A tried and true tip on how to gain inspiration in your work is to look around at imagery that inspires you and think about why.
In my experience, though, I actually find that doing the opposite actually helps me to better crystallize what, exactly, I am drawn to, simply by better honing in on what is not of interest to me.
One exercise to find inspiration
Here’s one great exercise. Look around at images you see every day — magazines, movie posters, and the imagery on websites. What are you not drawn to? What leaves you feeling flat, bored, and uninterested? Why do you flip the page rather quickly with this image but linger on that image for a good, long while?
Keep in mind that we’re considering images that do very little for you, which is not the same as images to which you respond negatively.
Isolate a few of those average, uninteresting images, the ones you normally race past, and see if you can’t find a common theme.
Maybe it’s flat lighting, or overly harsh lighting. Maybe it’s because the subject is wearing the same copycat expression you see everywhere, and you’re subconsciously feeling tired of it.
You may have liked it at one time, but it’s just been overdone (like hearing a favorite song on the radio; yes, it’s catchy, but by the 40th time it loops through that week, you find yourself groaning audibly).
Figure out what it is you don’t like
There could be a variety of reasons you don’t respond to an image, but try to narrow it down. Perhaps it’s an intangible uncomfortability you sense in the subject, or an awkwardness in the pose … whatever it is, do your best to put a name to it. Then, armed with that name, work hard to avoid it in your own photography.
So, if unease is the culprit, and you feel a lazy shot coming up where the subject looks even slightly uncomfortable … even if you’re nearly finished with the shoot, consciously stop the pattern. Resist the complacency of clicking the shutter.
Make an intention to either more directly interact with your subject, or to step back from them even more — whatever it takes to make them feel more at ease. And only take the shot when you sense that you have truly succeeded.
This exercise might take a little extra effort at first but, after a while, it will just become one more tool in your arsenal, another defining element of your increasingly particular style.
Push yourself to eliminate the uninspired from your work — and watch your passion and inspiration for your own photography soar.
Guest Post by Tamara Lackey