Every photographer has some source of inspiration that drives them to take the photos that they do. Your source of inspiration is that thing that tells you what to photograph, how to compose it, what equipment to use, and when to release the shutter. Everybody has different sources, and therefore, everybody has different photos.

I have to admit that my inspiration for writing this didn’t come without the help from a few others. In the same day, two group writing projects were brought to my attention by two of my favorite writers. First, Vivien from Inspiration Bit, asked her readers to write about their “Source of Inspiration“. Naturally, I applied this to my favorite hobby. Photography is an art, and artists run on the fuel of inspiration. Then, Darren Rowse from Problogger, asked his readers to participate in a “Top 5 Group Writing Project” in any category of their choice. So again, I applied this to my favorite hobby. At first, I thought about doing a separate post for each project, but then I figured “why not kill two birds with one stone?” And so “My Top 5 Sources of Inspiration in Photography” post was born. If anybody else wants to participate in these projects, get over there and read the rules — there’s still plenty of time.

So in order of ascending importance, here are my top 5 sources of inspiration in photography.

Accomplishments of Mankind

I’m always amazed at the things we (humans) are capable of. I think people forget how far we’ve come in the last 1000, 100, 10, and even 1 year. Our lives are filled with stuff that was invented and built by other humans. Skyscrapers, bridges, machinery, vehicles, entire cities, and our cameras — all completely unnatural, yet so normal to us. I find this artificial world to be so fascinating, and it inspires me to capture it in my images. The things we know today will disappear and change before the end of tomorrow. I look back at images of our creations from the past, and it helps to give me a better appreciation for what we have today. I hope that some of my images will do the same 50 years from now.

Beauty of Nature

The accomplishments of man are amazing, but nature’s beauty is unmatched. There’s something so pure and innocent about it. Nobody invented it, thought it up, or built it — it just is, it always has been, and it always will be. Sure, things change over time, but that doesn’t make it any less natural. I don’t know what it is about pure untouched nature, but it catches our eye. Beautiful scenes and landscapes are out there waiting to be discovered — and if a photographer is there, waiting to be photographed. You can’t take nature’s beauty back with you to your home, but a good photograph is a close second. Capturing nature in a photo is one thing, but capturing the beauty of nature in a photograph is entirely different.

Other Photographers

I’m a learner — always have been, always will be. I loved school, and I don’t doubt that I’ll end up back in college again some day. If I’m not formally learning in a school system, I’m picking up things from people with a common interest. Photographers inspire me to try harder, try new things, and see things differently. I look though portfolios and galleries, making mental notes of the elements, compositions, post-processing, styles, and subjects that I like. I try to take those things and incorporate them into my own work — not for the sake of copying, but for growth and learning on my part. I also read a lot of articles and blogs about photography. I find these things to be a great source of inspiration when I come across a thought or technique that’s new to me. I usually can’t wait to get out and experiment with these new things. I can only hope that what knowledge I have can be passed on to other photographers through my photography and my writing.

Challenge

I’m so extremely competitive when it comes to the things I’m passionate about — I’ve always been that way. I take challenges and competitions as personal goals in order to better myself in some way. Photography contests are one way I challenge myself. I put my work up against the work of other photographers, in hopes that other people will enjoy my photography. I do it for myself, and by that I mean that I don’t compete using photos that I think other people will like — I use the photos I like. Another way I get inspiration through challenge is to set goals or restrictions on myself in such a way that I’ll have to get unconventional. I might go out for a shoot with just one lens on the camera, forcing myself to find new compositions that I might have otherwise overlooked. I might restrict myself to photograph things or scenes that contain one specific color or shape. In Photoshop, I may force myself to use one specific editing technique, then try to make something of it. Whenever I challenge myself, the end results aren’t always the best, but I usually learn something worth hanging on to for future use.

My Kids

My kids are the whole reason I started taking pictures and getting into digital photography. For several years, they were all I would take pictures of. I still take a lot of photos of the kids, but I’ve expanded into other parts of photography too. At this moment, I probably have around 12,000 photos of the kids. They always inspire me to take more photos of them; It’s such an enjoyable way to spend time photographing — especially when they aren’t paying attention to the camera and just acting like themselves. My kids are also inspiring me in new ways as of late. I bought them a kid camera about six months ago, and they’re both constantly taking pictures. It’s very interesting to see the things that come out of that camera. They aren’t thinking about compositions, shutter speeds, apertures, lens quality, focal length, camera shake, etc. They just take pictures. I’ve actually started a set (Through the Eyes of Children) on my Flickr account that contains some of my more favorite photos taken by my kids or their friends. Check it out, go get inspired.

What is your top source of inspiration in photography?

