The Shannon

    I LOVE the file idea. I’ve begun doing engagement couple photography and before a shoot I like to go online and look at a couple of my favorite photographers for general ideas. I also ask the couple – especially the bride-to-be – if they have any ideas in mind or if they see something on the internet or in a magazine that they love bring it or send me a link. I know that brides probably are doing a LOT more research than I am and they always have really great ideas.

    I think I’m going to start keeping a file to keep my inspiration organized and help me out a little when I’m lacking in the inspiration department – especially now after a week of midterms with a weekend of shoots to look forward to.

    Thanks!

  • I have been using bookmarks to keep locations of sites, blogs, etc that has photos I really like. Your idea of the file on your computer is awesome! I will start doing that. RIght now, I am still learning the science and art of photography and just getting light correct, so I have not spent as much time on composing the shot. Much of my work is integrated with all of my family activities, but I have have some opportunities coming up to do actual “photo shoots” with some friends that have newborns — my way of safely working on how to direct a photo shoot with limited downside, and building a portfolio beyond my family. I will start scripting that shoot by getting inspired! Thanks for the great post!

  • lENA

    I also like to look at others for inspiration. I agree that it opens my eyes to things I have not seen before – and usually because I am focusing too hard on catching the specific shot. I analyze images, and over analyze images – including my own. I have kept a file for about two years now, of shots I like – for reference. Every now and again, I go back to them, and see how my own style has changed or morphed, and I usually find that I delete some of these pics as my style seems to be getting clearer as I go on. Now, I have included RSS feeds of photographers that I love… like Jasmine Star! 🙂 LOVE HER! I am still trying to learn the manual features of my camera, and all of the above has helped me a great deal! 🙂

  • Dan Ketcham

    Very good article.
    I love to sit and engross myself in others images, and can find myself staring in awe, and using them as well.
    I really use others as inspiration as it gives ideas, and also makes me step back and think about what I want to do and where others have been.

    I’ve never thought of actually saving others inspirations, but I am finding myself “friending” more people on Flickr for use of their photos as inspiration.

    again..Thanks

  • I just add favourites on Flickr and then look through them or download them from time to time. I mostly do this when i have those ‘i hate photography’ or ‘i can’t use a camera’ moods. Setting someone elses photo as your background also reminds you of what is possible, especially if you search for photos taken with your camera. Visit my website http://www.flickr.com/photos/addyeddy

  • I use “Gallery” on my Flickr account to save inspirational shots……

    Eddie

  • Sherry Felger

    I have just begun to puruse Flickr for interesting shots before I read this article. I didn’t think about using a journal. I really like the idea of a journal. I am not good at copying other peoples photography, so I was searching for that “feeling” a photo can give you. In the end, it always has to be your photo.

  • Elizabeth rocks!
    I used to do this unconsciously, but I see that everybody else also does more or less the same. I’m gonna make a list and then follow what you said =)

    Great post as always,
    Keep up the good work, and thanks!

    Cheers
    Antony

  • Linda

    As a left brain person TRYING to develop a hobby of photography, I LOVE this practical, concrete suggestion of how to save ideas for future inspiration! I already save my own favorite photos on Flickr, so I’ll start right away going to it for inspiration from others as well. I need all the help I can get developing my Right brain!

  • Really good article… I don’t save photos but I look at every photo I see and study them. The more you study how photos are composed when you go to take yours you will remember how others have taken similar shots. Photos are everywhere on billboards, in magazines, newspapers, calendars, and even on TV. Flickr is good but like mentioned there are a lot of snap shots to sort through. A good site I use to view better than average shots is http://www.photosig.com/go/main and for sure this site 🙂

  • great article, i could use thing tips in developing concepts in my photography. As a newbie , it is always good to get ideas from advanced photographers.

  • Great idea, I never thought of having an “inspiration folder” but I think that I’ll start one!

  • I use a website called we heart it, it lets you save favourite images to their site under your name, so you are able to save shots for futher inspiration! Hope that helps!

  • Puneet T

    I never thought of saving pictures for inspiration but seems to me a good idea. Will start doing it now…
    Thanks for the article.

