How and Where to Look for Photography Inspiration Beyond Instagram

© 2020 Pauleth Ip / PI Creative

With Instagram increasingly becoming an echo chamber, consider these alternative sources of inspiration the next time you’re in a creative rut.

“To gain new perspectives, you have to be willing to change your surroundings.” Back when I was working in higher education, that’s what I used to tell my students whenever they were confronted with seemingly insurmountable problems. It’s helped them reframe the problems and to arrive at solutions on their own. This principle continues to hold true as I transitioned into a career in photography. Whenever I was faced with a creative rut, looking toward new sources of inspiration was often the spark I needed. Time and time again, it’s helped me see the world through a different lens (pun intended) and to approach my photography with fresh creative impulses. The next time you find yourself in a creative rut, consider these alternative sources of inspiration.

“To gain new perspectives, you have to be willing to change your surroundings.”

Paul Ip, Reviews Editor

Think Outside the ‘Gram

While Instagram is definitely the top dog of platforms when it comes to visually focused social media, it’s ubiquity also contributes to it being saturated by a sea of sameness. You could scroll through your Instagram feed for forever and be inundated with nothing but derivative images that blend together after a while. Remember what I said about being willing to change your surroundings? Instead of the ‘gram, look for inspiration from other platforms like 500px, Behance, Facebook photography groups, Flickr, and Tumblr. (Fun Fact: We’ve actually found a good amount of the photographers featured on The Phoblographer through these other platforms.) There are a lot of photographers at the top of their game showcasing their latest works on these platforms. Images also aren’t as prone to suffer from compression artifacts or forced to be cropped on these other platforms, so you often get to see the images in the way they were meant to be seen.

Pick Up a (Photo) Book

I absolutely adore photo books and have amassed quite a collection over the years. They have been a constant source of photography inspiration that I turn to repeatedly. We all have photographers we look up to and that inspired us to get into this craft. Instead of looking at their images on your phone, pick up one of their photo books at your local bookseller or library and get lost in their body of work. It’s a doorway into their creative process and often features previously unreleased images only available in those books. They are also one of the best ways to look at the collected works of some of the master photographers that have graced this industry.

Learn from Hollywood’s Best

The next time you’re queuing up your favorite movie or show on Netflix (or your streaming platform of choice), do some homework and dissect everything on the screen. Look at the way that the director has chosen to block a certain scene. Pay attention to how the cinematographer/director of photography is lighting a scene or framing a shot. Check out how the set dresser has decorated all the foreground and background elements to enrich the world presented to you. There are lessons to be learned from every frame and each lesson is a new source of inspiration. If something is good enough for Hollywood, it’s certainly good enough for photographers too.

What other sources of photography inspiration have you found helpful when you’ve been stuck in a creative rut? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Hopefully, this article has given you some newfound sources of inspiration and motivates you to create some new and interesting work. Be sure to tag me (I’m over at @thepicreative) when you’re sharing your latest works on Instagram, I’d love to see what you end up creating!

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.