How Portrait Photographers Continue to Find Inspiration

Photo by Sue Bryce. Used with permission

Photo by Sue Bryce. Used with permission

It’s easy to get into a photographic slump and not find motivation or creativity. For all of us photographers, this is a good thing. It means that we’re evolving and that we’re going to find a way to become better instead of always shooting the same things and the same looks consistently.

Getting out of these slumps though can be tough to do, so we talked to a number of professional photographers about how they find inspiration for the portraits that they shoot.

I find new inspiration for portraits by reading. My thought process tends to be less in visuals and more in words. When I’m feeling lost for ideas I tend to start reading more poetry. I write down phrases that appeal to me so I create visuals for them later. Also, my models are almost always my friends who are also photographers. Collaboration with likeminded people is definitely one of the best ways to kickstart creativity. Just having that other person that understands the process and you can throw ideas off of is such a valuable gift.

Sarah Ann Loreth

For inspiration, I use Pinterest a lot. Pinterest can be great, depending on who you follow. But for me, I love following the work of Dan Winters, Nadav Kander, Gregory Crewdson, and especially Paolo Roversi. Those guys are incredibly creative. There is always inspiration out there and a million ways to approach shooting a portrait. I don’t have too much trouble finding inspiration.

Jeremy Cowart

I keep a folder of Inspiration images which I often add interesting photos to. This serves as an ideas folder. I might browse through this and see what sticks in my mind. Sometimes it is the amalgamation of ideas that lead to something new. Even when I try to emulate the style and lighting of an image, there are always distinct differences that lead to new images with a different look for me.

Neil Van Niekerk

I always joke when you feel a little repetitive and a little bored, itls a sure sign you’ve created a system in your shooting. When that happens, boredom sets in but the irony is this is usually when you start making money. I love new backdrops and in a dream world I would have hundreds but it’s expensive and storing them is a problem. So I paint my own Always have. Polystyrene sheets vintage wallpaper whatever it takes even on a budget. I purchased glittery wrapping paper the other day for $4 and used that.  I’ve become quite the DIYer and I love it.

Remember: You are seeing the same work the same light the same backdrop but to your clients its new and fresh and all theirs.  Every now and then I get out of my own studio and shoot in someone else’s or on a location its a great way to get out of your comfort zone and feel invigorated.

I gain so much inspiration from fashion magazines and then adapt the style or pose or look to my portraiture.  I also gain wonderful inspiration from watching movies.

I try every year to create awards work, creative and illustrative outside of what my clients want.  Strangely, this work always got me attention from the public and of course the industry you get inspired enter some awards receive accolades and learn a whole lot about your self your craft and it’s quite addictive.

A great tip for me is to draw out my shoots before hand, build a Pinterest board, create a map of inspiration then when you are shooting you will remember to stay on the posing map and not fall back into the same corner and the same old poses.

But the most important advice I can give you is make it about your client.  Every person is so unique they all have different nuisances and micro expression, different ways of expressing themselves through clothing and movement.  Fall in love with watching people how they move when they look the most beautiful. I walk into every shoot and remind myself I am there to find their best beautiful and capture it.  It always makes me feel connected and refreshed and when I get those great shots I know my job is done.

– Sue Bryce