Finding Ideas for Your Photography

At one point or another, we all stall. Whether it is because we are drowned by our daily routine or because we simply lose interest in doing what we love. We stall and it’s not quite that simple to get back on track. On the contrary, we dig ourselves deeper. We sit cozily in front of our computers, read about gear and people we admire. Why do we admire them? It’s because they keep on doing while we stall, while we stay put and touch nothing unless absolutely necessary. It’s because they do everything we don’t.

So how about you stop doing nothing? It’s time to start admiring yourself, because you can be just as creative and successful as anyone else!

1) Go (to) Places

Matthew Jordan Smith, one of the best known Beauty, Fashion and Celebrity photographers in the USA, once said you should never, ever stop yourself from going somewhere. It doesn’t really matter if it’s an exhibition you don’t want to visit, or a free concert that you would rather avoid even if the band paid you to come. The reason is simple – we get ideas by experiencing. As long as you keep an open mind, you never know just what can throw some crazy, amazing idea at you – it could be the hairstyle of the lead singer, or a piece of art you don’t understand in the exhibition. Maybe, on your way out, you will bump into a ballet dancer and hurt her ankle, which will obviously make her very angry, as she had a rehearsal planned in an hour, which will push you into photographing angry performers. Or flying dogs. Maybe she will swear at you so violently, you will make a series of photographs about two-faced people. You never know just what will make that awesome idea pop up in your head. It could be something completely irrelevant, but if you’re not out there, one thing is sure – nothing will happen.


2) Go Through Your Old Work

You may think that everything you’ve done up until today is completely useless and your best days are ahead of you. Most of the time, you will be right. But it’s so worth it to be, even if very rarely, wrong. You may find that a particular photograph has, over the years, matured like a bottle of good wine – maybe because people dress differently, or because people themselves are different than the ones in your photograph. Some work gets worse with time, some gets much, much better. We call it context. And it can mean a world of difference.

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There’s another reason, too. Just like with other photographer’s works, or even artists overall, your old photographs are likely to give you ideas, and while not all of them are guaranteed to be good, a start is all you need to get back on your creative feet. Try it. Don’t throw something away just because it doesn’t look that good on the back LCD screen of your camera. You may be surprised by what you’ve done before, and even more so by what is still ahead.

3) Look Through Other Photographer’s Work

It is often that I hear photographers don’t want to copy something that has already been done, and I believe it is something to respect for. However, ideas are viral. They spread like viruses, ever changing, ever adapting. Whatever the idea you saw someone bring to life, you would do it differently, and it would be a different idea. It works much like going to places, really – all you need is to see, to experience something strong. Do you really think you are so much like the author who’s work you are looking through that you will come up with the exact same feelings and thoughts when you analyze his work? Our analysis are based on our experience, and our experience is never the same, nor are our conclusions. You are different, and with these differences new ideas are born.

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4) Try Out Something New in Life

Ideas come with inspiration, inspiration comes with new experience, and new experience comes with… well, something new. Just as you must go to places and meet people, you should also treat yourself with new activities, whether it’s jogging or taking up yoga classes. Not only will that bring more happiness, activity and people into your life, it will also fill you up with even more ideas of what you can do. It works much like a roller coaster – every time you try out something new in life, even read a book or go to theater instead of cinema, you’ll find yourself picking up speed as you fly over ground, but in order not to stop and stall again, you need to keep yourself busy! So how about those yoga classes and jogging?

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5) Stay Busy

Activity brings more activity, but as soon as you stop, it is again quite hard for many of us to get busy once more. Having your day planned helps a lot – you know what you must do, and then you know when you have time for everything that’s a pleasure, like photography or (I must write this, I’m sure all of you will understand!) spending time with your wife and kids! Think of it as an investment, though. You cook dinner today, you get a trip to mountains tomorrow. Put all of that together and you get more ideas than you initially thought you were capable of coming up with, and I bet something will come up in your head while you cook that meal (because it’s just that boring and you don’t need your camera to do it)!

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6) Experiment

Have you noticed your style change with time? Your taste, your preference towards one or another look of your photographs. With time, you search for different things than before, and you notice different things. It is a natural progress, influenced by what we see and what we experience. However, this process is often quite slow, so why not try to change deliberately? Try out what you haven’t before!

