Photo Peas Classroom - Getting Your Mojo Back/Finding Inspiration

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Posted 3/30/2010 by alexismiller in General Photography


PeaNut 224,660
September 2005
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Posted: 3/30/2010 12:44:25 PM
Photo Peas Classroom - Getting Your Mojo Back/Finding Inspiration

I broke this topic up into 10 tips that I have found success with for myself, and that I have heard others have success with as well. If you have any questions or additional thoughts, please post them here on the thread. Thanks for this opportunity, and special thanks to Jami for organizing this!

1. Read magazines, books, and newspapers with lots of photos in them.
Look at the photos and critique them - list the things that you love about the image and also list the things that you thing would have been better if done differently. As you do this with several different images, you may start to notice some things that the images have in common that you either like or don't like. Use the newly discovered knowledge to help guide you to some new and different ideas for your work.

2. Join a local photography club and participate in their activities.
Many cities have a local photography club. Most clubs meet at least once per month or more frequently. The group in my area meets weekly, and each week they do something different. For instance, one week of the month they will do a meet and critique (the first time I went to one of these, I was simply amazed at the talent of the other photogs.) Then, the next week they will do a photo walk at a fun location in the area (they did a really cool one at the greenhouse at the university awhile back.) They do other field trips, organize photography exhibits for all of the members to participate in, etc.

If you don't have a group in your area, try starting one. Even if there are only 3-4 members, you can still have a great time learning from one another and finding inspiration.

You can also take a photography class or attend a workshop to get similar inspiration like you would from a photography club. The whole purpose is simply to find people with a similar interest and learn and participate with them.

3. Take yourself for a photo-drive.

This one has to be one of my favorites. There are two rules that I have found that make these more successful: 1. Do not take any kids or husbands or anyone. Just you. 2. Don't stress about exposure or figuring out manual mode. Put it on Aperture Priority mode and use the exposure compensation. Or, if you are still learning about the modes on your camera, just use Auto mode or your camera's scene modes.

The whole purpose of this exercise is simply to go and have fun and enjoy seeing beauty and things of interest everywhere around you. I love to get myself a smoothie (or other treat), find some great music to fit my mood, and drive to different locations. When I find a good location, I try not to be rushed (unless I am somewhere that I really shouldn't be, etc. - not that I am advocating that type of behavior! LOL) Anyway, I will take a bunch of photos - like really a lot of all of the different objects and textures and patterns that I find. I try to photograph things from a variety of angles and perspectives.

When I am out on one of these drives, I try to look for interesting old buildings, alleyways, etc. I always listen to my gut if I don't feel comfortable there, though. I also love to drive into the country and take pictures there. It will be different for you wherever you live, but I hope that you will have fun exploring and discovering new things and places. And you'll probably come home feeling much more inspired and refreshed.

4. Take pictures of something that is a different subject matter for you.

This is something that I used to encourage the students in my beginning photography class to do. If you're a portrait photographer, try doing a few landscapes and close-ups of other subjects. If you primarily shoot landscapes, try photographing people. Breaking out of the subject matter that you're most accustomed to will help you see what you normally photograph in a different way.

5. Photograph a series all based on one theme.
I love this one, too. Those of you that are currently participating in the 2010 Peep-Off are doing this right now! Choose a theme that you'd like to photograph - it can be a color, a specific type of object, or something even more specific (like the Peeps). Whatever theme you choose, be sure to do all that you can to find variety and be creative with it.

Here, I did a search for the word "blue" on Flickr, and this is a screen shot of what it came back with. Obviously, each of these images was taken by a different photographer, but it is a great source of ideas and inspiration for a color theme.

Here is another screen shot from Flickr - this time I searched for "shoes."

And, for the last screen shot I will share I searched for "danbo." I don't know why I find this little guy so inspiring, but I think he is. Or, I should say, the photos of him are.

6. Read blogs of other amazing photographers.
Here is a link I found that has a list of links to some amazing photographers online. Super inspiring.

Also, I love to surf around at stock photo websites. I use lots of stock photos in the QuickPro DVDs, and I can easily lose hours of time surfing through the images there. You can register for free at most of them, and create a "lightbox" that you can add your favorite photos to. It's a great thing to revisit every so often when you need some inspiration.

7. Participate in a Photography Assignment or Challenge.
There are tons of these all over the internet. There are several happening at our very own 2p's right now! There is of course the Peep-Off, and there is also the Flash group. There's Macro Monday, and the POTD (is that still going?). At other places online, there are loads of contests and challenges.

Here are a few links to different ones that I found: is full of digital photography contests: has an amazing challenges section:

I also like the challenges that I have seen at other forums, like Clickin' Moms, ILP, and Digital Photography School.

Please feel free to chime in more about this in particular if you know of any other places that have fun contests for digital photography.