  • I’ve been using Pinterest for this. I have many different boards but the one titled “Pretty Pictures” is just for fabulous photos that inspire me in some way. Being able to access it from my phone makes it super easy when I’m out and about and need some inspiration (or should I say “pin-spiration”) 🙂

    PS – I love your blog. I read it daily!!

    Here’s a link to my Pinterest boards: http://pinterest.com/stephaniecourt/

  • Nana

    Great article.. I an a new photographer and I also have an ‘inspiration’ folder saved that I look at from time to time to gather some inspiration. It really helps.

  • Sharron

    I find that no matter how you find inspiration, if it is mimicking someone else pose, or modifying it a bit to suit yourself, that the end result will always reflect the artist taking the photograph. I have conducted many experiments using people with similar levels of talent I have them paint or photograph the same image and the results are always vastly different. Each of us sees differently, therefore each of us will present our visualizations differently. So find inspiration anywhere you can… the results will be yours alone.

  • Rajeev

    Hi..Thanks..
    Your article is very much inspirational…
    I also try to do like that..
    Thanks for the guidance..

Some Older Comments

  • Sharron May 18, 2013 01:14 am

    I find that no matter how you find inspiration, if it is mimicking someone else pose, or modifying it a bit to suit yourself, that the end result will always reflect the artist taking the photograph. I have conducted many experiments using people with similar levels of talent I have them paint or photograph the same image and the results are always vastly different. Each of us sees differently, therefore each of us will present our visualizations differently. So find inspiration anywhere you can... the results will be yours alone.

  • Nana May 17, 2013 10:23 pm

    Great article.. I an a new photographer and I also have an 'inspiration' folder saved that I look at from time to time to gather some inspiration. It really helps.

  • Stephanie May 21, 2011 02:39 am

    I've been using Pinterest for this. I have many different boards but the one titled "Pretty Pictures" is just for fabulous photos that inspire me in some way. Being able to access it from my phone makes it super easy when I'm out and about and need some inspiration (or should I say "pin-spiration") :)

    PS - I love your blog. I read it daily!!

    Here's a link to my Pinterest boards: http://pinterest.com/stephaniecourt/

  • Puneet T May 16, 2011 04:43 am

    I never thought of saving pictures for inspiration but seems to me a good idea. Will start doing it now...
    Thanks for the article.

  • Anna m May 15, 2011 06:58 am

    I use a website called we heart it, it lets you save favourite images to their site under your name, so you are able to save shots for futher inspiration! Hope that helps!

  • Dave Schimmers July 14, 2010 09:24 am

    Great idea, I never thought of having an "inspiration folder" but I think that I'll start one!

  • Mark April 21, 2010 07:10 am

    great article, i could use thing tips in developing concepts in my photography. As a newbie , it is always good to get ideas from advanced photographers.

  • Alan Linn April 5, 2010 01:25 am

    Really good article... I don't save photos but I look at every photo I see and study them. The more you study how photos are composed when you go to take yours you will remember how others have taken similar shots. Photos are everywhere on billboards, in magazines, newspapers, calendars, and even on TV. Flickr is good but like mentioned there are a lot of snap shots to sort through. A good site I use to view better than average shots is http://www.photosig.com/go/main and for sure this site :-)

  • Linda April 3, 2010 08:45 am

    As a left brain person TRYING to develop a hobby of photography, I LOVE this practical, concrete suggestion of how to save ideas for future inspiration! I already save my own favorite photos on Flickr, so I'll start right away going to it for inspiration from others as well. I need all the help I can get developing my Right brain!

  • Antony Pratap April 2, 2010 03:38 pm

    Elizabeth rocks!
    I used to do this unconsciously, but I see that everybody else also does more or less the same. I'm gonna make a list and then follow what you said =)

    Great post as always,
    Keep up the good work, and thanks!

    Cheers
    Antony

  • Sherry Felger April 2, 2010 07:20 am

    I have just begun to puruse Flickr for interesting shots before I read this article. I didn't think about using a journal. I really like the idea of a journal. I am not good at copying other peoples photography, so I was searching for that "feeling" a photo can give you. In the end, it always has to be your photo.

