You’re always going to have an inspiration that will influence your work. And it won’t always stay the same. As your photography matures, so will your photos—and your inspirations. It’s important to have a model or idol in your work. It motivates you to take better and better pictures! Your photographic inspiration can be a photo, a photographer, a movie, life itself, or even an event you want to respond to.
But it’s got to be there! Inspiration is more important for your photos than perfect technical control over your equipment. Without inspiration, your photos can be empty, or missing something—no matter how technically perfect. If you discover inspiration in an idol, then tread carefully, since it’s likely that whatever direction they take after that, you will as well. Or will you?
Growth Is Change
We all have someone we look up to. And there’s no shortage of great photographers in any genre. Choose among them as your photographic career grows and matures. Initially they’ll be photographers around you; later they may be ace photographers from your region or country, and in the end they will be the world greats of photography.
It’s logical. At first you want to have photos like the ones that your inspiring friends take. Then people in your home city start to take you seriously as a photographer, and you start to be on their minds. That’s probably the most important turning point. If you want to keep developing and growing, it’s natural that your idols will change. Generally you will then find a more important idol and even find a way to meet them. Exhibitions, workshops, and courses are all ways to meet up with your newer, “higher” idol. Around that time you yourself will probably become a model for someone who’s been merely toying with photography so far—you’ll start to inspire photographic beginners.
Helmut Newton, Robert Capa, and Henri Cartier-Bresson are names that every photographer must know! They are photographic legends dominating their genres. Unfortunately, not a one of them is still among the living. But their photographs still inspire the whole world and are unforgettable. Most photographers of this caliber have several books to their name, and these are definitely a good investment.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Once you start to really live for photography, you’ll notice yourself looking at the world through your camera and finding inspiration in everything. Anything from billboards to magazines to life around you. You’ll lie into bed at night and still be thinking about photos. Those are signs you’re a photographer through and through. Unfortunately you can easily forget the ideas that come to you in these ways, so write them down quickly—brief summaries are enough, and a phone and a notepad are equally fine.
“A flood of photos shown one after the next.” That’s one way to describe film. Take a look at the shots in a movie, the edits used, the way it works with color (or black and white); notice its composition, spaces, and props. Blockbuster movies use the best of the best, so don’t be afraid to take inspiration in film. Feel free to pause movies and study their shots. (You should probably be watching alone when you do this!)
There are many Internet communities that cover photography. Examples include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can find superb photos everywhere, some reshared, some straight from their authors. Look at photos daily, and you’ll know what’s new in photography and what’s new in fashion… as well as what’s in the news.
Be Just a Little Mean to Yourself
A good photographer is never forever satisfied with their work; they are always their own strictest critic. And that’s as it should be. It’s the way to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them. And another thing.
Don’t forget that the most important thing is to never, ever stop taking pictures. Just looking at photos alone will not make you take your own. So dive deep into absolutely the whole photographic process and get your hands dirty. Your reward will be better and better photos.