Every photographer has some source of inspiration that drives them to take the photos that they do. Your source of inspiration is that thing that tells you what to photograph, how to compose it, what equipment to use, and when to release the shutter. Everybody has different sources, and therefore, everybody has different photos.
I have to admit that my inspiration for writing this didn't come without the help from a few others. In the same day, two group writing projects were brought to my attention by two of my favorite writers. First, Vivien from Inspiration Bit, asked her readers to write about their “Source of Inspiration“. Naturally, I applied this to my favorite hobby. Photography is an art, and artists run on the fuel of inspiration. Then, Darren Rowse from Problogger, asked his readers to participate in a “Top 5 Group Writing Project” in any category of their choice. So again, I applied this to my favorite hobby. At first, I thought about doing a separate post for each project, but then I figured “why not kill two birds with one stone?” And so “My Top 5 Sources of Inspiration in Photography” post was born. If anybody else wants to participate in these projects, get over there and read the rules — there's still plenty of time.
So in order of ascending importance, here are my top 5 sources of inspiration in photography.
Accomplishments of Mankind
I'm always amazed at the things we (humans) are capable of. I think people forget how far we've come in the last 1000, 100, 10, and even 1 year. Our lives are filled with stuff that was invented and built by other humans. Skyscrapers, bridges, machinery, vehicles, entire cities, and our cameras — all completely unnatural, yet so normal to us. I find this artificial world to be so fascinating, and it inspires me to capture it in my images. The things we know today will disappear and change before the end of tomorrow. I look back at images of our creations from the past, and it helps to give me a better appreciation for what we have today. I hope that some of my images will do the same 50 years from now.
Beauty of Nature
The accomplishments of man are amazing, but nature's beauty is unmatched. There's something so pure and innocent about it. Nobody invented it, thought it up, or built it — it just is, it always has been, and it always will be. Sure, things change over time, but that doesn't make it any less natural. I don't know what it is about pure untouched nature, but it catches our eye. Beautiful scenes and landscapes are out there waiting to be discovered — and if a photographer is there, waiting to be photographed. You can't take nature's beauty back with you to your home, but a good photograph is a close second. Capturing nature in a photo is one thing, but capturing the beauty of nature in a photograph is entirely different.
I'm a learner — always have been, always will be. I loved school, and I don't doubt that I'll end up back in college again some day. If I'm not formally learning in a school system, I'm picking up things from people with a common interest. Photographers inspire me to try harder, try new things, and see things differently. I look though portfolios and galleries, making mental notes of the elements, compositions, post-processing, styles, and subjects that I like. I try to take those things and incorporate them into my own work — not for the sake of copying, but for growth and learning on my part. I also read a lot of articles and blogs about photography. I find these things to be a great source of inspiration when I come across a thought or technique that's new to me. I usually can't wait to get out and experiment with these new things. I can only hope that what knowledge I have can be passed on to other photographers through my photography and my writing.
I'm so extremely competitive when it comes to the things I'm passionate about — I've always been that way. I take challenges and competitions as personal goals in order to better myself in some way. Photography contests are one way I challenge myself. I put my work up against the work of other photographers, in hopes that other people will enjoy my photography. I do it for myself, and by that I mean that I don't compete using photos that I think other people will like — I use the photos I like. Another way I get inspiration through challenge is to set goals or restrictions on myself in such a way that I'll have to get unconventional. I might go out for a shoot with just one lens on the camera, forcing myself to find new compositions that I might have otherwise overlooked. I might restrict myself to photograph things or scenes that contain one specific color or shape. In Photoshop, I may force myself to use one specific editing technique, then try to make something of it. Whenever I challenge myself, the end results aren't always the best, but I usually learn something worth hanging on to for future use.
My kids are the whole reason I started taking pictures and getting into digital photography. For several years, they were all I would take pictures of. I still take a lot of photos of the kids, but I've expanded into other parts of photography too. At this moment, I probably have around 12,000 photos of the kids. They always inspire me to take more photos of them; It's such an enjoyable way to spend time photographing — especially when they aren't paying attention to the camera and just acting like themselves. My kids are also inspiring me in new ways as of late. I bought them a kid camera about six months ago, and they're both constantly taking pictures. It's very interesting to see the things that come out of that camera. They aren't thinking about compositions, shutter speeds, apertures, lens quality, focal length, camera shake, etc. They just take pictures. I've actually started a set (Through the Eyes of Children) on my Flickr account that contains some of my more favorite photos taken by my kids or their friends. Check it out, go get inspired.
What is your top source of inspiration in photography?