  • Eddie Griffiths April 2, 2010 03:12 am

    I use "Gallery" on my Flickr account to save inspirational shots......

    Eddie

  • Adam Edmond April 2, 2010 02:46 am

    I just add favourites on Flickr and then look through them or download them from time to time. I mostly do this when i have those 'i hate photography' or 'i can't use a camera' moods. Setting someone elses photo as your background also reminds you of what is possible, especially if you search for photos taken with your camera. Visit my website www.flickr.com/photos/addyeddy

  • Dan Ketcham March 30, 2010 03:45 am

    Very good article.
    I love to sit and engross myself in others images, and can find myself staring in awe, and using them as well.
    I really use others as inspiration as it gives ideas, and also makes me step back and think about what I want to do and where others have been.

    I've never thought of actually saving others inspirations, but I am finding myself "friending" more people on Flickr for use of their photos as inspiration.

    again..Thanks

  • lENA March 30, 2010 02:47 am

    I also like to look at others for inspiration. I agree that it opens my eyes to things I have not seen before - and usually because I am focusing too hard on catching the specific shot. I analyze images, and over analyze images - including my own. I have kept a file for about two years now, of shots I like - for reference. Every now and again, I go back to them, and see how my own style has changed or morphed, and I usually find that I delete some of these pics as my style seems to be getting clearer as I go on. Now, I have included RSS feeds of photographers that I love... like Jasmine Star! :) LOVE HER! I am still trying to learn the manual features of my camera, and all of the above has helped me a great deal! :)

  • Victor Howard March 28, 2010 01:07 am

    I have been using bookmarks to keep locations of sites, blogs, etc that has photos I really like. Your idea of the file on your computer is awesome! I will start doing that. RIght now, I am still learning the science and art of photography and just getting light correct, so I have not spent as much time on composing the shot. Much of my work is integrated with all of my family activities, but I have have some opportunities coming up to do actual "photo shoots" with some friends that have newborns -- my way of safely working on how to direct a photo shoot with limited downside, and building a portfolio beyond my family. I will start scripting that shoot by getting inspired! Thanks for the great post!

  • The Shannon March 27, 2010 11:30 am

    I LOVE the file idea. I've begun doing engagement couple photography and before a shoot I like to go online and look at a couple of my favorite photographers for general ideas. I also ask the couple - especially the bride-to-be - if they have any ideas in mind or if they see something on the internet or in a magazine that they love bring it or send me a link. I know that brides probably are doing a LOT more research than I am and they always have really great ideas.

    I think I'm going to start keeping a file to keep my inspiration organized and help me out a little when I'm lacking in the inspiration department - especially now after a week of midterms with a weekend of shoots to look forward to.

    Thanks!

  • Shyfotogrfr March 27, 2010 07:03 am

    I'm happy to read that others find inspiration this way too. I was beginning to feel like I was bereft of any artistic inclinations at all because I constantly look at others people work and think, "Why didn't I think of that?" I have tried putting my own interpretation on things and found that I usually like the original better anyway. This was a very comforting article for me.

  • David March 26, 2010 11:42 pm

    Having looked at your shot, Kaytee, and then followed the link to your source. It seems that you are a part of a long chain of people. I think that's just wonderful, that people can find simple inspiration in another's work.

    If you're interested, this is the "original":

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40889611@N05/3765960388/

  • Michael March 26, 2010 11:29 pm

    My method has always been to capture what looks interesting to me. Like most photographers, I am an observer at heart but I am limited to my own perspective on the world. Viewing other's work helps me to expand my perspective and start looking for things that I may not have noticed before.

    It also helps me expand the use of my equipment. It pushes my comfort zone and forces me to play with the sometimes daunting amount of settings my camera has now [still getting used to the dslr world].

