No matter where you’re at with your photography, it can get hard to find inspiration for your next project, especially when it feels like everyone around you is fizzing with creativity. That’s why I try to avoid looking at – and comparing myself with – other photographers, and look elsewhere for ideas. Here are some unlikely places to look for that spark of inspo!
When I first started in photography I was so excited about the endless possibilities open to me that finding inspiration wasn’t difficult. I’d watch a film and love the colors or lighting and would immediately get to work creating a concept. While it was great to experiment, I believe that shooting with purpose can really solidify in your mind who you are as a photographer, and help you create work that aligns with your passions and goals.
Before even picking up a camera, write down all the things you love, the things that excite you and make you tick. That could be colors, emotions, lighting, styling, people, movies, music… anything at all! Now start collecting as many visuals as you can that represent these things, and create moodboards or “vision boards”. Reference these boards whenever you need a little visual guidance about who you are, or want to be, as a photographer.
I’m sure most of you are already using Pinterest because It’s THE perfect inspiration go-to. You can create a whole new portfolio from 10 photography sessions, so if you’ve been unsure about what you’re doing or where you’re going, plan 10 sessions that align with your vision boards and get pinning! Here’s how I set my Pinterest boards up.
Staying up to date with trends is key if you work in industries like fashion and beauty. If you’re eager to submit to magazines, then creating concepts that align with future trends will give you a better chance of getting work published. Magazines need to fill their pages with relevant content and if you have a gorgeous editorial that showcases an upcoming trend, this might be really valuable to them.
Search for “Current Fashion/Beauty trends” in Google and you’ll have endless articles to check out for inspiration.
Instagram (in moderation!)
I love the ability to add photos into collections so I can save out my fave images and use them when I’m creating moodboards. I also love the Explore page for seeing which images grab my attention.
What I don’t love about Instagram is that it can feel like an echo chamber where terrible photos are shared and liked, which can have a negative effect on photographers who are still finding their own vision. If a photo has thousands of likes it must be great, right? Absolutely not.
Social media is not real life and we always need to keep this in mind when we’re looking at work for inspiration.
Painters understood lighting long before photographers were able to capture it on camera.
Rembrandt lighting, for example, is a commonly-used pattern named after the 17th century painter, who often created this type of light in his paintings. Even if you’re not a portrait photographer, I urge you to look at the Old Masters and examine their use of lighting, color, composition, posing, and storytelling. It is truly breathtaking and incredibly inspiring!
It’s so important to shoot personal work because otherwise it’s easy to get in a rut and only photograph what feels comfortable. By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you learn new skills and techniques, and reignite that spark of joy you felt when you first picked up a camera.
It doesn’t have to be a huge project either – it could just be photographing something new or with a new approach. Have fun and experiment!
Film and TV
I’m definitely not the only photographer who watches films and TV shows and drools over the lighting and color grading. It’s actually really hard to just enjoy a movie because I’m constantly trying to crack how it was created! If you aren’t already, follow this incredible Instagram account to see the color palettes used in films, and check out a Pinterest board of films with incredible cinematography.
Rest and Reset
If you’re still not feeling inspired, try taking a break. Go for a walk, read a book, detach from photography completely and rest. It’s impossible to feel creative all the time, so sometimes we just need to walk away, stop worrying and give ourselves time to get back our mojo. Come back rested and refreshed, and start creating again!
Thanks for reading!