Photography inspiration: 23 hacks for taking more photos
Following my YouTube poll, 46% of photographers struggle more with photography inspiration than anything else. This article covers my favourite 23 photography hacks or tips that help keep me inspired. I break down the list into 13 free hacks, 10 affordable hacks plus 3 bonus hacks. Let’s get started!
Some hacks cost money, some hacks are free. Let’s do the free ones first!
First, 13 free hacks
1 – Always carry your camera! I am guilty of not doing this but if I know I will be somewhere inspiring I take a camera. Just the fact of having a camera with you lets you captured those amazing unexpected moments that occasionally happen.
2 – Find pretty or interesting people to photograph. This might sounds easier said than done. If you enjoy capturing photos of real people perhaps hit the streets of you local big city and approach strangers. My preference is to photograph beauty so I trawl the internet (in the form of Instagram normally) looking for faces I would love to work with. See me free eBook on model photography if this is something you are interested in.
3 – Ask you favourite muse/ friend to meet you for a photoshoot. Do you have a contact that you photographed in the past and loved the results? Drop that person an email or message and say, “Hey do you fancy another shoot sometime? I’d love to create some more amazing images for you”. This is how I work with my long term model friends but it doesn’t need to be model.
4 – Use a different camera / lens / film stock to what you’ve been using recently. If you are fortunate enough to have access to multiple cameras and lenses, just by changing one part of your photography setup can dramatically increase your excitement to go out and take photos. Do you normally use a rangefinder camera? You could swap to a SLR. If you normally shoot 35mm or 50mm lenses take you 90mm or 21mm wide instead. See the world through a new lens as they say! If you are feeling uninspired by your final images perhaps changing your film stock may help. Try black and white film if you normally only shoot colour or vise versa.
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5 – Dig out your favourite lens or camera (or film stock) that excites you. Do you have that one lens that always makes you happy? Have you got one particular camera that just makes you want to get out and use it because it feels or sounds so good? Perhaps load up a roll of that special film stock that creates those unique images unlike anything else. Cinestill 800T film is a great example if shot at night.
6 – Contact and meet with your camera-mad photography friend. Perhaps the equivalent of me but lives local to you! The person that always inspires you to talk photos regardless of the camera, lens, subject or weather. That glass 3/4 full, high energy, always positive friend!
7 – Absorb and gather photography ideas. Photo inspiration can be found everywhere. From reading old photo books and photography magazines, viewing online material from photo sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr to watching creative content whether movies, YouTube or music videos. I think I pull my photography ideas from all these sources unknowingly.
8 – Join an online photography community. This will help you see more photography related content in your social media feeds each day. Seeing work from others can help inspire you and by joining a group you can feel part of a community. Facebook has lots of free photography groups, often specific to a camera brand or photography genre so find one that suits your style of photography. If you post to the group, often you will receive praise and feedback from others which then often helps inspire you to take more images. (My Patreon photography platform is aimed at inspiring and teaching others and we have a private Facebook group for those wanting to share in a “safe” environment).
9 – Set photography goals or assignments. Some photographers do the 365 project where they have to take one photo each day regardless of the weather, environment or their mood. It forces you to dig deep and get creative. Another option is to have a goal to create a body of work (photos) around a specific topic with the intention of printing a book at the end. This can help give your photography some purpose.
10 – Try using lighting (or different lighting). Are you an available light only photographer? Perhaps dig out your old flash and teach yourself flash photography. Are you a studio photographer? Try limiting yourself to available light only. Have you mastered both already? Try working with continuous lighting. This can be for all types of photography including landscapes. Search the term light painting if you are a landscape photographer and want to get creative with your flashlight.
11 – Master a new photography genre. If you are model photographer like me perhaps organise a walking or cycling adventure and immerse yourself in landscape photography. Macro photography and still life photography can both be great fun and are very easy to do from the comfort of your home.
12 – Add a twist to your favourite type of photography. If you are a daytime landscape photographer you could try a night shoot (and perhaps even camp overnight on location). Many landscape shooters use tripods so you could limit yourself to one camera, one lens and no tripod and see how that changes your experience. (Think how light your bag will become!) If you enjoy street photography you could try street portraits where you approach strangers and interact with them to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you’re a portrait photographer that photographs mostly females, what about doing a male photoshoot for a change?
