Finding Inspiration For Your Photographs
Content and Images Contributed By: Richard Newman
Where do you find inspiration for your photographs? In the world today, we are overwhelmed by images and it’s hard not to be swept off our feet by the wave of pictures that confronts us everyday. Yet deep inside, what makes me really happy is when I am working with my camera on a project or an idea that I know comes from within me.
Photography is a very “opinionated” form of self-expression. The photographer chooses the medium (film, digital or motion), lens, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, time of day, light source, angle of view and the final presentation of each image, whether it’s a four-foot-tall print or transmission over the web to a smart phone. Take note that of all the choices above that you make as a photographer, one important thing is missing, and that is the subject. So what do you take pictures of?
When I’m searching for inspiration for subject matter, I generally do one of two things: take a look back into photo history or take a walk. Jeff Cutro, a good friend of mine who teaches at the College of DuPage in Illinois, offers an online photo-history course with some fantastic lectures. You can check out the podcasts below:
Since I became involved with photography long before the internet, one of the first things I did was build my own photo library. I began by searching the secondhand bookstores and garage sales and, over the course of time, I have built a pretty nice source of inspiration that is at my fingertips whenever I desire, and I encourage you to do the same.
Start by finding the photographers who stimulate your imagination and study their work. Collect their books if you can and look at them — don’t just leave them on the shelf.
Now that we have the Internet, almost everything is within our immediate grasp if we just Google it. After one of these search sessions, I often find inspiration, an idea is born and I have something that I want to try to create. Ansel said it best, “There is nothing worse than a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept.”
And sometimes, I just take a walk. Here’s a mental exercise that I use to put myself into a “seeing” frame of mind. From wherever I’m standing, I take 25 steps and then take a picture. It may appear simple enough, but the real treasure lies beneath the surface of your steps, because when you reach 25, you must take a picture. It’s a great exercise for your brain and helps you to slow down and look at the world. Then, it’s time to take another 25 steps and find another picture.
If you can put aside a half hour and let your imagination roam as you roam, I guarantee you that you’ll come back with images. Will they be earth-shaking photographs that everyone will ogle over? Most likely not, but you just never know what you’ll come back with. Here’s an example from a walk I took recently where I thought I was going to take pictures of flowers blooming in my neighborhood.
What this exercise does is get you out of your rut and make you practice your photography. It forces you to make choices that are yours, using your personal vision, and you’ve created something new that you can hang your hat on.
Now it’s your turn. We’d love to hear from you about what you’ve found helps you find inspiration for your photographs.