Various Twitter followers have asked me a question about searching for inspiration this week so I thought I’d respond in a blog post. Here is how I find images and use apps to drive my thought processes.
I surf the interweb from time to time following a thread on Twitter or a repost on Tumblr. I find Model Mayhem and 500px are good image sources too. I let myself be led through the myriad of portrait images that present themselves. If I like a shot I use Google images to check out other work by the same photographer. Each time I come across an image that I like or one I can learn from I either screen grab it using Command + Shift + 4 or simply drag it to my desktop. In an hour or so I can have 30 or 40 shots too add to my inspiration collection. My aim is never to recreate the images exactly, rather I want to borrow a pose, a lighting look, the mood of an image or the fashion styling. Rarely are the images I gather similar in style to my own work. I gather portrait paintings too.
My inspiration collection lives in iPhoto. I don’t have many uses for iPhoto other than to sort inspiration pictures and to sync photographs including my own work with my iPad. This puts iPhoto firmly at the heart of my inspiration process. There are no large images in my iPhoto library just screen grabs and actioned jpegs that I’ve made for my iPad. This makes iPhoto fast to open and browse.
New pictures I’ve found go in an album called sorting and from time to time I go through this folder dragging and dropping the pictures into my other albums that have specific categories. These include Studio inspiration, Interior location inspiration, Exterior location inspiration etc.
Each of these folders contain several hundred images, some of them are mine but most are the work of other photographers from all over the world. When I’ve created a shot that transcends the inspiration picture I replace it with my version. They are usually completely different but the reason for the original image to live in my album has passed. When the majority of images in an album category are mine I go back out into the world wide web for more variety and ideas.
I don’t use iPhoto directly for inspiration on shoots. There are far too many images in each of my albums to be useful. Instead I use an app on my iPad called Moodboard pro. This accesses the albums of photographs that I chose to sync in iTunes. It all sounds complicated but it really isn’t. I create a new mood board, choose a name and a background texture then I’m all set to start adding images and text. I find that 15 – 20 images make a great mood board. I’ve developed a style that uses three rows of images. I don’t like using the pins and picture edges etc. These do make the board prettier but the board just performs a function for me.
When I add a new workshop title to our offering I create a mood board or 2 and go out to practice on test shoots. It can take as many as 4 or 5 test shoots before I am happy with my workshop content. I then replace the mood boards with all my own pictures shot on the test shoots and publish them on the workshop pages to show the delegates the kind of images we are going to shoot. On this page at the bottom left you will find a good example of four moodboards for my workshops in Germany. (Click on the thumbnails to see them bigger). I’ll never publish the work of others or use other photographers work to promote my services. It’s only courteous and how I’d like my images to be respected. In return I offer all my work via my blog at the perfect res for mood boards. We can all help each other in this respect.
My inspiration images are very precious to me and represent many hundreds of hours of research so I prefer not to share them on Pinterest etc. Like a writer gathering inspiration through experiences and the writings of others us photographers must feed our ideas and creative engine within. I love to look at paintings too. Many hours of studying art and photography in my life have given me some ability to unravel the code that lies within a successful image. With practice and perseverance I try to put that code right into my pictures to give them soul.
Where do you get your inspiration? What sources will you share? Please feel free to comment below…