How do photographers get inspired?

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Let’s face it; everyone has a camera nowadays, even if it is only the camera on our phones. We all document our lives daily in ways that were never thought of 20 years ago. With the bombardment of imagery being shared from text messages and social media channels, one would think finding inspiration would be easy. However, personally, it can drive my mind crazy from the “digital noise” and I find I need to step back from time to time. Maybe some of you out there feel like I do and might be wondering, “How do photographers get inspired when there is so much content at our fingertips?”

Rembrandt Inspired Portrait A_
Somber Mood for a Classic Look

Inspiration Depends on Your Mood

It would surprise you as to what kinds of random things draw my interest and inspire me to create, but if my mood is down, I fall into a creative rut.

      • We all know the amount of stress I have been under since the month of June! A quick recap for those that don’t know:
      • Someone killed my precious dog
      • We moved into a new home two weeks later
      • Business took its Summer dive
      • I broke my right heel bone
      • My father had a horrible boating accident (Story Here)
      • Gracie had surgery
      • I overextended myself as usual
      • Etc…

Just one of those would be enough to put someone into a tailspin, but my life likes to send me tsunamis.

I wanted to create so badly during this time, but my mind was just numb. However, inspiration kept seeking me out and has recently picked me up for a ride in the clouds!

If your mood is down, don’t be surprised to find that you struggle to create. My advice is during this time is practice self-care so you can get back to a mentality to enjoy inspiration.

Conversely, when I am well-rested, and I feel like my emotional tank is filling back up, or nearly full, the muse of inspiration grabs my hands, and we dance like spring has just arrived!

Where Inspiration Finds Me

Aidan & Gracie Waiting Outside the Library for the Sale to Open

While moving and just before my father’s accident, I had the distinct pleasure of taking my annual pilgrimage to the Haywood County Library’s Book Sale. This book sale is Christmas to me, and I collect all kinds of books! Over the past couple of years, I have collected volumes of poetry, classics, books on the craft of writing, anthologies, etc.  However, this year, my goal was to build my artbook library!

I added a wide variety of art books to study and admire! ***Insert Delighted Squeal***

With moving into a new home with more room, I discovered that my love of painting has been calling to me again. The muse of high art loves to tickle my mind with melodies of rapturous mystery. I suppose I should have majored in art in college, but I did get a degree in the arts with literature.

I have a rich appreciation for classic art in both words and visual masterpieces. Every once in a while, inspiration knocks on my door via color, texture, music, random objects, etc. Although, lately the treasures I found at the local library sale have been inspiring me.

Studying Rembrandt

I’m in love with the impressionistic era of art and have been for as long as I can remember because of my trips to the Biltmore House as a child. However, my brief trip to the NC Museum of Art this year piqued my interest in different stages of art history I had not otherwise explored.

In particular, I found myself drawn to chiaroscuro artwork. Chiaroscuro is an Italian word for “light and shadow” and is a classic technique of using dramatic light and dark tones to make it appear that the light source in a piece of artwork is coming from a given direction. Painters that used this technique brilliantly were Rembrandt and Da Vinci. If you ever take the time to look at their work, you will notice very dark edges with the subjects lit masterfully.

The way I can recall what this technique does is to think of a dark room lit by a single candle and the shadows play off all the surfaces.

Girl by a Window by Rembrandt

I found a book at the sale all about Rembrandt, and while perusing the pages, it reminded me of some of the paintings at the art museum.

The more I study Rembrandts paintings, the more I want to create his illusion of light. Except, I can literally create his light in my studio.

What photographer doesn’t need to try out new lighting scenarios anyway?

Triple Light Setup

Now that I have a place where I can experiment, I decided I had to try a Rembrandt-inspired portrait.

In the past, I have used up to four flashes at one time but not strobe units, and I have never used modifiers to block off areas of light. I’m not going to go into many specifics on how I set up the lighting for the portrait in this blog post because it would most likely bore you, but it was a triple strobe setup.

I shocked myself at how quickly I achieved the look I was going for! It took me less than 10 test shots, and this style of lighting is new to me!

Aidan Rembrandt-Sabrina L Greene Photography-SM
Aidan-Rembrandt Inspired Portrait Created 9-5-19

What I Learned from this Inspiration

In creating Aidan’s Rembrandt-inspired portrait, I found that I can break out of my preconstructed boxes of inspiration. It is also fun to challenge myself to learn new techniques and that I should be willing to experiment more!

Studying classical art has also been paying off by forcing me to study body language and lighting more closely. Will I continue in this style? I don’t know, but every time I challenge myself, I grow!

Rembrandt Inspired Portrait B
For a more customized painterly look I loosely painted the shirt he was wearing. Also note the subtle canvas texture applied to this image.

Where can you find inspiration?

If you are looking for inspiration, here are some suggestions I have for you to get your creative juices flowing again.

      • Go outside and take a slow walk and reflect on nature.
      • Find some art books even if you have to check them out of a library.
      • Listen to a new genre of music and close your eyes to see what comes to mind.
      • Go on the hunt for fun and exciting textures and colors.
      • Look for ways to photograph the things we consider mundane. For example, try to find an exciting angle to shoot your dishes in the sink as you wash them.

You will surprise yourself when you challenge your mind to explore new subjects and break out of your daily routines.

I randomly bought a book on Rembrandt and look at what I created from studying a few paintings. Photographers gather inspiration from a variety of sources, and they are not always from Pinterest. In fact, Pinterest and social media feeds cripple me with overload more often than not. There is not a magic formula for inspiration in art; we just have to slow down long enough to take note of what captures our attention.  What is your primary source of inspiration right now?

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About Me

Sabrina is an experienced photographer and Photoshop artist of many years. She fell in love with the art of photography and photo manipulation in 2009 while in college at Mars Hill University. She holds a BA in English with minors in both Regional and Women’s Studies. With an appreciation for all the arts her love of reading is what influences her artwork the most.

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