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Looking for inspiration?

Do you want to improve your photography? I know I do. How do I do it? Besides taking lots of pictures, joining local photograph clubs and reading, I look to other photographers and their bodies of work for inspiration.

Like many artists, photographers tend to develop a style or theme that makes them almost instantly identifiable. A prime example of this is Ansel Adams. His black and white images of the west and Yosemite National Park are everywhere, and emulated by many aspiring photographers.

Whenever I need inspiration or get in a creative rut I turn to some of the masters in this craft and study their work. I will try to figure out how they managed to get a particular effect, try to understand the equipment and generally try to get inside their heads.

Similar to art, in its many other forms, there are specialties. For example you can find masters of their craft in fashion, portrait, street, landscape, and many more categories.

Some of the photographers I look to for ideas are:

Ansel Adams []

  • The Sierra Club was vital to Adams’s early success as a photographer. His first published photographs and writings appeared in the club’s 1922 Bulletin, and he had his first one man exhibition in 1928 at the club’s San Francisco headquarters.

Eliot Porter []

  • An American photographer known for his richly colored images of the natural world.

  • His works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Willard Van Dyke []

  • His early photographs are typically details from industry or nature, emphasizing form, shadow, and negative space.

Edward Weston []

  • Weston became the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship for experimental work in 1936. Following the receipt of this fellowship Weston spent the next two years taking photographs in the West and Southwest United States. Later, in 1941 using photographs of the East and South, Weston provided illustrations for a new edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

Steve McCurry []

  • Steve McCurry shot one of the most famous photographs in National Geographic history entitled “Afghan Girl,” is a simple portrait of a young girl. It is hard to describe how incredible the photograph is but there is just something so captivating about it. It captured the world’s attention and has been one of the most famous pictures to ever grace to cover of National Geographic.

  • His images were made famous by the New York Times and Time magazine.

I hope that these famous photographers can provide inspiration and a jumping off point for your work. A theme that I see in all of these photographers is the ability to show the world things that they would not have seen otherwise.

Photography is so important because it has the ability to that. It is a very important medium that the world relies on and shapes people’s ideas and understanding. Remember that the next time you take a picture and know that what you are doing is important.

So next time you see a picture you like, find out who the photographer is. Google him or her. Look at their body of work. Look closely at the elements in the image, how the photographer composed that image. Look for similarities to their other images. That’s style. Study it and develop your own sense of photographic style.

The images included with this story are my attempt at honoring Ansel Adams, with my interpretation of Yosemite National Park in California.

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