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Using Visual Diaries To Find Inspiration for your Photography


Have you ever been stuck in a rut?

A common problem that many digital photographers face after a while is that they look at the results of their work and find that most of the photos that they’ve been taking look much the same as each other.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your digital photography – always photographing the same subjects, from the same angles, in the same mood, in the same style etc.

Now there’s nothing wrong with having your own style or preference when it comes to subject matter – but it can get a little boring if you don’t mix it up a little from time to time and add some spice into your photography.

Visual Diaries – I was speaking with a semi-professional photographer recently about her work and how she kept it ‘fresh’ and she answered by pulling out a spiral bound art folio. At first I thought it was an album of her work but on opening it I discovered it was a scrapbook – filled with images that others had taken.

This photographer had gotten in the habit of cutting out images that inspired her from newspapers, magazines, advertising brochures, postcards etc. She even printed shots from online to stick in her visual notebook. The other section of her visual notebook was a place for writing and drawing ideas. When she thought of an idea to photograph in the day to day of life she’d make a note of it (or even draw a little sketch to help her remember) so she could come back to it later to do a photo shoot around the idea.

The idea behind the notebook was simply to give her inspiration to try new things. Every time she found herself getting in a rut or searching for an idea to make her work more creative she’d get out her notebook and see what other photographers were doing in terms of subjects, angles, colors, cropping etc. She didn’t directly copy the work of others but in exposing herself to it found that her own work had improved and had a wider and more contemporary appeal.

Now I’m sure many of us don’t have the time to create a visual diary like this photographer – but there are many variations you can put upon her approach. Here’s two I use:

  • Idea Wall – many graphic designers do a similar thing to visual diaries but stick the images and ideas that inspire them up on a wall next to their desk. In this way they’re constantly stimulated by others work.
  • Bookmark Folder – I’m someone who is very web-based in my work and so have an ‘inspiration bookmark folder’ which is essentially an online version of a visual diary where I store links to web pages and online images that inspire me

Head to Flickr (a great online photo sharing site) and go surfing through some of the photos that others have taken. Find a few photos that you like and then post a link to them in our discussion forum telling us which ones have inspired you and why.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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