Inspiration IS a big deal for creative people, especially when it’s not there. Everyone has this misconception that artists are really inspired people by nature, that they get this genius lightning of magical ideas coming from nowhere that make them create awesome stuff. Sorry to disappoint but the only secret is that it’s mostly A LOT of work! And I am pretty sure any random person can have awesome ideas if they put some effort in this. So the best way to start is to actively look for ideas. I was lucky enough to meet Ben Harper and I remember him saying that he would sit and write music everyday. He is not waiting to be magically inspired out of thin air, he is not picking his guitar because he is in the right mood : he is picking it everyday, just like any other job, he puts a lot of hard work in this. Most musicians write 100 songs to get a 10 tracks album! So don’t feel discouraged if everything you do is not perfect, that’s just normal, but at least doing it gets you on the right track and leave plenty of room for improvements!
First thing first : Take the time to actually write down the ideas! Write, them, sketch them, put them on paper, get a fancy notebook, a crappy piece of blank paper, anything, but DO IT. My most prolific times are when I actually force myself to sit with nothing but a blank page and a pen that I find most ideas coming to my mind!
Sometimes it is not that easy, so here are some tips and triggers that I personally use on a daily basis for fresh ideas (and I am almost sorry to say this does not any drugs or alcool )
Spend some time and team up with other creative people, brainstorm with your creative friends : make up artists, illustrators, designers they surely have a cool project ongoing and they will be more happy to have pictures of it at some point! Book an afternoon with them, everyone brings food, drinks, ideas, and enjoy this moment!
I will lay on the floor with my headphones and listen to music (which must be a weird sight from outside), just letting go and creating a whole world in my head (bonus point if you have musician friends who constantly inspires you so they have cool pictures for their marketing!) Going to concert is awesome! Live music is the best because you can feel the energy of the band and the public around you.
Your own emotion at the moment (the crappiest the more inspiring, sad but true ) : how would you visually represent this feeling? Bonus point here because letting it out is always better for your mental health
Find a muse!
Someone you can shoot who complete you artistically, someone who makes you want to create and allows you to express your art, someone who share your vision and respect it! He/she could be a model, a dancer, your lover, a burlesque artist, a performer, a comedian, even just a random person that you are attracted to for some reason, anyone! PUT HIM NAKED AND SHOOT HIM (ask for consent thought) Many designers have had muses they created uniques pieces for, and artist are painting their favorite model endlessly, because they always had a new story to tell about this person.
I have a huuuge pinterest board that I love browsing from time to time for visual references, it’s a great mood board. It’s very personal but you can check it out if you are curious. I pin everything and not photography related stuff, it’s a lot of contemporary art mostly
Exhibitions, looking at art with your own eyes is pretty different than just checking it on the internet (it would be the same as watching a movie streaming on your phone VS going to the theatre!)
Try a new technique
A new light something new, experimenting with gels? Get a new backdrop? Mixing real paint on top of a picture? Experiment with dry ice? Hell yeah! Go a bit crazy! I think it’s the only time I will look for inspiration into other photographer’s work. I often see copies of copies of pictures, and I feel our work is much stronger when we define our own concepts, when we build our own references outside of our industry. That is what will make our work somewhat unique, and truly reflecting our creative identity.
Reading a book/ stories, go see a movie
Just like music, it’s all about training our imagination and our creative eye. How did you imagine this really nice paragraph you just read? expand your own world, feed your mind.
Go for a walk in nature
If I spend a lot of time in my studio I get trapped into my own mind. Getting some fresh air definitly brings fresh ideas! (And I am writing this with frozen hands from my phone in a park so it does work!)
Location / travelling
You went to a new place that is so cool you absolutely want to go back there and shoot! Going to a new city, visit new country, immerse yourself in a new culture is great to get surprised and excited again!
if you are really stuck and your mood is not for creativity, it can happen : learn to rest and to let go for a while. Do something you would never do usually, sometimes you have less pressure to deliver something you don’t HAVE to be good at : For example My illustrator friend Camille takes pictures of flowers and random stuff to get ideas for drawings, my musician friend Maxime had no ideas for new songs so he spent a lot of his time writing a novel (I admit, some people are extreme ) One day I bought some modeling clay and spent the night trying to do a skull. The result was awful but I had fun :p