Why do you take photos? What inspires you to take out your camera and capture an image? The answers to these questions are varied, as the answer is different for every single photographer out there.
There are a lot of theories out there about how to take really fantastic, inspired photographs. Some people think that having great gear will create fantastic photographs every time. They purchase new, top of the line cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods, camera bags… anything that they think will give them the competitive edge in taking great photographs. Many of those photographers then proceed to use automatic mode on their cameras and don’t understand why they aren’t taking great images.
Others will cite technique as the main tool they use when creating fantastic photographs. Learning how to use the technical settings in your camera like aperture, shutter speed, ISO absolutely can improve your photography. Setting your white balance manually, learning how to use your flash, learning about some of the other in-camera settings that can adjust color, saturation or contract – all of these things can help you take a fantastic photo.
In truth, however, you don’t have to have the newest, fanciest camera and accessories to take fantastic photos. Cameras have remained pretty much the same since they were invented – they are a light proof box that lets you control how the light enters and hits your photo taking medium through a small hole. No matter how expensive – or inexpensive – your camera is, this basic fact remains the same.
You also don’t have to have perfect mastery of technique. It is possible to take truly inspired photographs with a basic camera set on automatic. You just have to find what inspires you and use some basic tools to get the best possible image while exploring your creative process – a process that is unique to every photographer.
Becoming a creative, inspired photographer is about letting go of the technical aspects and exploring the creative, art side of photography. While it helps to have mastered the technical aspects first, it isn’t completely necessary. Looking at the world in a unique way, figuring out how to see and capture life through your lens, noticing what you are passionate about photographing – those aspects are what influence the creative decisions behind your best photos.
Start by sitting down with the photographs you have taken that are absolutely your favorite. Take a few moments to really study each photograph and see what it is that you love about them. Is it the subject? The light? The combination of focus and depth of field? The mood or something more intangible that you have captured in the photo?
Compare each of your favorite photographs to the others. Do you tend to love images that have a shallow depth of field and soft lighting? Do you take a lot of them? Or maybe images with bright colors or dramatic shadows? Certain subjects you like photographing more than others? Are there common threads you can distinguish between your photographs? Noticing these common threads will help you start to identify your unique creative technique… and also help you realize what inspires you.
Now embrace it. Take those common threads of your creativity and let them run rampant with your imagination. I bet you’ll find you are taking more interesting, inspired, creative photographs right away.