All photos © Sansom Photography
Staying inspired can be a challenge for creators of all kinds. In an industry where we’re constantly bombarded by incredible images from all around the world, it’s not hard to come up with ideas for shots you haven’t tried yet. Having recently judged a competition with hundreds of entries, one thing that really hit home for us was the fact that true originality feels harder and harder to come by. There are so many organisations and awards, it’s sometimes hard not to “take inspiration” from other photographers. Entering images for a competition is one thing, but seeing the entries from the other side is an entirely different ball game. Suddenly all of those amazing shots start to blur into one. No matter how epic it might be, it’s very difficult to get excited by the hundredth silhouette as you mark entries.
The Trickle Down Cycle
Photography isn’t the only industry to suffer from this; just look at the world of fashion, top end designers put out a new range of clothing several times a year. As the models walk the runway for the first time, the designs are new and exciting, commanding prices that reflect their originality. For every major designer, there are hundreds that take inspiration from their ideas and, within a few months, we see similar designs coming from more mainstream brands. Cars follow the same curve; just look at the technology in a Mercedes Benz from ten years ago and you’ll most likely see the same tech in today’s budget vehicles. Of course, by the time the cheaper manufacturers implement the technology, Mercedes is already onto the next idea, the same way the top fashion designers will have a new collection out by the time their last ideas are flooding the market.
Exploring Other Creative Mediums
So how do we as creatives find an edge on an already-saturated market place? For us it all starts with the reason we got into this job in the first place. For instance, Verity studied Fine Art at university, so much of her inspiration comes through the art world. The obvious starting point is galleries, but between a host of magazines, not to mention the Internet, there’s no reason not to spend a little time in the evenings looking at what’s going on in the world of art. While Verity was studying art, I was in film school, so my appreciation and interpretation of modern art is often rather different to hers. However, as with photography, it’s the contrasting opinions that keep it interesting!
During my short time in film-making, I quickly realised it wasn’t the industry for me. Though it’s only recently that I’ve really identified why. As much as I wanted to, and as much as I tried, I’m just not exceptional when it comes to CREATING a story. I was always much better at TELLING a story, which is why I think I’ve always loved film and TV so much. To me, seeing a true Auteur at work is just as impressive as the most famous paintings. Whether it’s the use of sound, effects, or cinematography to not only tell a story but set the mood.
Finding Your Why
Of course those are just two examples that we find work for us. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would also find success in looking to film and art for inspiration, but really the point isn’t WHAT we’re looking at for inspiration. It’s WHY we’re looking there. We look to film and art because they are our passions — not for work or business, but because we love it!
If you can find a source of inspiration that goes beyond just work it makes the inspiration side of what we do a relief rather than an effort. There’s a lot more that goes into wedding photography than most of us are first lead to believe. So much so that we spent years struggling to manage everything involved. One of those things was finding ideas for new shots. We used to spend hours each week looking at the very best photographers in the world. Occasionally we would get a shot we loved, that would sit on our homepage and get entered in for awards. What we realised over time was that we were looking in totally the wrong place. No matter how much we loved the shots, I’m pretty certain none of them surpassed the originals. All of our best work had come from outside inspiration.
Looking Outside Of Yourself (And Inside Too)
Have you ever visited a new country and found yourself fascinated by all of the things the locals take for granted? Every time you leave the house, there are hundreds of ways to be inspired. Sometimes it’s watching how strangers interact; a young couple out for a walk in the park can be a masterclass in posing. Other times it’s the advertising we see all around us; billboards and TV adverts that convey everything they need to in just a few seconds. The biggest asset we all have is our own inherent originality and so it stands to reason that what inspires us is also unique. Think about what drew you to photography in the first place. Look back at your favourite photographs. What is it about them that you love?
When I started this article I thought about doing a list. Everyone knows the Internet loves list ‘Top 5 inspiration sources for photographers’ is obvious click-bait. But as I started to plan out the article, it became clear to me that writing an article like that would be a cop out, promising answers with little to take away. Instead, we wanted to encourage people to fundamentally rethink the way they find inspiration. There’s nowhere we can recommend that will universally appeal to everyone’s creativity, but there is one thing everyone can do that WILL improve your work. Stop looking at everyone else. In fact, stop worrying about everyone else altogether. Just try it for one month. Cold turkey, no blog surfing, no scrolling through award galleries, just your own images to look at. Remember that while you may see other people’s incredible images that intimidate as much as inspire, your clients booked YOU. They love what YOU do, not what someone else is doing. So own it!
How are you staying inspired these days?
Meet Your Contributors – Chris + Verity Sansom
We are Chris and Verity Sansom and together we run our wedding photography business Sansom Photography as well as our mentoring/teaching business ‘Work it Out’ (Launching soon). Over the last 5 years we have shot more than 240 weddings and we’re honoured to have received such awards as Junebug Best Of the Best (Weddings and Engagements 2015) and have been named as two of Rangefinder Magazine’s ‘Rising Stars of Wedding Photography’ 2015. We’ll also be speaking at the incredible Mystic Seminars 2017 as well as the Wedding Photography Select conference 2016.
We live in Yorkshire, England with our two cats called Ponyo and Angel as well as an energetic black Labrador called Kaya. We love exploring the countryside with our cameras and Chris was a finalist in Season 2 of Ninja Warrior UK. He’s working hard for series 3 already!