13 – Master a new (to you) photography technique. If you are used to having your camera in full auto mode, turn it all off and enjoy the pleasure and reward of shooting in full manual mode. Do you struggle with getting the correct exposure? Try experimenting with the famous sunny 16 rule. Is most of your photography at f8-f11? Try using the scale focus or zone focus technique instead of relying on your camera viewfinder.
Next, 10 affordable photography inspiration hacks
The word affordable has a different value for everyone depending on your income and circumstances. The next list of hacks are not free but should hopefully be viable for most photographers.
14 – Visit a new location/ city/ country. (This is one of my personal favourites to inspire me to take more photos). Try searching for a new to you location close to your home (go exploring or look on Google maps for ideas). You can visit a new city in your country or book a cheap flight and travel to a new country. You can often find economy flights for £20 each way (under $50 return) depending on your local airlines. I use Ryanair and Wizz Air to fly within Europe.
15 – Return to your favourite location or city where you have happy photography memories from previous visits. This is an easy way to create excitement around your photography. One of my favourite cities is Budapest in Hungary.
16 – Search for events to attend that be great for photography. Anything from car shows to festivals to races. You normally have to pay something to get in but not always. If you pick an event linked to your interests you’ll have an amazing day with your camera taking photos. I think I’d enjoy a classic car show but have yet to go.
17 – Photography G.A.S (Buy more gear!) I think a popular solution for many is to buy a different camera or lens. A new “toy” is an easy way to inspire us to get out and take photos again. Cameras and lenses don’t need to be expensive. Some of my most fun lenses and cameras are the least expensive ones.
18 – Film photography. Linked to buying a different camera above, more specifically start film photography. Film cameras (often with lenses included) can be found for under $100-$150 on eBay. SLR film cameras are often some of the cheapest but if you prefer rangefinder cameras check out some of the Soviet models to find a bargain. Some film stocks are not as affordable as they were 5 years ago but you can still find low cost film brands. My personal favourite is Fomapan 100.
19 – Shoot a different film format. Do you already shoot film? If you shoot all 35mm film you can try medium format? Do have both 35mm cameras and 120 film cameras already (and you’ve tried 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 formats ), perhaps experiment with 4×5 large format cameras. Fomapan 100 film is available in 35mm, 120 and 4×5 film formats so something for everyone.
20 – Passively photography learning. Join a photography club or meet up group that do regular photowalks. You normally need to pay a small annual admin fee but group events can be a great way to learn and to get inspired. As mentioned above I aim to teach and inspire remotely via my online photography group. I also offer photowalk days (join the mailing list).
21 – Actively learn photography. Attend a photography workshop event. You can find photographers offering workshops in most cities. I teach 1:1 photography workshops often in London but also overseas on demand. I taught a group workshop in Dubai in 2022 after a group of photographers reached out to me.
22 – Travel to find the weather conditions you enjoy photographing in. Some landscape photographers chase storms. I prefer to travel to locations with more sunlight and warmer temperatures, especially during the UK winter months. Cold dark wet days is a fast track way to kill my photography enthusiasm. Just give me some direct sunlight and comfortable temperatures and I am inspired by the most boring subjects. Light is king. Some photographers love shooting in the rain and dark and if you can embrace these conditions (and especially if they are local to you) that is ideal. It’s true that bad weather often makes the best photos but I still feel happier in nicer conditions!
23 – Invest in some new lens filters to boost your creativity. If you shoot colour photography you can try circular polarising filters. Landscape photographers also love neutral density filters and ND grad filters. Portrait photographers might enjoy mist filters or effect filters. Black and white film shooters often love using colour filters and these are great on Leica Monochrom cameras too. Something for everyone!
To finish, 3 bonus lifestyle hacks
1- Enjoy drinking a nice cup of coffee before going out taking photos. It sharpens the mind and gives you the energy to keep on going. (I’ve had days when I’ve been trying to do street photography but haven’t taken a single image. I stop for a coffee break and by one hour later I’m seeing great photography opportunities everywhere I look). With my model photography the model inspires me so I find I’m on a high anyway.
2 – Get plenty of sleep. If I’m tired I really struggle to be inspired to take photos. This is where the above coffee hack can help!
3 – Stay in good shape. If you’re fit and healthy you have a lot more energy to channel into your photography. Instead of feeling exhausted after just a couple of hours walking you can then walk all day. The longer you are out making photographs the better chance you have of capturing some real winners.
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In summary – photography inspiration
I think the saying goes, a good photographer can take great photos in any given situation as limitations force creativity. I just do what I enjoy and find the above photography hacks help.