Where and what is inspiration? Artists have given the vaguest answers to those questions. In this article, I will try to make sense of this weird concept of inspiration.
Perhaps the most annoying thing a photographer can say about inspiration is the artsy-sounding it’s everywhere. While that can be true, I also get my inspiration from weird places sometimes. It sounds a bit stupid, really. Whenever a beginner hears “inspiration is everywhere”, and they just can’t see it, they begin to doubt themselves. I remember feeling quite down when I just didn’t get inspiration from everywhere. Was I not good enough? I wasn’t, and I just didn’t see it as the others did. And that was completely fine.
Inspiration is the most wonderful feeling. And feeling it really takes your creativity and pushes it forward. It’s like walking on a travelator, you’re still working, but it is so much easier, faster, enjoyable. I also strongly believe that getting inspiration takes time. No photographer is inspired to shoot groundbreaking work when they’re starting out. Inspired to try out a sunset photo with an interesting angle? Yes, for sure. The beauty of inspiration is that over time, you become better at it. Seeing things takes a lot of practice or a few illegal substances. I prefer the first method.
Small doses of inspiration compound into feeling inspired all the time
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, a process of habits compounding over time is described as a small daily step in the right direction that results in a giant leap. It applies to inspiration as well. Being exposed to great work every day can take your creativity to the next level, and you’ll only be left to wonder how the heck you got there. I find these atomic habits in photography quite important to overall success. One of those habits is constant exposure to relevant work. James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter is one of two that makes it to my mailbox.
The compounding effect is as simple as adding a small daily habit to your routine. For me, that is my coffee mornings. I sit down every morning in the office and have an espresso or a cappuccino if I’m bothered enough to make it. Usually, I go on social media, reply to comments, and do other writer/photographer things. However, that is not really time well spent? I don’t get too much from Instagram nor Facebook. Replying to comments is important, but I don’t feel like starting my morning with a shower of opinions and judgment. I can leave all that to later.
Change a routine slightly
I changed my coffee mornings to be a 10-minute inspiration routine. In terms of my lifestyle, nothing changed. I still sip on the espresso at the same exact desk. I even spend the same time doing it. It is what I do during that coffee that makes all the difference and compounds to something greater.
During my coffee mornings, I like to visit a host of websites and look at a few books. When I first did it, I admit I wasn’t feeling like an artist who just got inspired. You probably won’t too. Just because it’s the first step towards success. Nevertheless, I stuck to my guns and did it. Now it’s the part of the morning I look forward to. Sometimes I do it twice, thrice, or every time I have a coffee at the office.
Here’s where it all is
Some resources that I go to are:
This is the British Journal of Photography, they are one of the most respected photographic authorities and frequently. They publish stories and have awards for photographers interested. Their stories are deeply rooted in the art of photography; often, they are the most thought-provoking read of the day(unless I get a Google-translated spam email).
This is the daily go-to website in the world of commercial photography. Creative Review are wonderful people who run stories that show the current trends, campaigns, and everything else marketing-wise. A great feature they have is the division into inspiration, advice, workplace, and pandemic. Naturally, inspiration is the field I go to most frequently. Of course, I look at recent campaigns and take notes on trends and where they could be going. This helps me align my compass and see if my work is at all relevant. At the moment, trends are slowly moving towards vibrant colors and away from the black/silver/white palette. Apple’s recent iMac line is also a bit of evidence for that. For my work, that’s good news as I love colors. Creative Review’s newsletter is the second of two that makes through the spam filter.
A local commercial photography news website
I am based in Hungary, and this is a very local website. For the ones interested, it’s kreativ.hu it’s in Hungarian. While I don’t speak Hungarian, I do google-translate the stories to be aware of what’s happening in the commercial world locally. Trends are similar, but the local creative websites help me find the right people, know who is who and how it all works. I suggest finding your local commercial photography news website.
My favorite is Annie Leibovitz Portraits 2005-2016. There is always something new to see in there despite me picking it up every day. Peter Lindbergh’s “On Fashion Photography” is another book I love. I recommend picking it up to everyone who’s interested in photography, as it is a gem that shows so much more than just iconic fashion photography. Composition, use of color, black and white technique, is there too. In fact, I’d say that photography books, in general, are some of the most powerful sources of inspiration. Looking on the internet is akin to clicking someplace else and not really paying attention to the important things.
Those are the must-looks for me. Having done that enough, you will be inspired by anything from an ant to the Eifel Tower in Paris. In a way, inspiration is a skill you can train. Doing the little inspiration coffee every morning is one of the best ways to train to see more.
How do you get inspiration? I am always looking for new ways to be inspired. Share your thoughts in the comments. That way, we all benefit from what you know!