I stumbled upon a small discussion where other photographers were talking about where they find inspiration for their projects or individual images. Last year I completed a Project 365 and throughout the project finding inspiration and learning to see was one of the hardest aspects of the whole thing. Throughout the year I developed a number of resources to fall back on whenever I was having issues getting the creative juices flowing and needed to get an image before the clock struck midnight.
This is by far not the only thing you can do but these are some tips that I have shared with others over the past year or so that have also been considered helpful:
- Watch John Cleese's talk on creativity. It's an older video and one that is regularly taken down and reuploaded to YouTube (or elsewhere), so if that link goes dead, just search "John Cleese creativity" and you should find it real fast. This is my go-to video when someone mentions they're having issues getting in the frame of mind. Sometimes I like to turn it on as a reminder to myself or use it as a bit of a motivational tool.
- Buy photo books. If you don't have the money, borrow photo books from your local library. I'm not talking about instructional books, though, but rather collections of works from other artists. I've got a stack of books that I still have yet to page through entirely. One of my favorites is Early Color from Saul Leiter.
- If you're insure of where to start, there's also a German publishing company called Steidl Verlag that has been responsible for putting out some brilliant books (they're the same publisher that re-released The Decisive Moment). Their website has an exhaustive list of the books they have published so you shouldn't have a problem finding something that tickles your fancy.
- Go to galleries. Whether they be photo galleries, painting galleries or whatever - just go look at other artwork. Even if you don't particularly care for the images, spend the time and try and get inside the artist's head. Simply by attempting to analyze the approach of another person has been a great way to make something click in my own head.
- My absolute favorite photography video is Adam Marelli's talk hosted by B&H called Bridging the Gap: Classical Art Designed for Photographers. Adam talks about how to take oft forgotten lessons and approaches from classical art and apply them to photography as past photography masters have done. The video will challenge you to approach your own work differently, look at scenes in a very different manner. It's not easy but it's worth it.
- The Art of Photography with Ted Forbes is the best YouTube channel for photography that I have yet to find. Ted's channel does a brilliant job of exposing his viewers to a broad variety of work - this is an excellent resource for inspiration if you can't get to a gallery or get a book in your hands. I've gone through quite a few channels over the past several years looking for consistently quality material and Ted always delivers. He does detailed profiles on artists, individual photographs, styles, home developing, antique cameras, etc. Moreover, if you actually want to learn about photography beyond basic rules of composition, exposure techniques or the latest sensor/lens, this is the place for you.