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Wow, thank you so much, Brian. What a great way to start off my group project. And I like your creative approach in “killing two birds with one stone” :-)

Those photos through the eyes of children are great – I especially liked the photo of the Tree. How old are your kids? I’m waiting for my 2 year old daughter to grow up a bit more and will buy her a small camera too. She’s already curious about my camera, and whenever i take her photos, she poses first and then runs to me to see the preview of her on the LCD :-)

Currently there’s a great exhibition at the Vancouver Gallery, presenting photos taken by Fred Herzog, who’s been taking urban photos of Vancouver for the last 50 years. It is so incredible to see how our city looked in past, how it’s changed. I’m glad to see that you’re taking your photos with a future in mind.

And don’t forget, you’re the inspiration to your kids just like they are yours. :-)

May 8, 2007 4:03 pm

Well, what can I say? I’m an engineer, and engineers are lazy. I just got lucky that both you and Darren happened to kick off a project at the same time.

My kids are 2 and 4 — and I think the younger one takes more pictures than my older. It helps to have a camera that bounces when you drop it.

“You’re the inspiration to your kids just like they are yours” — I really like that statement. There’s a lot of truth in it.

May 8, 2007 7:50 pm

I’m not an artist either but every time I wan to draw or write something I noticed that it’s the time when I’m down or inspired. Two extreme emotions but I think these are my greatest inspirations.

During college my Literature professor said that you’re not born an artist by nature when you just feel the call of doing an artistic thing whenever you’re inspired. Now, I’m confuced.

May 9, 2007 2:25 am

Wow, really nice article.

Photography is an art and it isnt easy to achieve perfection.

May 9, 2007 3:46 am

Inspiring post. I’m glad I found it — and I’m glad I discovered your blog, too! I’m not much of a photographer, but I’ve taken a couple pictures in my day. ;)

May 9, 2007 12:41 pm

That was a great post. I am also a hobbyist photographer (Recently purchased a Nikon D40). Found this site through Darren’s project!

Keep up the good work!

May 10, 2007 11:39 pm

I can definitely relate to number 4, the beauty of nature. I moved to Yorkshire around four years ago and got my first decent camera a year ago. The camera has helped me see so much more of the countryside than I ever thought I would. I just wish I could get out more.

I only wish I had found a site like this a year ago to learn from; it’s very good.

May 11, 2007 4:19 pm

Thanks for the comments Andrew, I hope to see you around here again.

May 11, 2007 5:41 pm

My top sources of inspiration:

- My Flickr favourites

- I keep media folders on my desktop of video, photos, and writing that inspires me to be creative

- Encouragement from my lovely girlfriend

- and a recent addition, a DVD magazine called Stash. It highlights the best in motion graphics, animation, and VFS for design and advertising.

Looking at what others are capable of is what pushes me harder to succeed. Because I can do that too, I just have to work at it.

May 16, 2007 2:59 pm

Nature has always been my greatest source of inspiration. There’s a place I frequently go, off the trail, that’s fed by a spring some distance uphill. I think of it as my own “special place”, my private Zen garden. Been there dozens of times, but it seems different each time I go. My sanctuary. That, and ratty old barns.

May 28, 2007 9:04 am

I had a place like that back home in North Idaho. It was a creek fed by a spring, and my favorite spot was a little pool in the stream surrounded on one side by huge rocks that the water flowed under. Unfortunately, it was before I really got into photography, so I don’t have any pictures of it.

May 28, 2007 10:16 am



It is obvious that Flickr photos sometimes inspire people, at least me. There are brilliant works on it.

June 6, 2007 3:34 pm

Indeed, very inspiring!!! I have my own exercises that help me to reach inspiration and some of them coincide with yours. Once I shared these ideas with my readers in my photo blog. Just if you are interested, I leave a link here http://www.shotaddict.com/wordpress/2006/12/05/1995.html

June 21, 2007 8:19 am

I am usualy inspired by the nature and architecture since it is dificcult to tak pics of interesting people.

July 8, 2007 2:42 pm


Hi, Brian! I have boxes of pictures of me as a kid because my dad was a photography nut with an SLR. There are no words for how much your kids are going to appreciate seeing themselves through your eyes when they’re adults. :)
-Lisa

November 10, 2007 6:07 pm

I’m sure hoping so! I have more pictures of these guys than anything else.

November 10, 2007 7:23 pm

Going through some of the posts you flagged in your review of 2007. I loved this one. Shame the flickr set of your kids pictures has disappeared…

January 2, 2008 8:46 am

Oh I totally forgot about that set I had put together a while back. I actually started up a Flickr account for my son with the intent of loading some of his photos into it, but I’ve been slacking.

January 2, 2008 1:57 pm

Awesomel! Thanks for this, it inspires me. I’ve always been into photography but I needed some inspiration and help on ideas and this gave me some! :D

January 30, 2008 3:41 am

Dear Sir,

This is an inspiring article.

I like photography. But, I had never put such deep thoughts to this hobby. You have somehow alleviate your passion onto a philosophical level!

March 2, 2008 6:01 am

Good post Brian! =) Well in my part, photography is about being creative… Good thing I love running my imaginations wild and free because it’s the way to enjoy it… and that’s one of my inspirations with photography… being happy and enjoying in what ever I do.

March 18, 2008 1:03 am





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