One of the things all artists struggle with from time to time is finding inspiration. Even the most creative artist will inevitably fall in a rut where they just can’t seem to come up with any good ideas, a kind of “writer’s block” if you will. As a photographer I am no stranger to having this happen to me, there are lots of times I want to go out and take photos, but I just can think of anything I want to shoot. When this happens I will take the advice my photography teacher gave me back in art school and go out for a photo walk. This is a method that has been used by many photographers and is a great way to find new inspiration for your work.
In a photo walk you don’t just grab your camera and go for a walk and see what you can find, hoping to stumble across great picturesque scene, there is a little more to it then that. Before you head out you pick a theme, something simple works best, and you try to take photos of things that fall within that theme. One of the best themes I believe is to look for the alphabet and try to capture images of letters that are formed naturally by nature or other materials (not printed letters, that would be too easy). Here are a few examples from some of my photos walks:
You might be thinking at this point “but I’m not real interested in doing a project on the alphabet” and you don’t have to be. The point of this exercise is not to simply get you to find letters, it is to get you looking at things in a new way. What you will notice happening is that at some point, maybe by your third letter or maybe your twentieth, new ideas will start to hit you. Maybe while you were scanning for letters you started to notice interesting patterns of light and shadow created by the tress you are near. Maybe you became aware of the different textures that are surrounding you and came up with some great macro photo ideas. Maybe you even came across a group of people at a park and a new idea for portraits hit you. The point of the walk is to get you looking at things in a different way so that new ideas will come to you. It is like when I teach my students to edit their own writing, I always tell them to read what they wrote backwards, from last word to first, to check for spelling errors. Unless you start to look at things in a different way, you will never find anything new.
Again, this technique isn’t limited to photographers either. Whether you are a writer, painter, teacher, banker, salesman, we all fall into ruts and taking the time to look at things in a new and different way is a great way to get us out of them.
Besides from shooting the alphabet I also enjoy looking for faces in everyday objects or even find characters in everyday scene, come on doesn’t that bush remind you of Pac-man?
Let me know what you find on your photo walks.