Inspiration is a very interesting and comprehensive topic which doesn’t only applies to photography. And a difficult one, too. It isn’t thinking about something long enough until you have a well-thought-out idea, but rather a brainwave - it comes suddenly and has to catch your attention in a way that it moves your heart. You must can say “Yes, that’s it!” without hesitating to be convinced about it. You have to love the idea, because without the necessary passion you won’t be able to realize it in an impressive way. An idea hasn’t to be new to be interesting or good, it’s about your feelings. Does your mind almost explodes because of the huge amount of sub ideas? Are you looking forward to realize it? Can you be proud of what you’ve done afterwards? Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but nevertheless you need to have a strong emotion when you think of the idea. Most of the time, at least, I can say that from my experience, this idea has to do something with your life.
Let me try to explain this with examples, I hope you don’t see it as advertising or something like this, it’s really just to explain my thoughts better:
“The Siberian Squill” is my newest photo at the moment and even though it will just be a tiny, blue flower for most of the people, I’m connected to it with a story of my childhood. Even at this time I was fascinated by the color of this flower. How often do you see something blue in nature? At least, not often where I live and especially not such an electric and seemingly mystical blue. Nature is about warmth, beauty, peace and calmness when we look at plants. And in my childhood I loved to pick those flowers for my parents.
“The Last Hope” is a bit older but I still like it. As I walked by some gardens, I discovered this little green leaves in a maze of dead branches. I thought of my past and the difficult situations I had to walk through. I imagined that I was this leaves, alone in the middle of sadness and weakness but I had to stay strong.
That’s what I mean. You have to feel something special and personal.
Of course it isn’t easy to find an idea like this and it’s even harder to give tips for finding inspiration. I think that everybody has its own strategy and has to find it out by oneself. And sometimes, even the own strategy doesn’t work. When I need inspiration I try several things:
In case that I’m just fancy photographing I simply go outside and let me surprise by whatever nature wants to show me. Unfortunately I can often just go the same paths as I did before multiple times because I live in a little village, but nevertheless I come back with some photos. And that I only have two to three photos per walk is absolutely fine for me because then I can be sure that they are important to me. To keep a long story short I would summarized say that I definitely think that going outside without an exact idea can be very helpful. Everybody will have another opinion about that, my art teacher, for example, says that you absolutely can’t go outside without an idea in your mind and expect to shoot good looking photos. I don’t want to boast, but I can. Most of my photos weren’t created with an idea I had before. It can get problematic when you already have an explicit concept for your photo. For example when you want to photograph a person in a particular pose at a particular place. Who is the model? Or who holds the camera, when you are the model? How is the model looking? Where do you want to go? What pose do you want to have? Do you need special equipment or conditions? There will be a lot of questions you have to answer before you can realize your idea. In this case, it’s better to wait until you are ready.
There are also moments at which even going outside doesn’t help me to get inspired. Then I rifle through the whole internet to find something interesting, although it doesn’t really help me to find an idea for a photo. But that’s a personal point, I’m more convinced about an idea when it’s my own. It can be more helpful when I search for an idea for a graphic I want to design or a story I want to write, for example. In my opinion it’s totally okay to use other people’s work to get inspiration because it can mean that you like the basic thought and create a different concept than the original work has. Don’t impale me for saying that it’s even okay for me to copy someones work. I want to explain that more detailed: For me, it’s a big honor when somebody would try to copy what I did. It means that my work has something special, something that the copying person really likes and that he sees a role model in me. When I would have drawn something and a person wants to improve his own skills and takes my drawing to learn a special technique, for example, I have nothing against that as long as he doesn’t pass of the idea as his own and makes it public. I think, copying becomes plagiarism when you publish it. Why should somebody be mad at you for having a drawing at home, for personal reasons, without showing it to the internet or a magazine or whatever? It doesn’t rewards the person with fame or money, maybe only with improved skills and that’s nothing bad I think. I would be even more glad when this person thanks me for indirectly helping him.
Sometimes it can help me to quickly look through books. If a title gives me a brainwave, or the story of a book or maybe just the cover that looks impressing. Of course you need a big bookshelf for that.
Now, the last point - photography cliches. I have to confess that I had to google a bit because I’m not photographing so long that I know a lot of cliches. I wouldn’t say that one of them should be totally avoided. It’s important how you use it. For example I often read “Unnecessary Black and White” and I can agree that you shouldn’t apply a black and white filter on every photo you take, but sometimes it looks more impressive without saturation. What I really can’t like are frames. Most of the time, they seem to constrain the photo. That must sound wird, but a photo needs to breathe. But I’m sure sometimes a frame can look nice, please just don’t make it too big or attention-grabbing.
What really surprised me was the fact that photographing nature (plants, pets, weather) is a cliche on every website I looked at and everybody talked about it in a way like there shouldn’t be nature photos anymore, to express it a bit heavier. I mean I can understand that there is a huge amount of nature photos in the world and that many of them were just taken because the photographer hadn’t another idea, but nature is so beautiful and enchanting that I can’t imagine not photographing it. Nearly my whole gallery consists of nature photos! I don’t want to offend somebody, but I’m not a big fan of architecture photos or photos with people on it, at least, when I have to photograph something like that. It’s just not what I like to do, other ones create great photos which I enjoy looking at, but I have more fun with nature photography.A very nice topic to talk about. I’m looking forward to read other opinions and I’m excited about seeing the progress of this discussion.