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I was asked to write an article on this topic by a friend on one of my favorite photography message boards awhile back. Today is the day that it was posted, and I thought my blog readers might like to read it too. :-)
- Read magazines, books, and newspapers with lots of photos in them.
Look at the photos and critique them - list the things that you love about the image and also list the things that you thing would have been better if done differently. As you do this with several different images, you may start to notice some things that the images have in common that you either like or don't like. Use the newly discovered knowledge to help guide you to some new and different ideas for your work.
- Join a local photography club and participate in their activities.
Many cities have a local photography club. Most clubs meet at least once per month or more frequently. The group in my area meets weekly, and each week they do something different. For instance, one week of the month they will do a meet and critique (the first time I went to one of these, I was simply amazed at the talent of the other photogs.) Then, the next week they will do a photo walk at a fun location in the area (they did a really cool one at the greenhouse at the university awhile back.) They do other field trips, organize photography exhibits for all of the members to participate in, etc.
If you don't have a group in your area, try starting one. Even if there are only 3-4 members, you can still have a great time learning from one another and finding inspiration.
You can also take a photography class or attend a workshop to get similar inspiration like you would from a photography club. The whole purpose is simply to find people with a similar interest and learn and participate with them.
- Take yourself for a photo-drive.
This one has to be one of my favorites. There are two rules that I have found that make these more successful: 1. Do not take any kids or husbands or anyone. Just you. 2. Don't stress about exposure or figuring out manual mode. Put it on Aperture Priority mode and use the exposure compensation. Or, if you are still learning about the modes on your camera, just use Auto mode or your camera's scene modes.
The whole purpose of this exercise is simply to go and have fun and enjoy seeing beauty and things of interest everywhere around you. I love to get myself a smoothie (or other treat), find some great music to fit my mood, and drive to different locations. When I find a good location, I try not to be rushed (unless I am somewhere that I really shouldn't be, etc. - not that I am advocating that type of behavior! LOL) Anyway, I will take a bunch of photos - like really a lot of all of the different objects and textures and patterns that I find. I try to photograph things from a variety of angles and perspectives.
When I am out on one of these drives, I try to look for interesting old buildings, alleyways, etc. I always listen to my gut if I don't feel comfortable there, though. I also love to drive into the country and take pictures there. It will be different for you wherever you live, but I hope that you will have fun exploring and discovering new things and places. And
you'll probably come home feeling much more inspired and refreshed.
- Take pictures of something that is a different subject matter for you.
This is something that I used to encourage the students in my beginning photography class to do. If you're a portrait photographer, try doing a few landscapes and close-ups of other subjects. If you primarily shoot landscapes, try photographing people. Breaking out of the subject matter that you're most accustomed to will help you see what you normally photograph in a different way.
- Photograph a series all based on one theme.
I love this one, too. Choose a theme that you'd like to photograph - it can be a color, a specific type of object, or something even more specific (like the Danbo images below). Whatever theme you choose, be sure to do all that you can to find variety and be creative with it.
Here, I did a search for the word "blue" on Flickr, and this is a screen shot of what it came back with. Obviously, each of these images was taken by a different photographer, but it is a great source of ideas and inspiration for a color theme.
Here is another screen shot from Flickr - this time I searched for "shoes."
And, for the last screen shot I will share I searched for "danbo." I don't know why I find this little guy so inspiring, but I think he is. Or, I should say, the photos of him are.
- Read blogs of other amazing photographers.
Here is a link I found that has a list of links to some amazing photographers online. Super inspiring.
Also, I love to surf around at stock photo websites. I use lots of stock photos in the QuickPro DVDs, and I can easily lose hours of time surfing through the images there. You can register for free at most of them, and create a "lightbox" that you can add your favorite photos to. It's a great thing to revisit every so often when you need some inspiration.
- Participate in a Photography Assignment or Challenge.
There are tons of these all over the internet. Here are a few links to different ones that I found:
dpchallenge.com is full of digital photography contests:
dpreview.com has an amazing challenges section:
I also like the challenges that I have seen at forums like Two Peas in a Bucket, Clickin'
Moms, ILP, and Digital Photography School.
- Tell a Story.
This is the goal of any photographer - we all want to tell a story about our subject. But, this tip goes a little beyond that. When you're out taking pictures, try to keep this really in the front of your mind. Tell the story. That means taking pictures from all different angles, perspectives, etc. Get close up shots, and take shots from a distance. Photograph each of the individual elements that tell the story - for instance, this photo of a toddler's toy immediately tells you the toy's story - it broken. The angle and perspective work well to emphasize what I was trying to say with the image.
- Make a Photo Notebook or Idea Wall.
This is one that many of us have seen or heard before. When you are working on Tip #1, clip the photos that you like and put them in a binder or notebook. I have seen offices of graphic and interior designers that have a wall just for this purpose as well. If you use a binder or notebook, be sure to record on the page your thoughts about the image - particularly the specific things that you liked about it. As the notebook or wall becomes more and more populated with images, you'll have a great resource to refer to for inspiration.
Be sure to periodically go through and remove any images that don't appeal to you or your style anymore, and replace them with images that better fit your current interests.
Something that always crosses my mind when people suggest this tip to me is that photography magazines cost lots of money. Several of them are almost $10 per issue, and that's a lot of money to spend to simply cut it up. So, here is my suggestion to you - go to the thrift store or used book store. Many of them will carry old magazines for very affordable prices. Also, many libraries simply give away past issues of magazines, so try checking there, too. One last thing that you can do to keep this project affordable is to use non-photography related magazines. Many of these are only $1 - $3 per issue, and they are also filled with amazing photos.
- Look for beauty in the ordinary objects around you.
About a week or so ago, there was a thread posted here where someone had photographed a weed. It was a beautiful image, and I think that it really applies to this tip. There is beauty in everything around us - even ordinary things, and even things that we normally view as unattractive. Try to look around and see everything a little differently. Try to photograph it in a different way. Experiment with different distances, perspectives, and