Photography is a creative craft. Taking a great photo requires a combination of several factors: you need to have good gear and know how to use it. You need to know the different photography techniques and composition. You need to have good conditions (sometimes you could control these factors and other times not). Also, you need to know how to work around the conditions you are facing and the list goes on and on. The factor I want to talk about today is a slippery one yet very important- inspiration. I think that all photographers suffer ups and downs regarding their inspiration. I have periods when I know exactly what to photograph, how it should be and which emotions I want to convey. During these periods I find myself trying new things and developing photography projects.
Sometimes, without any apparent reason, inspiration just slips away. My muse abandons me and I feel lost. I don’t know what to do with my camera or where to go to take photos. In fact, I don’t even feel like taking photos at all. If you have suffered one of these periods you know what I mean. The problem is that artistic muses are unpredictable and fickle, so it is difficult to know when they will come back to you or what may trigger them. Fortunately, there are some easy things you can do to bring the muse back into your life and make you run to grab your camera again.
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Plan a visit to one or several museums located close to your place (or not so close if you feel like traveling a little). You can leave your camera at home and just focus on the museum. Any type of museum might work: paint, history, sculpture… The idea is that you see new things. You never know where inspiration is going to come from. But you will have more probabilities of recovering your muse if you increase your artistic inputs. This is because of the creative process itself. The brain collects images and information from the world and builds its own ideas. The more you experience, the more your brain will have raw material for creating.
Another way to increase your information and artistic inputs and boost your inspiration is learning about other cultures. My favorite way to do this is traveling (when I can afford it…). However, when traveling is not an option, there are other ways to learn about cultures such as books, articles, blogs, and talks. Personally, I learned a lot about other cultures thanks to friends from other countries. You can ask them to tell you about their traditions. Be curious and keep your mind open; there is a whole world out there!
When you feel out of ideas, it is easy to go online and check photography websites to see what others are doing. Although this strategy might work sometimes, it can also be a bit frustrating. You might think: “Look at this! Everybody is creative but me!”. This line of thought will increase your frustration and won’t help you to get your inspiration back. In these moments, I recommend you to go outdoors. You can organize a hike, or you can just go for a walk to a park or a nearby city. You will get two benefits from doing that. First, it will help you to disconnect and clear your head (muses usually prefer relaxed minds) and second, you never know what or who you will see out there.
Besides the fact that friends and family are the ones who would be there for you and could give you ideas, tagging along with them and trying to do new things is always a source of new ideas. Do you have a friend that loves cooking? Join him/her! Maybe you end up discovering that you like food photography and then you will have lots of new things to photograph! This was just an example, but the possibilities of exposing yourself to new things are endless. Put attention to what your family and friends like to do and join them! You might be surprised by the result!
Photo communities are a great source of new ideas. There are a lot of online communities, so you will need to do some search and decide which type of community is best for you. I find the most interesting communities offer weekly or monthly challenges or assignments because they make you grab your camera and do something. Although the challenge itself might not be an idea of your own, the experience will get while trying to achieve the goals can lead you to your own creations which is great! I also recommend joining a local community. This type of community gives you the chance to meet with other photographers and share ideas that will enrich you as an artist. They usually organize photographic walks that are not always focused on the subjects you usually photograph. Going out a little of your comfort zone is always a good way to increase the chances to get inspired.
In summary, if you want your inspiration back, a good way to get it back is to expose yourself to new things. With all of this new knowledge, your brain will be able to create new ideas. If you feel blocked, keep calm and find new things to learn and do. Enjoy and your muse will find you!