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NIKON D80 @ 50mm, ISO 500, 10/800, f/2.8

Experiment before, during and after taking your photograph, go to different places and meet different people. Maybe you’ll find a passion for minimalism, or maybe street photography? Experimenting leads to new experience, which in turn leads to new ideas, so keep an open mind and see what you are capable off! Even if your experiments turn out to be a complete waste of time, in truth it’s not. Professionals make mistakes and amateurish photographs, too, and lots of them (we just try not to show such photographs)! Not everything turns out the way you want initially, but the point is to keep on trying and not letting yourself feel bad if you think you failed. Failure, often, teaches us more than success.

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NIKON D80 @ 50mm, ISO 160, 10/800, f/4.0

7) Don’t Read About Gear Too Much!

We’ve talked about this, of course. And then we talked more, and more, and here we are talking about it again. Why? Well, it’s rather simple, really – you still love reading about gear, don’t you? I thought so. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – we all read reviews before buying something. Heck, we all read reviews even if we are never going to afford that piece of gear! And that is OK. After all, we are photographers, we are supposed to know these things.

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The point is, however, to stop when it’s enough. Don’t make it a daily habit to read each and every review you can find, each and every one you’ve read many, many times before – it is a waste of time. Instead, go through other photographer’s work, or your own, or just go out and spend time with your friends shooting or fishing, which, you guessed right, will give you more ideas, or help you relax a little and fall in love with photography again, passionately.

8) You Don’t Always Need an Idea

Some think everything you do should have a very deep, hidden meaning. Some important idea. While it’s true very often, there are days when the last thing we need is more problems and deep meanings, more things to think about. We get tired – work, routine, everyday problems wear us out again and again. Then, feelings come in. Simple aesthetics, beauty therapy, photographs that make you feel better just because you’re looking at them – they trigger your emotions and personal associations, memories, instead of thoughts and need to analyze. They are like fresh air, a trip to a forest or a marvelous sunset on a beach.

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NIKON D80 @ 50mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/13.0

Some will say such photographs are worthless and shallow, empty almost. But maybe, before filling up with ideas and thoughts, you need emptiness, some air to breathe easily, some happiness? Just go out and shoot. Don’t think, don’t worry about your camera settings and lens choice. Admire what’s around you and, every now and then, take a picture. Keeping your mind clean is a good thing, you don’t want to burn out.

9) Photograph!

Nothing changes unless you make it change. None of this will matter if you stall again. The only reason to have ideas is to be creative, and being creative, in our case, means photography. Got your brand new D700 or D800? The menus have not changed. The autofocus still focuses, and pixels are still pixels, even if there’s more of them than before. Ideas are fueled by ideas and one often leads to another – remember why you need your camera and get to work! It’s that easy. You’ll be full of ideas in no time.

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  1. 1) yogesh
    April 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Romn, yay, i am the first to leave comment:-)

    Love this article especially the advise abot not to read too much about gears! . I am pretty sure, many readers will agree with that particular suggestion. I did:-)

    In fact, i have realized when to stop. But all thanks to nasim’s website and he has compiled ton of information that has made me be able to think the way i am, so all thanks to you guys.

    Now i just have to collect enough fund to buy the camera i am looking for:-)

    Once again, thanks and keep giving us something unique like this one.


    • 1.1) Sveto
      May 2, 2012 at 4:08 am

      @ Roman: Great post, great advice
      @ yogesh: you are perfectly right except only one part… if yo follow forums, especially beginners and medium experience, some on upper level also care more about the gear than the result itself. They must have the latest gear, the most expensive gear and everything else, not the gear fit for their needs as I bet you are looking for. When the issue is behind the ocular in their cases. :D

      • 1.1.1) Sam
        May 2, 2012 at 4:17 am

        hmm… its not quite true :D smart-ass :D

        “if yo follow forums, especially beginners and medium experience, some on upper level also care more about the gear than the result itself. They must have the latest gear, the most expensive gear and everything else, not the gear fit for their needs as I bet you are looking for. When the issue is behind the ocular in their cases. :D”

  2. April 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I am now the owner of a Panasonic FZ150. While it’s no compact camera, I don’t have to carry any extra lenses. I am taking it everywhere. Yes, you never know when a photo opportunity will present itself. I went to Sunset and Vine (in Hollywood) after Dick Clark’s death on news that a group would be singing at the site of his Walk of Fame star. While there I saw the famous Schwab’s sign and a great shot of the Capitol Record’s building viewed through a parking lot on Hollywood Boulevard. That’s two additional photos for my Hollywood collection.

  3. 3) Heartbreakkid
    April 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Loved this article. Its so true. I have realised that I have not been doing alot of shooting and thats the only way you can get better. Now I have decided to shoot every weekend.

