photography inspiration

Many of us express ourselves creatively through photography when we travel. As photographers, we are keenly attuned to our environment, and we find ourselves drawn to certain scenes or subjects.  Whatever entices us reveals something about our preferences and aversions; what we photograph becomes an outer expression of our inner beings.  We hope in our photography to express a story about how we experience a place in our unique way.

Inspiration for photography is limitless. Here are some prompts I’ve been collecting from various sources, listed at the bottom of this post.  As wanderers, we can create our own challenges and intentions.

This list is a work in process.  I encourage comments suggesting other prompts that can be added to this list.

INSPIRATION:

We can find INSPIRATION for photography in the world around us.

  • Items we collect and display from nature and other cultures often inspire our photography.
  • Plants can inspire us: either a garden we’ve created in our backyard, where we can find respite, or a local public garden.
  • Inspiration can be found in art museums. How can we take what we see and put our own spin on it? Inspiration can come from paintings, sculptures, photographs, or architecture.
  • We can be influenced by our childhood view and experience of the world, our uninhibited sense of wonder.
  • We can study photographers we admire and, without copying, find own way to use what we like about their style or their work.

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CREATIVE EXPRESSION:

As travelers, we might enjoy creating a photography challenge for ourselves while on a journey. Our wanderings can become a kind of scavenger hunt.  After our hunt, we can post a thematic blog about the subject upon returning home.

  1. FIND FIVE ICONIC THINGS ABOUT A PLACE AND TAKE PICTURES OF THEM.  Comment briefly on why they are iconic and arrange them thematically in a blog post.
  2. Take a walk in a destination and photograph whatever you feel drawn to and tell about it.
  3. Use a single photo or postcard to tell something about a place.
  4. Notice what delights you and photograph it in its various forms.  For instance, I found delight in chili pepper displays in Hungary, doors in Oman, azulejos in Portugal, vintage signs in New Jersey, saris in India. Create a thematic posts about those objects.
  5. CHOOSE A THEME FOR YOUR JOURNEYS and create thematic blog posts:
    1. Roads: cobbled streets, brick roads, dirt roads, old Roman paved roads
    2. Windows
    3. Doors
    4. Clouds
    5. Faces
    6. Childhood / Innocence / Youth
    7. CAFÉ SIGNS
    8. Bicycles / The most common ride – the bicycle
    9. Tilework

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      Matthias Church in Budapest

    10. Bookstore Facades / Books
    11. FOCUS ON DETAILS:
      1. Doors of Dublin Houses
      2. Omani Doors
      3. ROADSIDE SHRINES IN TURKEY
      4. TILE PATTERNS OF LISBON
      5. VICTORIAN DETAILS IN CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
      6. VINTAGE SIGNS
      7. MANHOLE COVERS IN SPAIN OR JAPAN
      8. PROMENADING RITUALS OF LISBON AND BARCELONA
    12. CUISINE – MEALS, DESSERTS, DRINKS
    13. Curtains
    14. Nostalgia
    15. Economics / making a living / vendors / money
    16. Markets
    17. Reading / Books / Magazines / Newspapers/ Food for thought
    18. Revolution
    19. Swimming  (pools, ocean, wadis, lakes)
    20. Carpets (underfoot) / Floors
    21. Sitting – on benches, walls, chairs, stairs; in cars or taxis; at bus stops; on camels, horses, elephants.
    22. Songs / Music / Musical instruments
    23. Signs – vintage, colorful, food signs, funny signs, road signs
    24. Crowded streets
    25. Fine feathered friends

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      Abyssinian Ground Hornbills in Lake Langano, Ethiopia

    26. Emotion words: Love, Isolation, Regret, Exhaustion, Optimism (any emotion word you’d like to focus on)
    27. Walking
    28. Prayer / Pilgrimage / Finding the Sacred / Sanctuary / Sacred Places
    29. Community
    30. Listening/Art of Conversation
    31. Going home
    32. Home
    33. The greatest good
    34. Individuality and Uniqueness
    35. Wall to wall
    36. To be human
    37. Just write

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      Children writing – Pokhara, Nepal

    38. The need for speed (running)
    39. Fun and games
    40. Simple act of waiting
    41. Upstairs/downstairs
    42. Right as rain
    43. Outsiders (those who don’t belong)
    44. Solitude and silence
    45. Silhouettes and shadows

