Ask almost any artist why they created one of their pieces of art, and they will tell you they were “inspired” to do it. Something touched them emotionally, and gave them the desire to create a piece of art that represented the emotion they experienced. Photography is no different. In fact, photography is an art, no different from any other visual art form. To be successful at it, you have to be inspired. You’ve got to have a desire to learn everything you can about the art of photography and be deeply inspired by your subject matter to truly take your skills to the next level. Without it, you’re simply carrying out a task, no different than doing chores around the house. Inspiration is the essential ingredient to improving the quality of your images.
For me, my inspiration is good ole’ Mother Nature and a passion for the photographic arts. Yes, it is a broad subject matter, but so is my portfolio when you look at it. I love nature. Everything from the wide, sweeping landscapes of the American southwest, to the individual grains of pollen on the most delicate wildflowers. I love nature. I also have a deep desire to learn everything I can about the photographic arts. I have since I was a little kid. I can still remember as early as eight years old, staring at the images in Arizona Highways magazine. I loved the images and the country they represented, and I wanted both. I wanted to be in the wide-open country of the American southwest and to create my own images of it. That dream became a reality two years later when my family pulled up stakes in Ohio and moved to Arizona. I haven’t looked back since.
What I didn’t realize at eight years old is I was conducting my first studies into the photographic arts. I was studying how the images were composed, what elements were included in the scene, how they were arranged, and what types of subjects the photographers chose to shoot. When I got my first camera at age eleven, I started trying to duplicate the images that inspired me to want to shoot in the first place. I was quite successful for such a young age. And it was all directly related to being inspired by nature and creating images of it through the art of photography.
So, for you, the first step you need to take is to examine your life, and the things that inspire you the most. What kind of things brings a sense of peace and joy in your life? What activities do you look forward to doing the most? Make the answers to these questions the subject matter of your photographic endeavors. If need be, narrow the results down even further. The point is to find the things in your life that inspire you the most. This will make the entire photographic process all that much more enjoyable, and cause you to want to put that extra effort into creating the best images you possibly can.
Next, start studying the photographic arts. In particular the styles and niches that inspire you the most. Start studying the works of photographers you admire. Look at what subjects they choose to shoot, how they compose their shots, and what type of light they prefer. Then, start trying to duplicate their style. Don’t worry about the feeling you will get that you are copying their work. You’re not. You’re learning! Eventually you will try numerous different styles and techniques, perfect them, combine them, and your own individual style will start to emerge. It’s a process almost every artist goes through, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Learn from your mistakes, enjoy your successes, and be patient. It’s a learning experience that never ends.
Finally, you have to be willing to learn the technical aspects of photography. If you have an inspiration to want to create images of the things in your life you’re passionate about, that will to learn how to do it is there. Photography is a very technical field, especially now in the digital age. It is imperative that you learn the technical skills necessary to unleash your creative process, and start creating images your audience will be inspired by too. That is the intent of this series of essays. To give you the basic, essential skills you need to take your photography to the next level, and start inspiring others.
In the next chapter, we’ll jump right in and talk about the single most important tool you’ll ever invest in for Landscape Photography. This series of essays will be based around the art of Landscape Photography, however, don’t be discouraged if this isn’t your niche. The concepts, techniques, and principals apply across the board.
We’ll see you next week in Chapter 2.