As an amateur we see images taken by photographers like Eric Kim or Jeremy Cowart or Chase Jarvis or classical photographers like Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson and we figure out we could do the same if were to get a good enough camera. After all everybody raves and compliments our Facebook uploads! If we can be this good with our smartphones imagine what we can do with a professional DSLR? Thus, we save, and save and save and finally after a year of sacrificing some of our other indulgences, we finally get our hands on our dream camera. The first few weeks after we receive our camera are exciting days. We wake up early in the morning, take images of anything that we fancy, make the exact same composition about a 100 times, each time thinking it is better than the last time and ask anybody we know to pose for a portrait session. We are truly one with our camera during these first few weeks.
Then something unimaginable happens. Something that we never planned for. We lose interest. A day goes by and then a week and we don’t even bother to remove the lens cap and or switch the camera on. It sits quietly at a corner of the table patiently waiting for our attention. Isn’t it the love for this seemingly powerful process, which allowed you to snap something and save it for posterity that drove you to try out photography in the first place? But then why do most amateur photographers tend to lose their zeal for snapping images and quietly shove their gear at some dark corner of their room? Or why, in the worst case scenario, do their much loved photography gear end up being listed on eBay for re-sale? It is simply because of lack of inspiration.
One of the biggest challenges that amateur photographers face is the lack of inspiration that can keep them honest about pursuing their love for photography. Not everyone can hope to have a supportive person in their life who can encourage his work and inspire him to keep shooting. Sometimes, the inspiration has to come from within.
Check out works created by the masters of photography
Inspiration sometimes comes from not only doing what you want to do but actually trying to imitate something that has already been done before. When you study works done by the masters of photography you will realize that each one of them had a distinct style. Every photo they took oozed their touch. But instead of aping what the masters have done blindly, mix your own emotions and your distinct style of looking at things. This will eventually give the image a new flavor.
Learn from Hollywood classics
Hollywood classics from the 60’s and earlier can teach us a lot about lighting techniques. Films like Citizen Kane, Roman Holiday and many others are simply excellent sources to learn lighting techniques and posing. Watch them, if not for their romantic protagonists but, for the neat lighting techniques that were used in these films. Learn them and experiment with them. Freeze a scene and figure out where the directors might had placed the lights and how many did he actually use. Try and use that lighting arrangement in your photos while using your twist into it.
Movies can also give us new ideas in terms of photo angles. Directors are always looking for innovative camera angles and compositions to shoot with. They have a huge audience base to satisfy. If he is an already established director, he has a better reason to outdo what he has accomplished already. Thus you the photographer have a huge repository to learn from.
Thinking out of the box
As a photographer it is your duty to keep experimenting and trying out new things. New lighting, new camera angles and even new lenses. Fish-eye lenses are for taking unique perspectives of vast areas, right? Ever thought about using it for sporting action? Why always take your portrait shots at f/4? Why don’t you include the background as well? Especially if it is interesting? What about low-key images for portraitures?
Read a lot of magazines
If you love taking wildlife photos, pick up a few issues of the best-selling wildlife magazines. Check out the images that are published. Figure out how the photographer could have managed to capture those shots. Understand the type of lighting that he may have shot the image in. Was it the golden hour? Or was it an overcast day? Study the angle from where the shot might have been taken and even the type of lens that he may have used to capture the shot.
Submit images in competitions
An excellent way to motivate yourself is by putting yourself up against other photographers. There are many avenues where you can test your photography skills against others. The first name that comes to my mind is National Geographic. National Geographic has two photo submission options, one is for professionals and the other for amateurs / hobbyists. My Shot, designed for hobbyist photographers, is a great way for photographers like yourself to weigh your own skills. Before submitting your images though check what others have submitted.
Share what you shoot
Sometimes a bit of cheer and a bit of support can do wonders to your confidence. “Hey man, that’s a great image!” Isn’t it nice to read rave reviews left by others on your Flickr or Facebook uploads? But don’t always fall for raves from all users you know. Know the ones that matter.
Go further and upload your photos to a Photoshop contest to reveal what other professional photographers and retouchers can see in your pictures, sometimes you may discover post-processing does make a lot of difference.
Make your passion your profession
There are excellent avenues for making an extra bit of money shooting pictures. One of them is starting your own photography business. If your friends and family thinks that you are good with a camera would they pay you for taking their wedding images? If you don’t feel confident enough to start with something as big as a wedding, explore smaller events like birthdays, baby showers or even portraits. See how it goes, before graduating to weddings. To gain confidence you can offer to do it for free as the second shooter at your friend’s wedding. If your images get praised you will have the confidence to charge money and move on to paid gigs.
Listen to your favorite music
Listening to your favorite music is a great source of inspiration and I am not referring to just photographic inspiration. Music has the power to heal, to drown our sorrows and to inspire us to do great things. I don’t know about others but I love listening to classical instrumental music. Hindustani classical music is a great source of inspiration, especially when I feel the most depressed. It can not only help me to overcome depression but inspire me to pick up my camera and make images.
Get inspired by nature
Nature has its own ways of inspiring us. If you don’t believe it, simply head out for a weekend break to the mountains and see for yourself. Every season brings with it a fresh new perspective, every morning is like a new opportunity beckoning us to make images. Long morning walks, watching the sun breaking through the early morning mist, its golden hue spreading across the land; or watching a flower drenched in fresh dew drops, glowing in all its glory, or the bright colors of fall seemingly like the last hurrah, before the onset of an impending winter, or the surf raging and crashing against the pier on a stormy afternoon; really what can be more inspiring than any of those? What else can compel you more to pick up your camera?
Share your ways to find photography inspiration in the comments below!