Text by Cassandra Lamberti
Photo by Darina Shuparskaia
Photographers and artists alike are all too familiar with the feeling of being uninspired. Finding the subjects to photograph can be difficult, especially when you don’t even know where to begin. But the beauty of photography is that you have the flexibility and power to photograph anything the way you see fit.
Creating a photo essay is an admirable, self-motivating activity. Having the freedom to capture a series of images allows you not only to bring to light the subjects that you find important but also to encourage creativity in a new form. If you feel uninspired or stuck and have no clue what your next photography project should be, start off by asking yourself a few questions.
What is happening in my community?
Explore local events and bring your camera with you. Being within a community will equip you with invaluable insights, which will then allow you to tell your neighbours’ stories with your lens. But snapshots of your community do not tell only their stories but also your own. What you decide to capture can say a lot about you – the photographer – and what is meaningful to you.
What skills do I want to work on?
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. While the goal is not to achieve perfection, practice does help to increase confidence, which in turn can help you to find your inspiration. Take a moment to reflect on which of your photography skills needs honing. It could be the practice of street photography, still life, or even landscape. Whatever you may want to work on, dedicate a full photo project to it. Those photos will impress you in the future, as they will become a token of your determination.
What or who inspires you?
Choosing to create a photo series about what you find inspiring can be a wonderful way to jump-start your path to personal growth. A series devoted to what inspires you may end up being more personal than the other options mentioned, but it may also turn out to be more rewarding. Take a moment to think about your inspiration and ask yourself why that specific someone or something comes to mind. Try to determine what it is that makes that someone or something particularly fascinating and unique.
Once you have an idea about what your photo project will involve, you’ll need to decide on the ways in which to take the actual photos. Below we share five ideas that may help you along the way. They are common among photographers and photojournalists, as they allow them to clearly depict the story they are visually telling.
The Signature Image is typically the “cover” of your photo essay. This staple shot will immediately catch the viewer’s attention, and they will want to continue learning more about the story. This tends to be the most powerful and impactful image in the essay.
The Portrait Image in photography is normally a posed photo. However, when taking a series of photos, it can be challenging, for example, to have strangers on the street stop and pose for you to photograph them. For the portrait image in your series, focus on the real life surrounding you. Try to capture candid expressions of your story subjects to elevate the genuineness of each of them. There are environmental, posed and candid portraits to choose from, or try to get all three.
The Overall View Image is meant to explain to the viewer where your story takes place. Here, focus on the background of where your project happens and the main event for this specific image type. Catching moments in real time can help to create a relatable narrative, which will then leave the viewer intrigued.
The Detail Image can be a series of images or a single shot highlighting something specific in the series that might be overlooked otherwise. This detail usually gives an insight into the narrative without being overbearing yet evoking some kind of emotion.
The Action Image is the climax of your series. For this photo, try to find moments of interaction, be it with people, nature or animals. This visual will typically involve gestures that the viewer can clearly understand without any words of explanation.
Just as writers experience writer’s block, so do photographers have days when they lack enthusiasm and ingenuity. Searching for a topic of your next photo project can be frustrating, maybe even overwhelming at times. We hope, however, that the steps described here can help to alleviate some of that stress and reboot your inspiration.
Photography is about trusting your instincts and getting your story out there. Next time you pick up your camera, allow your imagination and creativity to flow freely through your lenses.