8. Tell a Story.
This is the goal of any photographer - we all want to tell a story about our subject. But, this tip goes a little beyond that. When you're out taking pictures, try to keep this really in the front of your mind. Tell the story. That means taking pictures from all different angles, perspectives, etc. Get close up shots, and take shots from a distance. Photograph each of the individual elements that tell the story - for instance, this photo of a toddler's toy immediately tells you the toy's story - it broken. The angle and perspective work well to emphasize what I was trying to say with the image.

9. Make a Photo Notebook or Idea Wall.
This is one that many of us have seen or heard before. When you are working on Tip #1, clip the photos that you like and put them in a binder or notebook. I have seen offices of graphic and interior designers that have a wall just for this purpose as well. If you use a binder or notebook, be sure to record on the page your thoughts about the image - particularly the specific things that you liked about it. As the notebook or wall becomes more and more populated with images, you'll have a great resource to refer to for inspiration.

Be sure to periodically go through and remove any images that don't appeal to you or your style anymore, and replace them with images that better fit your current interests.

Something that always crosses my mind when people suggest this tip to me is that photography magazines cost lots of money. Several of them are almost $10 per issue, and that's a lot of money to spend to simply cut it up. So, here is my suggestion to you - go to the thrift store or used book store. Many of them will carry old magazines for very affordable prices. Also, many libraries simply give away past issues of magazines, so try checking there, too. One last thing that you can do to keep this project affordable is to use non-photography related magazines. Many of these are only $1 - $3 per issue, and they are also filled with amazing photos.

10. Look for beauty in the ordinary objects around you.
About a week or so ago, there was a thread posted here where someone had photographed a weed. It was a beautiful image, and I think that it really applies to this tip. There is beauty in everything around us - even ordinary things, and even things that we normally view as unattractive. Try to look around and see everything a little differently. Try to photograph it in a different way. Experiment with different distances, perspectives, and angles.


Nikon D90


PeaNut 192,476
February 2005
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Posted: 3/30/2010 12:46:47 PM

Great at taking pictures!
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PeaNut 39,805
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Posted: 3/30/2010 12:49:27 PM
This is fantastic, Alexis!!! Thank you so much!


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PeaNut 365,669
March 2008
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Posted: 3/30/2010 12:57:49 PM
Such a fantastic read!

Thank you for putting it together!

Blessings, Rebecca

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PeaNut 59,403
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Posted: 3/30/2010 12:58:59 PM
Great post! I always forget about Flickr for some reason!


Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 100,139
August 2003
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Posted: 3/30/2010 12:59:32 PM
That is so great, Alexis! Thank you for sharing those tips with us.

~ Karen


PeaNut 378,885
June 2008
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Posted: 3/30/2010 1:06:52 PM
This was great, thank you! It makes me want to pull out my camera and start shooting!
Love your advice on telling a story and the toy photo that went with it.

CC and plays always welcome and much appreciated!
Cannon Rebel XT ~ 17-55mm 2.8 ~ 50mm 1.8

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 150,843
June 2004
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Posted: 3/30/2010 1:36:18 PM
These are wonderful, wonderful tips! Some of them hadn't even occurred to me, but I can definitely see the benefit. I've never taken a photo drive - what a great idea!

Re. magazines - that idea is one of my best sources of inspiration. And I don't even mean photography magazines. I love to go to a bookstore with a large magazine selection, grab 6 or 7 mags, and go sit down and go through them. Yes, they're expensive, and no, I rarely buy any of them (I had to curb my magazine buying...too many stacking up in the house!!) but sometimes all it takes is one image to really spark something. One of my favorite magazines to use as inspiration is Martha Stewart: Living (the photography in her mag is simply exquisite, whether it's food, antiques, plants, interiors, people, or collages). Also, the typography in MS always gets my creative juices flowing. Also, Martha Stewart Weddings is again, full of gorgeous, stunning images. What I like about her wedding magazine is that while there are a lot of wedding dress ads, the bulk of it is feature articles. (Great craft ideas in there, too!)

Oh, and one other magazine is called (I think) Life: Beautiful. It's a somewhat Christian based magazine, but regardless of what your religious inclinations are, the photography is always beautiful - again, whether it's food, landscapes, or really beautiful headshots.

Oops, thought of one more....Claire Murray's magazine. What's it called? I can't think of the name right now. Anyone know? Lots of gorgeous scenery shots in there, and flowers/plants...and food, too.

Sometimes just the colors or the bokeh in an image inspires me.

The next time I'm in a funk, I'm going to try some of your ideas! Thank you so much for sharing them with us.



PeaNut 339,883
October 2007
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Posted: 3/30/2010 1:48:01 PM
very inspiring - especially after such a long and snowy winter! i'm finding it hard to get back into the groove. thanks for the kick-start!!


i feel like i'm taking crazy pills!

nikon chic

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lots of film stuff that i keep meaning to master

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PeaNut 254,107
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Posted: 3/30/2010 1:54:14 PM
Great lesson, Alexis! Thanks so much for sharing with us, those are great sources of inspiration and ideas to get the juices flowing!


