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How do you get your inspiration? You can get inspiration from just about anywhere.
Take notice of what’s around you!
When you walk around and start to take notice of what’s around you, you might just be surprised at what you see. There are so many things in everyday life, things we see almost daily, that we take no notice of. When you stop long enough to study them, they can transform into something of beauty or simply inspire you to see other things differently.
Inspiration doesn’t only come from the ornate, or the complex. It can come from the most simple objects around us. Sometimes it can be people that inspire you; or something someone says. By learning to look and see, you start to appreciate the world in a different way. You start to enjoy and embrace what’s around you and you start to appreciate the wonder and complexity of everyday life.
Getting inspired photographically can be a “simple” case of learning to look, see and then capture what’s in front of you. Many people look around them, but they fail to see what’s actually there. To use an old saying – they “can’t see the wood for the trees”. There are so many things in front of your eyes every single day that sometimes, you simply fail to see what’s there. Learning to slow down and absorb what’s in front of you is one of the best ways to improve your photography. You don’t have to photograph everything, but learning how to see light and shadows; and how shapes and colour all interact, will help to mould you as a photographer.
Don’t fall into the trap of “speed shooting”… grabbing that very first image as soon as you see something new and then moving on. I’m sure you’ve all seen those same old images of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) in London. Almost everyone that’s visited those landmarks has taken photographs that frankly look like many other’s. Instead of immediately raising your camera and firing off those few frames before moving on, learn to stop, or at least slow down and explore the area.
Look for different angles or other objects / people that you can add to the image that tells a story about where you are.
Study other photographers
You can gain inspiration from looking at other photographers work too. I have several books that I often flip through as well as websites I visit. Taking the time to examine other’s images and analyse what it is you like or dislike about the photograph is a great way to learn how to “see”. When you start to notice subtle shadows, or highlighted objects; or how different colours attract your attention or alter the mood of the photograph; that’s when you start to understand that you should be “making” photographs and not just “taking” them. That’s when your images start to improve and when you start to grow as a photographer.
It’s all about the art!
Of course, it doesn’t have to be photographs you look at for inspiration. There are many other places you can spend time learning how to see light and shadow; how to portray images in the way you want them portrayed. One of my favourite non-photographic things to do for inspiration, is to visit art galleries and museums. From small regional galleries to mainstream large city galleries, there are pieces of art just waiting to be viewed.
Go. Look at art. Look at all the different forms of art, whether it be paintings or sculpture; mosaic or hand-stitched fabrics; pottery or sketches; or any other medium you’d care to name. It doesn’t matter what the art is, simply look at it and start to see how the artist has used light, shape and colour and how those combinations work together. Analyse them and how you feel about them and then take those thoughts with you and learn to apply the same principles to your photographs. You can learn a lot by simply studying how painters use colour to represent light and shadow; or looking closely at how museums light various displays. The clues are there, you just need to see them!
Inspiration – stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity; the state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused; someone or something that causes this state. (Citation: inspiration. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved August 10, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/inspiration)
Workshops and Photowalks
You can also get inspiration from those around you. Surrounding yourself with like minded people… other photographers that are keen to learn and improve, is a great way to get into a state of flow. Getting “in the zone” is a phenomenon that occurs when you totally immerse yourself into a situation. Spending a few days with other photographers that simply want to soak everything up and learn allows you to get into that state. You can be totally consumed and feed off each other. You can spend every waking moment thinking, talking and learning about photography. When you’re in that state you’re going to be inspired by what you see and feel. You’re going to come away with new thoughts and ideas that you can apply to your images, whether it’s a new way of capturing them or a new way to process them.
If workshops are out of your reach right now due to cost or time, then you can also go on photowalks – either alone or with a group of people. Even if you only get out for a couple of hours, sharing that time with other photographers can be really eye opening. Everyone sees things differently. Everyone has different life experiences. Everyone brings something different to the walk and you’re bound to learn something from someone.
Inspiration is all around us. Learn to recognise it. Embrace your experiences and learn to apply what you learn to your photography.
My challenge to you over the next few days, or whenever you can, is to slow down and explore somewhere you pass everyday and see what’s there; or to visit an art gallery and study some of the pieces there to see how the artist has woven a story using different elements. Take your camera with you and make some images.
Slow down. Learn how to look, see and capture the world around you.
Share your images in the comments below.