Self-reliance and internal motivation are concepts that every photographer would do well to embrace. You will experience your highest levels of personal artistic satisfaction when you are making the work you want to make on your own terms.
Good photography doesn’t happen in a vacuum, however. We’re all inspired by someone or something outside of ourselves — so much so that we often find it difficult to create in the absence of inspiration.
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Obviously, inspiration is vital to a photographer’s output. If you’re experiencing a creative rut or simply want to store up material for a rainy day, here are three easily accessible sources that will provide you with a wealth of inspiration.
The Internet is big. That’s really all you need to know. It’s so big, in fact, that it could be the only resource you ever turn to.
From blogs where you can gain insights into the processes, techniques and styles of other photographers, to discussion boards and forums where you can ask questions, get advice and share ideas, to photo sharing sites where you can browse curated galleries, all the inspiration you could ever ask for is at your fingertips.
The downside is that the Internet traffics in noise as much as it does useful information. If you’re going to use the web regularly you’re going to have to have a strong mental filter to block out all the noise — the trolls, the naysayers, the know-it-alls — that’s going to attempt to divert your focus.
The sentiment of photographer Susan Meiselas is worth noting: “Personally there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands, it is simply not the same experience as thumbing thru images on an iPhone….”
In this way, photo books possess the same quality that so many film photographers advocate for — they provide a tactile experience. While our global civilization has become a decidedly digital one, physical documents still have their place.
The simple act of flipping through pages of photos rather than swiping past them on a screen can have a significant impact on how you perceive the work you are viewing — your perception, in turn, can affect the inspiration you gain.
Old photo books can be especially valuable, as they provide a look at what has already been photographed, allowing you to make some connections between past and present.
Books and websites are excellent sources of inspiration. But perhaps nothing is better than being able to spend time with another photographer.
Of course, most people would leap at the opportunity to spend time with one of the greats. The ability to pick their brain and observe them doing what they do best would be invaluable.
That’s not necessary, though.
I’ve found that being in the company of others who are passionate about photography, no matter their experience or skill level, has the potential to provide inspiration by virtue of the exchange of ideas.
Call up a fellow photographer and go for a walk. Have a conversation. Ask questions. Take photos. Even if you don’t do anything great that day, the experience will linger and will inspire you to go out and push yourself to be better or to try something new.
Inspiration is at the heart of what you do as a photographer. The best way to continue producing inspiring work is to remain inspired. There are, of course, numerous places to find inspiration but it is my hope that the ideas presented above will be useful to you.