  4. 4) Priya
    April 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Great write-up. Very relevant too. I’m an oncologist. I just changed hospitals and the one I’m attached to now is too busy. Hardly get any time off. Have decided to use my sundays to get back to photography even if I can’t travel as frequently. :-) Thank you.

    • 4.1) yogesh
      April 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Hello Priya,

      good to know about your interest in photography and being a physician, it must be challenging to find time. I know it well, since me being a physician, photography helps me enjoy my free time and nasim’s website has served a perfect forum to enjoy and learn more about how can i improve my skills.


      • 4.1.1) Priya
        April 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

        Hi Yogesh…its great to hear from a fellow physician. Photography is a wonderful salve to us when we are done with healing people for the day. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing photos from your end…Cheers :-)

        • yogesh
          April 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

          hi priya,
          agree with u. It does serve a good outlet for us for sure. U can reach me at
          would love to learn more about your photography ventures as well.

  5. 5) Casimir
    April 22, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Great Monday morning wake-up reading. Leaving my house early in search for a new experience.

  6. 6) Sam
    April 23, 2012 at 12:25 am

    great article!
    but sometimes i just wonder, why picture of the others have so much … something … inside, while most of mine are boring :D but its just me

  7. 7) John
    April 23, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Another great article Roman!

    I agree with many of the points you mentioned here and especially with your last two points (Photograph), not every shot we take have to be a master piece, sometimes just the act of taking photo brings joy in my case.

    Thanks for sharing your view!

  8. April 23, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Good article, agree with everything you wrote. Many of the posts on my own blog follow these maxims. Thank you for writing this :)

  9. April 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Great suggestions. For 2012, I have two photography projects:
    1) Photograph the sunrise over Columbia, South Carolina from the Lake Murray Dam on the equinoxes and soltices. I got the idea for the project after I photographed the first sunrise of 2012.
    2) Photograph the Full Moons. I got the idea after I saw another person’s photo of the Moon on Flickr. January’s Full Wolf Moon had already passed when I got the idea, so the project extends into 2013.

    This is not really a project, but a New Year’s Resolution for 2012: Use Black & White film exclusively for 2012. Shooting with B&W gives me the opportunity to experiment with different B&W contrast filters.
    In 2011, I used B&W film for the final Space Shuttle landing and I rediscovered the classic look and beauty of Black & White. Sadly, I have to send traditional B&W film out of state for developing and I have to order it out of state also. I can get C-41 B&W film developed locally, so Kodak’s BW400CN is my primary film.

  10. 10) Sam
    April 24, 2012 at 4:58 am

    hey buddy,

    how to shot such macro pictures …. i do have d700 and don’t know what macro lens i need for this :S


    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 10.1) Romanas Naryškin
      April 24, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Hello, Sam!

      These are actually micro photography examples. There are several techniques for this – you can use extension tubes on your macro lenses, magnifying filters, or you can reverse-attach a classic 50mm lens onto any other you have for huge magnifications. Teleconverters also work. In those samples, it is likely focus-stacking was used, too, but I can’t be sure.

      • 10.1.1) Sam
        April 24, 2012 at 5:58 am

        thanks for quick reply
        wow, reverse attach is the perfect word :D

        i found old lenses of my father: nikon 55mm 1.2 (1963+ or something) some zoom and wide lenses and 500mm f/8
        i will try it :D

        reverse attach is the keyword, i hope its not to complicated!

        • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin Romanas Naryškin
          April 24, 2012 at 6:01 am

          yeah, there are filters, I think, to hold a reversed lens attached to the front of another. Do note that you will have to focus extremely close and by moving in and out – focusing with focus rings won’t help much. The depth of field will be very shallow, too, but you would want to stop down hard (f/22-36) anyway. And for that, you will need lots of additional light. It’s hard work!

          • Sam
            April 24, 2012 at 6:09 am

            :D thanks, i ´m already searching in amazon :D

          • yogesh
            April 25, 2012 at 11:46 am

            hi roman,
            regarding your suggestion on attaching 50 mm lens reveresed, how can i do that? Is there a specific attachment that connects the lens reverse with camera body?

  11. 11) Yvette
    April 24, 2012 at 6:52 am

    “You’ll see me buying film even when there’s no food in the fridge.” Now that is passion, love it, love it !

  12. 12) Tran Dinh
    August 15, 2012 at 3:49 am

    Thank you for your article. It helps me a lot.

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