It’s December, which means that it’s officially off-season for wedding photographers, and everyone I know is trying to get re-set for 2017. I have to admit that I love this ritual and so when one of y’all asked the question, “where do you find inspiration?” I couldn’t have been more excited to share a few tips to finding it and sustaining it both during the off-season and in the peek of busy season.
I should preface this post by saying that I think the number one thief of creativity and inspiration is comparison. So often its difficult not to look at the person next to you and say “I wish my _______ was like theirs!” When I find myself in this mind-frame its difficult to produce work that I’m proud of because instead of trying new things, I just seem to find myself emulating the work that they’re doing.
So Tip #1 – Stay In Your Lane
Stop trying to emulate the work of your peers or even your mentors and instead focus on doing your own work.
I think I’ve made my point already, but when you’re looking for inspiration, please don’t look to other photographers in your area or medium. I think that it opens yourself up to emulation instead of admiration and clouds your judgement of the photograph based off of your emotion connection to the artist who created it. Instead of being able to look at the photograph objectively, you’ll see the choices the artist made because he or she made it, not necessarily because you’re drawn to that aesthetic or style. So one way that I conquer this is by only seeking inspiration from another photographer if they shoot film.
Now here me out for a second, because I promise you that my process is not conflicting with my point. I am a digital photographer because I’ve made very intentional choices about the tones of my images, the style, the convenience, and all that ways that I personally feel digital photography serves my clients best. What I am drawn to about film images however, is the ability to freeze moments, to slow down, and to create movement in specific ways. Because when I look at a film image I’m looking through those lenses, I’m able to be much more critical and much less likely to want to copy their work – simply because I can’t! A digital photographer cannot emulate a film photographer completely in the same way two other mediums of art can’t completely mimic each other. That would be like a watercolor letterer trying to make an exact replica of a calligrapher who used a completely different tool!
So for you – find the things that you are tempted to copy instead of seek inspiration from! Set boundaries to keep yourself from falling into that trap. I promise your creativity level will escalate from this alone!
Tip #2 – Look to Artists Outside of Your Field
I’m sure that this part of my process comes from my degree in Fine Art, but it can apply to you, too.
Since we’re choosing to be intentional about not looking at our own “competition” for inspiration, this opens up an avenue for us to explore the work of other artists. For me, when I find something inspiring, it produces a feeling of delight inside that I just can’t shake! When I look at the work of other artists – whether its painters, sculptures, interior designers, florists, calligraphers, etc, I search for that feeling when I look at a set of their images. When I find it, I actually save it to a Pinterest board and look through it when I’m in need of sourcing some inspo! Then I go through and try to be specific in what I like about the things I’ve saved! Is it a color? Is it the object itself? Is it the way the strokes create movement? Getting specific about these things help me to clue into what I really enjoy about them and then I can better make a choice to incorporate it into my own work or brand.
Tip #3 – Get Outside of Your Normal
Before you jump too fast and use this post as an excuse to travel more, make sure you read through all the way first ;)
It’s no secret around here that I love to travel. Getting outside of your comfort zone or your normal teaches you lots about perspective. When you’re acting outside of your normal, you get to see things in a new light. Suddenly that soup bowl looks super cute when its in New Zealand when normally you wouldn’t have paid attention to it at all. What other locals consider weeds you may take delight in! I think that that’s where the true inspiration can come from – seeing things in new light. Does this mean that you need to take a trip across the world? Definitely not! Why not just take a walk or go for a drive or talk about something new with people you love? Connection can be just as inspirational as a tangible thing!