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      fence shadows

    46. After dark
    47. Sail away (boats)
    48. Journeys
    49. River of life (crowds on streets)
    50. Weathering the elements (desert/heat, rain, snow, fog, wind)
    51. Finding the sublime
    52. Parenthood / Marriage / Making a difference in someone’s life
  6. DISCOVER THE SUBJECT:
    1. Be open to any possible subject: a rusting can in a gutter, a grand ceremony in an exotic land, birds on a beach. Discover new subjects from those we originally came to shoot.
    2. PHOTOGRAPH WITHOUT PREJUDICE, BE OPEN!  Maybe we define ourselves as a “bird photographer” or “landscape photographer” or “portrait photographer?” Are we limiting ourselves by that definition?
    3. Free ourselves to see ART. Look beyond the subject to see the photograph.
    4. Sketch out or otherwise visualize the arrangement of the subject before shooting.
    5. Work the subject to find better images. Move around, try different focal lengths, angles, lenses. Consider blurred images from long exposures of moving objects, whether water, running animals, blowing grass, or moving people.
    6. Stay with the subject. Look at the light, the texture, how it all works together. Let it speak to us about what it is and how to photograph it.
    7. What is our unique point of view? How do we see the world differently from anyone else?
  7. CREATING AN IMAGE – practice different sorts of compositions all the time.
    1. Consider new or non-traditional points of view – Explore different ways of approaching the subject.
    2. How can we orient the photo? – vertical and horizontal compositions.
    3. Do we simply want to find subject matter or do we want to transcend the subject?
    4. Where do we place the subject in the photograph?
    5. Move subjects out of the center of the frame.  Practice the rule of thirds.

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      Akureyri, Iceland

    6. How can you effectively communicate something about the subject and its setting?
    7. How can we convey scale?  Can we use humans, animals or something familiar in a landscape scene?
    8. If the scene is too chaotic, take a small slice of it.
    9. Instead of adding layers, strip away layers.  Simplify.
    10. Be aware of distractions in images, especially around the edges.
    11. Make sure elements work together to create a sense of unity.
    12. Reveal something interesting through patterns – leading lines, shadows, circles, triangles, stripes.
  8. PLAY AROUND WITH OUR CAMERAS & LENSES:
    1. Try your lens at different focal lengths to isolate segments of scene. Train your eye to find details of the scene.
    2. EXPERIMENT WITH A WIDE-ANGLE LENS
      1. Are you getting close to subjects with a wide-angle lens to create a strong foreground-to-background relationship?
      2. Are you using a wide-angle lens to emphasize leading lines in a composition?
    3. TRIPODS
    4. SHUTTER SPEEDS
    5. Selectively FOCUS to create a shallow or deep depth of field
    6. EXPOSURE CONTROL
    7. THE TELEPHOTO
      1. Framing simple compositions
      2. Compressing Distance
      3. Are you simply zooming in and out from your scene or are you changing your camera position as you change your focal length?
  9. THINK ABOUT THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN – LOOK for designs that give your picture visual organization and help you communicate better with a viewer.
    1.  LINE
    2. SHAPE AND PATTERN
      1. Can we discover contrasting shapes, such as a sharp shape next to a round shape?
    3. DIAGONALS
    4. CURVES

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      Longji Rice Terraces – China

    5. SPIRALS
    6.  TEXTURE
      1. Can we find textures to help define the shapes within your composition?
  10. CONSIDER COLOR AND BLACK-AND-WHITE
    1. We can consider color as powerful in our lives and use it effectively in photography.
    2. How can we effectively use the emotional power of color?
    3. COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
      1. Can we use complementary colors to create lively and exciting compositions?
    4. BLACK-AND-WHITE
    5. MONOCHROMATIC COLOR
      1. Can we find monochromatic images filled with color?
    6. SEPIA COLORS
  11. LIGHT AND COMPOSITION
    1. Consider where the source of light is: front, back or side.
    2. Try to use silhouettes and shadows in photographs.
    3.  Photograph at twilight, sunset, or sunrise.
      1. Twilight starts to look really good about 5 to 15 minutes after the sun has set.
    4. Experiment with artificial light such as firelight or neon lights.

We can create whatever inspires us and break all the rules!

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I find photography inspiration from many sources including:

  1. bluebrightly: wanderings and observations
  2. Steve McCurry’s Blog
  3. Jane Lurie Photography
  4. In Flow – With Otto by Otto von Münchow
  5. THE ART OF THE PHOTOGRAPH: ESSENTIAL HABITS FOR STRONGER COMPOSITIONS by Art Wolfe & Rob Sheppard
  6. Countless other bloggers and Instagram photographers

Here are some other possible sources of inspiration that I hope to explore in the coming years:

  1. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography by Lonely Planet, Richard I’Anson
  2. The Photographer’s Playbook, Edited by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern
  3. The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative by Michael Freeman
  4. Exposure: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Jeff Revell
  5. National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Photography
  6. Storytellers: A Photographer’s Guide to Developing Themes and Creating Stories with Pictures by Jerod Foster