It has been a little over two years that I have been working as a full-time photographer. Being able to pursue my dream has been incredibly rewarding and more satisfying than I ever could have imagined. Getting to create my own agenda while creating my art has been a dream come true. But on the flip-side, running your own business can be incredibly draining. I can’t call in sick if I don’t feel well, there is no paid vacation … its just me (and now Steve) waking up every day and creating something out of nothing. It takes a lot of dedication and self-discipline to keep going, and some days the creative part of me just feels kind of …. well stuck. So what do we do when we need to find some new inspiration? Here are some of the surefire ways we get ourselves back on track … I’d love to hear yours!
1. Turn to other artforms
Just because photography is our chosen artform doesn’t mean it is the only medium we follow. Inspiration can be found in so many places. I turn to magazines, catalogs (to shop AND to get posing ideas). Art museums are amazing places to draw inspiration, especially looking at paintings and how the artists use light and shadow. This week, we even took off and went to the movies, a rarity for us that might become more regular because it is a literal smorgasbord of inspiration when it comes to observing the director’s use of light, camera angles, color, costuming, and on and on.
2. Take a rest
This is a hard concept for me, and one I have to really make more of an effort to follow. But the truth is, when I’m working really hard, and can’t come up with any new ideas, I try to remember to just step away, for just a few minutes and I often come back reinvigorated. I seriously get my best ideas when my mind is at rest, and more often than not, when I am doing something mindless, like showering. Sometimes we take a dance break, meet someone for lunch or go shopping. This week I’m having fun working on building an outdoor space where I can relax … my own little outdoor oasis, if you will. Yesterday we spent the day scouting garden centers looking for planters … and all of a sudden I was so inspired by amazing light I had to whip out a cell phone camera … and Steve did, too!
3. Shoot every day … also known as practice, practice, practice
Even when we don’t have paid jobs, we try to make an effort to shoot every day. It is the best way to get to know our equipment inside and out, and to try new things, explore different angles, make mistakes, analyze them and figure out how to fix them when the pressure is off. This week, we took an impromptu trip to the cemetery on the coldest, rainiest day of the week … to get a new perspective, like shooting reflections in puddles?? Oh, and we finally figured out where the Angel of Grief was located.
4. Take risks
I had a photo shoot this week, and let’s just say it involved some Christmas lights. Did I like the end result? No … and I’m not even going to show you. But I took a risk with an idea that had been floating around in my head and now I know it doesn’t work …. but sometimes it will. The key here is making sure that paying clients’ needs are being met first, and then to squeeze in a few experiments in the end. I’ve heard others’ say to shoot a certain percentage of your shots for your clients and then a small percentage for yourself (and only you can decide what those percentages are for you). But the idea is to try new things! (And review #3 above.)
5. Take a class
There are so many ways to do this nowadays … watch an online CreativeLive class, take a one hour webinar, a class at the local university or art school, attend a workshop, attend WPPI … the list goes on and on. Every time I step back and commit to learning, I get reinspired and reinvigorated and my head gets filled with new ideas! My problem is figuring out which one to act on first! Which leads me to the next point …
6. Never be far from a piece of paper
Creatives can have a lot of information bouncing around in their heads and that can create a lot of noise. Sometimes I find that noise to be stifling and it can cause a sense of “what do I do first?” which actually leads to getting nothing done. I find that writing it down calms down the noise and helps me organize it into action plans. The simple act of transferring my thoughts onto paper is calming, and actually takes my thoughts out of the ether and makes them become real. Writing down my random thoughts also makes it easier for me to share my ideas with someone else.
7. Find accountability partners
Once my ideas are down on paper, I share them out loud. I have several accountability partners, Steve, of course being the first. We bounce ideas off of each other all day long. I also have a group of photographers that I chat with in online forums that are extremely helpful; these are small forums where I know everyone in them and we are supportive of one another. There are some much larger public forums that can be helpful, but my personal preference is to stay away from any forum where the talk turns negative. Life is too short to let negativity drain the life out of you. I’ve also started working with a personal mentoring coach, and I’m very hopeful that the process of being accountable to someone else will keep me on track and give me the little “shove” that I need to keep moving in a positive direction.
8. Find inspiration in others
And finally, I keep an ear to the ground and listen for stories of inspiration, accomplishment, triumph and love … they are all around us. People do some amazing things and their stories can be beautifully inspiring! We recently photographed this beautiful single mom who was embracing her newly divorced status with a celebration of close friends. Her radiance couldn’t be contained and it was incredibly inspiring to watch her confidence and inner beauty spring forward! Those are the kind of shoots that I could do all . day . long!
So that’s my two cents on inspiration, and thanks for hanging out today. I’d love to hear what keeps YOU inspired!