There are lots of ways to go about finding inspiration—and there are lots of guides about finding inspiration out there, too. I’ve written a few, myself. But many of these guides focus on concrete sources of inspiration. By that, I mean that they give you ideas, like watching people at the park or observing the world around you. Going to the store to see not only the people but all the products. These are examples of places or things you can use to help get inspired, but the problem with this is that it’s a well that can run dry. To keep your inspiration or motivation going in the long run, you’ll need to sit down and think long and hard about the sources you use now, the things that have inspired your work in the past, and even the works of art created by others that are powerful enough to spur you into your own burst of creativity. Read on, and I’ll show you what I mean by all of this!
Letting Your Own Work Inspire You
Whatever it is that motivates you to create your best work, one of the most important things to remember is that the work you’ve done in the past can help you become inspired today. To see what I mean, take a look at the top five or ten photographs that you’ve created—the special images that will forever hold a place in your heart. Examine each one in turn and remember how it was that you made them. Ask yourself a few questions as you study these photographs. What were you thinking or feeling as you worked on them? What inspired you to create them? Was there a particular motivator, a cause or theme you wanted to support or was it something as simple as a fresh breeze on a warm spring day?
Whatever it was that got you to create these pieces in the first place could very well be a repeatable experience. For instance, if a particular song moved you to create an image that now numbers among your favorites, can you listen to that song again and create something else? Or perhaps it’s not the specific song that inspires you, but music in general. Maybe you were in a certain location, or you’d just gotten through watching a favorite movie. Whatever the case may be, if you can identify your original motivating factors, you may be able to reproduce the conditions that inspired you in the past.
Letting the Work of Others Inspire You
There is something to be said for immersing yourself in the work of others, too. This doesn’t mean that you should pull ideas from photographers that you admire or attempt to copy them. Rather, you should enjoy these works and feel freely whatever it is that these images make you feel. After all, great images are the ones that awaken different feelings or moods within you when you look at them. Many photographs that we make are based purely on a feeling or mood. The same landscape, for instance, can look entirely different depending on what you’re trying to evoke—sometimes fantastical, sometimes happy or dreamlike, or sometimes a bit melancholy. Anything that can help you summon these feelings when you need to create is helpful. Thus, the work of photographers that you admire is a never-ending source of inspiration.
The photography of others also serves as something of a goalpost. No matter what we do in life, the greatness of others pushes us forward. Sometimes this is a competitive drive, but not always. Whether you are competitive by nature or not, great works give you something to strive for, examples that you can use to push yourself farther. So, when you surround yourself in work that you consider better than your own, this can give you the motivation to improve, and you’ll find yourself inspired to work harder. The desire to become as good as the photographers you admire is an admirable goal, and it’s a desire that gives you both motivation and inspiration.
And then there are all kinds of other art forms to delve into. Paintings, sketches and sculptures can all inspire you in just the same way that photographs can. All art has the potential to make you feel something, so utilize whatever you enjoy. And it’s not limited to the sorts of art you’d find in an art museum, either. Music is a good source of inspiration for many of us, and things like great movies or TV shows can give us ideas, thoughts and feelings that will help us create something interesting. The same goes for books. Any kind of creative media, whether it’s one of the classical arts or something newfangled, can provide you with some sort of inspiration. The trick is to sift through these things and discover which mediums give you the most inspiration to work with.
Inspiration Differs from One Person to the Next
Another important thing to remember about inspiration or motivators is that we’re all different. What inspires me may not be the same as what inspires you. Perhaps the above suggestions won’t work for you. This is something that we need to all be aware of. Don’t hesitate to experiment with a variety of different things. Somewhere in that variety, you’ll find something that works for you. Remember as you search for sources of inspiration that if it makes you feel something, then it can move you to create something. In the end, a lot of photography, or any other form of art, boils down to the willingness to experiment. This doesn’t just mean that you should be willing to experiment with gear, subject materials, and compositions, but also the things that fuel your creativity. Just as we need food to keep us going physically, we need wells of thought and emotion to keep us going creatively.