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Finding Inspiration

How do you find inspiration? Sometimes finding inspiration can be difficult. As with any artist, constantly trying to come up with creative images is the heart of what we do. I was recently talking with a good buddy, fellow pro photographer Marc Romanelli about the creative process and how he finds inspiration. He quoted one of his mentors, Jay Maisel, who said, “There are two basic ways to find inspiration. One is to go on a trip and the other is to put the camera down for a while.” This advice wasn’t news to either Marc or myself. It was just nice to hear the same advice applies to all of us whether you’ve been shooting for six decades like Jay Maisel or you are just starting out.

As our conversation continued we thought of a few other ways to get the creative juices flowing. One method that has worked for me is to push myself by using new and different gear (like shooting with a medium format camera or using strobes) which might challenge me creatively and technically. In other words, it makes me think – and thinking is always good. Another technique I use when I start to feel a lack of creativity is to shoot a new sport or work in a genre of photography that is really difficult or new for me. Over the last few years I have really been working on portraiture because I find it to be the most difficult genre of photography. In the process, I have found that so much has to come together in terms of lighting, composition and a connection with the person you are photographing that by comparison a rock climbing shoot is much easier – but involves a lot more sweat.

And as Jay said, putting down the camera for a while is probably the best way to get the creative juices flowing. Shooting non-stop day after day with no breaks is pretty much the biggest impediment to creativity, especially if one is shooting a lot of assignments and isn’t very excited about those projects. Time off for me is the key to staying inspired and creating inspired images.

Going on an exciting trip, especially to a new location is also an incredible boost for inspiration. My recent trip to Patagonia is a perfect example. I have always wanted to explore Patagonia and it had been a while since I have been on an extended “expedition”. Spending a month at the end of the world in extremely remote locations did a lot to renew the creative spark. I was reminded of why I became a professional photographer in the first place and why I love shooting adventure sports.

However you find inspiration it is important to figure out the how and why so that you can re-create that process on an on-going basis. It all comes down to passion – if you are passionate about your work then your photos will likely reflect that.

Michael Clark is an internationally published photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel, and landscape photography. He produces intense, raw images of athletes pushing their sports to the limit and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images from remote locations around the world. A sampling of his clients include: Apple, Nikon, Red Bull, National Geographic, Outside and Outdoor Photographer.