In striving to make unique and stand-out imagery, finding relevant inspiration is so important. Our world is flooded with images! Limiting where you spend your time looking for inspiration becomes more important. There are a lot of trendy images circulating that live like a pop song. They are amazing and wonderful and inspiring the first time you see them. They are instant gratification at it’s best.
But the enjoyment doesn’t last. It’s sugary and sweet and your appreciation for it wanes. Every time you turn around, there is another image that seems just like it. There is no depth, no guts, no story behind the image. They all start to blur together into one big fluffy mass. Most of these photographs don’t have the fortitude like a classic song that gets better and better with time. More often, the first time you see a great image, it doesn’t do anything for you, but as you see it again and again, you start to unravel it’s vitality and depth. It only gets better the more you see it.
If this is the type of photography you want to create, then you need to work at it. You need to combine your gut instinct, a clear
understanding of your personal style and the consumption of relevant and respected inspiration on a regular basis.
Here is an exercise for those of you who are ready to try something new:
Improving your photography means more than just taking a lot of pictures or taking a photo a day. It takes time to reflect on photography: intellectually and emotionally. Making good photographs is more than spending time behind the lens, it is the tying together of heart, mind and soul.
“If I were to wish for anything,
I should not wish for wealth and power,
but for the passionate sense of potential
— for the eye which, ever young and ardent,
sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints;
possibility never.” `Soren Kierkegaard
1) Find a way to celebrate photography by viewing it (away from the internet and using more historic sources) for at least an hour. Visit a museum or gallery displaying a photographic body of work, go to your own bookshelves, a bookstore or the public library and leaf through photography books and read about the photographs within. One of my favorite inspirational books is Camera Work.
2) Spend some time online to create a special Pinterest board. Add your 20 most favorite photographs from Lenscratch.com, lensculture.com, aperture.org, photography-now.net etc. Browse gallery or museum websites and your favorite photography sites. Don’t use Pinterest suggestions from current friends and family. Google terms like artistic portraits, historical portrait photography, contemporary photography or any other specific type of photography that strongly appeals to you personally. Be sure to credit the photographer on each pin and and comment that the pin is for educational purposes. I enjoy looking at paintings and drawings for inspiration.
3) View and critique the photographs you have selected. Analyze and evaluate them for subject, location, composition, lighting, emotional response or other aspects that stand out to you. Write down your discovery. This will help you start to define what an inspiring photograph is-to YOU not someone else. It will take time. You will see a lot of amazing work by many different people and be tempted to include images that some other popular photographer has posted but don’t fall into this trap. Choose your own vision.
Don’t think about your own work. Just appreciate what you see and be in awe of it. Notice what elements you are drawn to consistently: B&W or color, journalistic or staged, chiaroscuro or soft light, strong leading lines or simplicity, a peculiar setting or a homey setting, conventional or quirky. Recognize that these ‘likes’ are your personal taste and come from something deeper that you may not be in touch with completely-something that could change your photography forever.
Are there any parallels to the work you currently create or are they completely different? How?
Are there any parallels to your own personal style and way of life or are they completely different? How?
Next, narrow your ‘inspired by’ search down to just five photographers whose work and lifestyle inspire you. What appeals to you about their work? Subject, technique, location, lighting? Do you know more about the artists than the work they have created? Get to know these artists as much as you can and try to find out the history of how they began creating their work.
A whole new world will open up to you. The potential of you creating something completely surprising is a wonderful thing and could be really scary at first but liberating in the long run.