PeaNut 405,632
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Posted: 3/30/2010 2:38:05 PM
Wonderful tips and well timed topic. Thank you.


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PeaNut 305,846
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Posted: 3/30/2010 2:54:02 PM
Thanks so much for a great lesson

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The {Pea}J's Girl

PeaNut 87,750
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Posted: 3/30/2010 3:07:07 PM
Thank You so much for this! I'm just coming out of a creative slump and a total lack of confidence feeling. I need to get out and shoot!!! No matter what, just shoot!!

Thank You!!


PeaNut 246,670
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Posted: 3/30/2010 3:25:10 PM
What a great boost of inspiration your lesson was! Thanks!


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PeaNut 138,098
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Posted: 3/30/2010 3:40:50 PM
This is terrific...thanks for taking the time to post this and giving us some great ideas. I'm sure we've all suffered from this problem at one time or another...great read!!


PeaNut 343,181
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Posted: 3/30/2010 3:55:29 PM
Great ideas Alexis! Thanks for the inspiration and for all the sources and links! Photo drives are one of my favorite things to do...just need to make more time for them. It's also fun to do with a photographer friend, right Kim?

"You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through." {Rosalyn Carter}

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Stacey Anna

PeaNut 90,606
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Posted: 3/30/2010 4:14:58 PM
Thank you so much Alexis! I have to run right now, but I can't wait to read through this later tonight!


PeaNut 262,177
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Posted: 3/30/2010 5:55:22 PM
Thanks Alexis!!
Great tips!


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PeaNut 410,711
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Posted: 3/30/2010 8:49:04 PM
Great tips! Thanks, Alexis!


amy lynn

PeaNut 71,075
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Posted: 3/30/2010 9:37:06 PM
These are great tips! Thanks for taking the time to put this together.


PeaNut 286,202
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Posted: 3/30/2010 9:43:06 PM
Alexis, thanks for this! These are wonderful tips! I really think I'm going to start keeping a notebook of inspiration--I like that idea.


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The important thing is not the camera but the eye.

PeaNut 214,042
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Posted: 3/30/2010 10:12:57 PM
Alexis, GREAT job!!! What a great idea about Flickr, never thought of that, and seems a wonderful idea for poses, for such fun elements!

1. Read magazines, books, and newspapers with lots of photos in them

YES! I got my first issue of RANGEFINDER, it is free, btw. And even though I am not a wedding photog, the articles were VERY inspring!

2. Join a local photography club and participate in their activities.

And plan your own GTG in your area. Lots of fun, always something new to learn, not to mention the great friendships

3. Take yourself for a photo-drive.

Thank you! What a unique idea, and one I really need to do!

8. Tell a Story

So glad you mentioned this! I needed reminding, and actually was also stated in one of the RANGEFINDER articles.

Something that always crosses my mind when people suggest this tip to me is that photography magazines cost lots of money. Several of them are almost $10 per issue, and that's a lot of money to spend to simply cut it up. So, here is my suggestion to you - go to the thrift store or used book store. Many of them will carry old magazines for very affordable prices. Also, many libraries simply give away past issues of magazines, so try checking there, too. One last thing that you can do to keep this project affordable is to use non-photography related magazines. Many of these are only $1 - $3 per issue, and they are also filled with amazing photos.

RANGEFINDER is free. There are also amazing tutorials here, in the PPC section, as well as other threads with great photos for examples, that can be printed as well.

I agree with Anne about Life Beautiful. AMAZING photos, and really not a bad price, and less clutter, only 4 issues a year, if you like what is inside as well as the photos, would make a great gift idea!!!

GREAT idea about the thrift stores, etc...another thing to add to my hunt list when my son and I go treasure hunting!

Staci Brock Photography

What's in my Crumpler bag:
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PeaNut 63,394
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Posted: 3/30/2010 10:29:13 PM
Thank you so much Alexis! This is great information and very inspiring!


I'm a Nikon Girl!
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PeaNut 430,898
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Posted: 3/31/2010 6:01:34 AM
Thank you so much! Wonderful tips!!

Kim M.
"I am the holder of Virgin Superpowers. Really."

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Posted: 3/31/2010 6:11:40 AM
Great mojo tips, Alexis! We all need the reminders. Some of us more than others!!


Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 3/31/2010 6:31:50 AM
Thanks for sharing! Great ideas

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PeaNut 192,298
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Posted: 3/31/2010 7:02:09 PM


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PeaNut 427,852
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Posted: 8/3/2010 2:54:34 AM
thank u for the mojo time i go thrift shopping to see what type of magazing are there and i am now starting a book with all the information on how to learn to use my camera...and then i have a divder with inspiration...and a divder with all the photoshop tricks posted here and ILP...keep me organize and it all in one binder!
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