    Here are some of my favs:
    www.keithcarterphotographs.com/
    www.amyvcooper.com/
    www.dannyclinch.com/

  • Christina March 26, 2010 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the post! I am not understanding how you are organizing the photo ideas into folders? Are you taking them off of the internet and storing them in a folder on your hard drive? I thought that is a big no no. I'm not trying to call you out but trying to get an understanding of how you are doing that. Thanks!!!

  • hfng March 26, 2010 11:04 pm

    And in turn I use you photos as inspiration. :D

  • Tyler March 26, 2010 10:15 pm

    It's a called appropriation. It's the hallmark of the postmodern art movement. We see so many images photo, video, art - it's hard not to reference someone elses' work. It has all been done, and really I see no need for attributions. Any of those poses sampled above have been shot thousands of times (or more). I do attribute shots if they are modeled after a famous image (ie Cartier Breson, Egglestone, Frank), but for wedding poses, I am not sure I see the point.

  • Mei Teng March 26, 2010 02:14 pm

    I like your version of photo#1. I like browsing through photo blogs and magazines for inspiration. I try to develop my own style and interpretation along the way.

  • Larisa March 26, 2010 02:06 pm

    I found that looking at inspiring ideas trains your eye to see...

  • Dev Wijewardane March 26, 2010 10:29 am

    I used to spend a fair bit of time trawling through flickr as well but found that while there a lot of really good photographers out there they tend to get drowned with all the "snapshots" people upload. As a result, I've now started trawling through photo blogs!

  • Kaytee March 26, 2010 08:33 am

    well, turns out the HTML didn't work. So...

    Here's the original

    and here's my take.

  • Kaytee March 26, 2010 08:32 am

    so far, i've only really pulled from another photographer once. and i made sure to give them credit.

    here's the original:

    and here's my take:

    PS- not sure the html is going to work out...

  • Jason Collin Photography March 26, 2010 08:26 am

    I too use flickr to find shots that are inspiring. However, lately I have been using the Wall Street Journal's "Pictures of the Day" blog because I really like photojournalism shots and to see what his happening in world events through their ver creative and inspiring photographs. It is one thing to be able to make a great shot in a totally controlled environment, and another very different thing to be able to walk into a very uncontrolled environment and leave it with a great shot that tells an interesting story.

    Wall Street Journal "Pictures of the Day" blog:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/photojournal/

  • scott March 26, 2010 08:01 am

    Keeping an idea file is a great idea. I often rip pages from magazines and stick them into a folder that I peruse from time to time. My iTouch has become a critical portfolio tool as well as an idea list for on-your-toes thinking. Great article.

    www.lightshootedit.com

  • Greg Taylor March 26, 2010 07:36 am

    Seeing how other people shoot certain subject matter has allowed me to familiarize myself with subject and minimize certain intimidation.

  • Shannon March 26, 2010 07:20 am

    I put every photographer I come across into my google reader and follow their work. If I don't like them I delete them. If I do like them I try to analyze why I like and don't like about their shoots. It helps me develop my own style by evaluating others.

  • Tparrish March 26, 2010 07:17 am

    A recent booking with two high schoolers prompted me to look around on the web for "senior photos". I intentionally did not "memorize" or copy any specific poses or composition. I just wanted to look at so many of them that the "style" I liked most just kind of absorb in my mind, but that the photo actually be original to me. It worked. See The People gallery at www.mymindseyephoto.com. Several are posted there.

  • Kristin D March 26, 2010 07:06 am

    Great article!! I've just started doing this myself as a new photographer and can completely relate to the initial temptation to copy vs trusting ones own instincts and inspiration. I felt at first that searching out new ideas was not very "artistic" of me and that I should be figuring it all our on my own for it to be authentic. But then my husband reminded me that even artists must educate themselves and search out what they like and don't like, what works and what doesn't etc, while developing their own style. So far I feel great about the balance I'm finding, and I don't think I would be nearly as engaged in the process of finding MY own style without the inspiration of others to help me begin.

    Thanks again!!

  • Kyle Bailey March 26, 2010 06:12 am

    Excellent post and as I begin my journey down the road to becoming a professional I will keep a file as you suggest.

    Thanks for the great work.

    Kyle Bailey, RookiePhoto.com

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