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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.