A friend of mine told me that he was in Edinburgh recently and was looking forward to filling his memory card with some lovely shots of the City but as he stood there, camera in bag, he struggled to see anything to photograph.
That got me thinking about something we don’t teach within technical training, Inspiration.
If I’m honest I’ve been there myself. Actually, when friends have asked me for a family photo, or even when I did a couple of weddings, I panic because I don’t feel I have a lot of natural inspiration. I don’t always ‘see’ the great shots that others might but I know this and so I always make sure I prepare well.
Now, staying on the wedding theme, I spent hours and hours before my first wedding trawling through Google images, looking at other photographer’s work and reading books. I wasn’t looking for technical help, I just needed inspiration.
I’m a dropbox junkie and if you aren’t familiar with it Dropbox it’s a cloud storage site that integrates very well with computers, phones and tablets. Rather than me go into detail here just pop over to dropbox.com and read up on it there. What I would do then is simply ‘right click’ images and save them to folders on dropbox. I was in effect making up a scrapbook and I actually (don’t’ tell anyone else this) went to my first wedding armed with a phone full of images that I wanted to recreate. I even went to the trouble of renaming them so they were all in rough order of how the day would go. But hey, no one knew this and everyone loved the photos after! Actually, for me it was more a comfort thing as I found myself seeing far more than I thought I would do.
Another idea would be to bookmark websites and nothing beats Delicious for this. Again, you can view your bookmarks across multiple sites and it’s easy to install.
There are other programes I know friends use like Pocket but I’ve never really got on with them so can’t say a lot. I know others that love it though so check it out.
So what about my friend, or you, what could you do if you knew you were going to London, or Edinburgh or anywhere else for the day expecting to get some great shots? You’re all trained up on how to use your camera properly now, right! You’ve got plenty of memory cards, your batteries are charged, so lets get some inspiration.
Top 10 sources of inspiration
1. Google Images
I’m doing a search for ‘Edinburgh’ initially in google and then I click the ‘images’ tab to do away with the text and get to the photographs. Now straight away I can see some lovely landmarks but the images don’t necessarily give me their locations. One I clicked on took me ‘Visit Scotland’ and my photo was in the ‘where to visit’ area. It didn’t take me long to find Edinburgh Castle and this lovely photo that I could have a go at recreating.
I then thought, ok what’s more central and without leaving the website I found a list of Cathedrals and Churches. I then went through to St Giles Cathedral www.stgilescathedral.org.uk and found this
Now it’s not a bad photo but it’s nothing I’d want to recreate, however the photo inspires me and so I did another google search on St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and what do you know, there are LOADS of shots that I’d be happy to have on my memory card!
Now this hasn’t taken me long so far, I’ve only looked at one Cathedral and I’ve only used Google. So what other options are there?
Good ol’ websites. In the example above for Edinburgh I typed ‘photographing Edinburgh’ into Google and came up with a website for a guy who does exactly that and has prints to buy. Photosofedinburgh.wordpress.com He has some lovely work and I could easily bookmark his images for inspiration.
Wedding photographers would be another classic use of searching for websites rather than just image directories.
Flickr is a wonderful source of inspiration! I don’t use it often enough, in fact I haven’t been on it for several years and have just blown some cobwebs off it and opened up my account again. I could loose myself for hours on here and find a bucket load of ideas for my dropbox folder as downloading for this purpose is ok.
Now 500px is nice! This is a slicker, more classy Flickr but don’t expect to add the images to your dropbox folder (unless you take screen grabs!) I discovered this on my iPad when I first got it and the images looked superb on there. Again, a wonderful source of inspiration for any topic. Take a look at some of the macro photography, it makes me want to hire a lens for a few days and shut myself away with a room full of bugs!
5. Stuck on Earth (iPad app)
This is the ultimate scouting tool if you’re heading to a location and can’t think what to shoot! Stuck on Earth is an iPad app though so it knocks some of you out but if you have an iPad I certainly recommend downloading this. Punch in your location and it will pop up photos that have been taken in and around the area. These images show what a search of Edinburgh brings up and the nice way you can view the images photographers have uploaded. You can then bookmark these photos within the app under a tab ‘Add to trip’.
You’re less likely to find ‘fine art’ images here as it more used by mobile shooters on their phones. Nevertheless it can be a source of inspiration as long as you follow some creative people. Don’t think SLR photography is the only way to go, I’ve taken some lovely shots on my phone, edited them in instagram and uploaded them. This is a hugely popular site and fun to get on even if it doesn’t give you ideas for your next shoot.
7. Stock Photography sites
Don’t think these are all handshake shots and cheesy smiling receptionists, there are photos for every occasion on these sites.
The good thing is that the photographs are shot by professionals so you get great quality images that would look lovely on your wall if you could recreate something similar.
The bad thing is… they’re shot by professionals so don’t set your ambitions too high and expect to recreate the same quality with your kit. Remeber these guys take shots like these for a living and I’d use them as inspiration but be realistic. What can you learn from the angles they’ve shot from, how does the light fall onto the image etc. You won’t get to see the cameras used like you would on Flickr of course but that’s not such a big deal.
My favourite would be istockphoto and I’m not suggesting you buy images from here as we’re just ;looking for inspiration, but if you want ideas for posing your kids on the beach, this could be great for professionally set up shots.
I don’t see any harm in downloading a few watermarked images for your inspiration folder.
I love photography magazines, in fact I did a detailed review here! I know we’re all digital these days but theres something very nice about handling a printed magazine in my opinion.
Photo magazines often feature things like ‘macro photography’ or ‘taking better portraits’ that will let you see images captured the right way. Some, like ‘Digital Photographer’ (UK) do features on photographers who get to showcase their work which can be hugely inspiring and one that I can’t remember used to, and probably still does list what’s going on this month and next. Things like Airshows and medieval jousting that would be great to get to with your camera… and maybe even your family!
Another benefit of magazines like Digital Photographer is that a lot of the photographs have the details of what kit the photographer used and what settings they used. Use these same way as my images elsewhere on this site to learn how others use their cameras. Start to analyse why you think one photographer used an aperture of f22 and another used f2.8, before long you’ll be guessing roughly what they used and then that will translate to your own photography.
My last plug for Digital Photography is that they often have deals for 3 for £1 each or similar. As long as you remember to cancel the direct debit before the 3rd one comes out this can be a budget way to get more inspiration. If I find a deal I’ll put an advert on this site!
I am so new on here I am just finding my feet but you can see people’s boards where they’ve done the job for you and collected images around a theme. Look up photography inspiration even and get lost in images for hours. Being as general as that is a great way to check out what really floats your boat too!
10. Look around!
I have been known to take photos of adverts in the loo because I liked the image! Have you seen the water drop on McDonalds urinals for example? Ladies, you’ll have to trust me on this one, or maybe I should add a photo later.
Posters in store windows, something on the TV (pause it and take a photo with your phone), posters on buses, there are images and inspiration everywhere! This one was on the wall in Pizza Express and I loved the way the light fell and fancied recreating something similar in a school cookery class. Hey, that’s what inspiration is all about!
In closing I want to let you know that it’s ok to not be as creative as the next guy, as long as you make up for that lack of natural flair by preparing!
I really hope this helps you and I’d love to hear if this helps and what other sites / resources you use.