Inspiration, The Key to Photography. All too often I run into photographers, including “myself,” where we feel as though we just can’t come up with a shot when we’re actually in the mood to create photographs. It’s one thing to shoot on assignment, say like sports photos for an NBA game, because the shots happen in front of you, but when it’s just you wanting to shoot because you feel the passion, often you find yourself with no inspiration.
Inspiration is a key to great photos as is passion, and many photographers think you only need passion to capture great photos — not true, it takes more than just passion. Inspiration has to develop first and it derives from desire, dedication, determination, and drive.
Desire a Great Shot. Let’s start with desire, or as we say in Spanish ganas, the “motivation sufficient to act.” Desire is to crave something. In the case of photography, we crave capturing an image no one else has created, but we also crave reassurance from our peers that we’ve captured something worth admiring. One of the best forms of flattery to a photographer is when colleagues laud us with kudos. Sometimes it’s as simple as Facebook praise or the amount of “likes” we receive when we post a photo on our Facebook wall or Instagram portfolio.
And if you’re on top of your social marketing game as a photographer, just getting a photo re-tweeted is another sign of accomplishment, again, especially when it comes from fellow photographers. Desire is the foundation of inspiration and we have to become disciplined enough to dedicate time to our desires, therefore the next step is dedication.
Dedicate Yourself. You must be dedicated before you can achieve discipline and that dedication comes from loyalty to your art. Dedication also comes from enthusiasm, or the excitement in capturing reality as you see it and as it evolves around you. World-renowned photojournalist Robert Capa, in his book, “Slightly Out of Focus,” emphasized the discipline of “get there first, leave their last” when it came to photographing events. Some of the best shots come not from the event shoot itself, but by observing before and after the event.
Dedication is also about commitment and devotion. You must commit yourself to devote time to your craft. As tough as time is to manage, it’s ultimately about prioritization. Learn to prioritize your time by allocating a small part of your day to your photography — put on your calendar that once per week, for one hour, you’ll “brainstorm” ideas and write them down for future use. It’s dedication that breeds discipline that drives determination.
Be Determined. Determination is making an effort. Without effort, you have nothing. Think of it as the gas in your car, the motor will not run without it. Ask yourself, what purpose does this image I want to create serve? Will it change public perception? Will it invoke emotions? One of the most famous photos taken by photojournalist Kevin Carter, that of a vulture sitting to the left of a starving Sudanese child, not only won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994, but many claim, it was the photo that led Carter to commit suicide at the age of 33, along with public outcries that helped lead the United States into Somalia. Go after your intended audience and results. Determination is the resolve that drives you.
It Takes Drive. It’s drive that gives you the initiative to “get-up-and-go.” That same drive is what forces you to check your photographic gear before the shoot. Are your batteries charged? Are your lenses clean? Are your digital cards formatted and ready to go? Drive is the ambition to create and if determination is the gas in your car, drive is your foot on the gas pedal, not the brake. Drive makes you move forward.
So, if you were to feel the passion of making a road trip to stop and photograph what you see along the way, or something that hasn’t been photographed before, you’ll pack your bags, load your car and just drive until you see something worth capturing with your interpretation. Finding that shot is possible if you inspire your passion with desire, dedication, determination and drive.
In summary, and “note to self,” desire is what makes you open your car door and sit down in the driver’s seat. Dedication is when you insert and turn the key to ignite the engine. Determination is making sure you’ve got a full tank of gas and depressing the gas pedal is your drive to move forward. It’s this forward motion that starts the chain of events, or the inspiration that sparks your passion to create — and once on that road, ganas will help you find that shot!