I struggle with finding inspiration on a regular basis. I think that we all feel this way at times; we want to create, but the flame of inspiration is just not burning. This article is an excerpt from my eBook, The Inspired Photographer, in which I share twenty ideas to help spark that flame of inspiration inside of you.
One of the easiest ways to suppress creativity is to have too many options. When I’m confronted with aisles and aisle of possibilities at the grocery store, I’m often at a loss for what to cook. Frozen into indecision by too many choices, I usually end up buying the same groceries I got the week prior. In other words, I feel lost and flustered when I have too many options in front of me. Mildly frustrating while shopping, this same effect can be disastrous on a shoot. From lenses to subjects to locations to lights, the list of options goes on and on. Becoming ensnared in these choices while trying to get the “perfect” shot is all too easy, but can result in sacrificing the actual experiences you are immersed in.
Unlock choice paralysis by limiting yourself. Yes, limiting. I realize having “too little” gear can be equally intimidating, especially when you feel obligated to create amazing images of unknown subjects in unfamiliar surroundings. I’ve run into this situation many times when traveling overseas: I put a lot of pressure on myself to come home with a good collection of useable photographs, but don’t want to be bogged down with gear. Such constraints can be freeing, however, if you let them. While traveling light I’ve often found myself creating unexpectedly better images, because the “obvious” choice of gear was not within my reach.
Here are a few ways to add limits to your life and photography on a daily basis:
One Camera, One Lens
Whether it’s a photowalk or a journey through a foreign marketplace, using just one camera and one lens can not only be freeing, it can also help you see your surroundings differently. My typical routine is to pick a “one-camera-one-lens” setup and then see what I can find. Not only does this make my walk much more enjoyable (no giant camera bag or tripod bogging me down), it also helps me see even familiar surroundings in a new way. When traveling, I can focus on the people and activities surrounding me and soak it all in.
I generally use one of three lenses. When I want to work on portraits or wider scenes, I take the Canon 40mm pancake lens. In locations with a lot of visually appealing food and textiles, I use the Canon 100mm macro lens for close-up and detail images. When I need the flexibility of a longer lens, I carry the Canon 70-200mm and aim for people photos and isolated subjects, like trees or architecture.
Pick a Theme
The next time you are out with your camera, give yourself a theme to center your photographs around. Pick something as basic and simple as a color or shape, or go more abstract with an emotion or concept. Once you start focusing on something small or specific, your eyes will open up to things you may have never noticed otherwise.
Focus on a Specific Technique
One of the things that really got me excited about landscape photography was when I purchased the 10-stop ND filter (the Lee Big Stopper). An ND, or neutral density filter, is basically a piece of dark glass that blocks light coming in through the lens. This enabled me to use a much slower shutter speed, which results in such effects as blurred water or clouds. Once I started using this filter a whole new world opened up to me! I loved the super slow shutter speed so much that I actively sought out occasions to use my ND filter. Consequently, I now have a good portfolio filled with beautiful streams and waterfalls. Playing with long exposures was the “gateway drug” into other types of landscapes. By finding that one technique that excited me I was able to introduce myself to a genre of photography I had, in the past, never really considered.
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