Never Forget What Inspired You

Back in 2012, before I was capturing wedding photographs under my own name, I was spending every minute of every day possible capturing black & white portraits and social documentary projects. When I took the step to becoming a full time wedding photographer, I knew my personal projects would have to take a back seat. I knew one day opportunities would arise allowing me to revisit one of my favourite genres in photography, I feel like I owe it to myself and photography to pick up the camera and shoot what first inspired me to leap into photography and you should too! 

A few weeks ago I was invited by Josh Warrington, the WBC International and European featherweight boxing champion and all round nice guy, to photograph his championship fight against Hisashi Amagasa. I met Josh around a year ago and we immediately got talking about photography and in particular the project I did in 2012 on war veteran Simon Brown, we discussed how great it would be to capture a short documentary on his boxing career. 

People still talk about the documentary I captured on Simon and I'm always challenged to do more documentary projects, so this is where the inspiration for this blog post came in.  I wanted to address that no matter whether you're an amateur, semi professional or professional photographer, you should always make time to capture the things that first inspired you and make sure you put yourself in situations that take you out of your comfort zone. 

So here's my 5 Top Tips on keeping you inspired: 

1. Remember your love for photography

You need to find what really gets your creative juices flowing, which artists and photographers inspire you the most? What do you love taking photographs of? What would you love to take photographs of? What do people love about your photography? I can guarantee there is one particular genre in photography that you could capture day in day out, no matter how broad or niche it may be. For me it was portraits, I attempted nearly every sub genre of portraiture before I landed on social documentary and later wedding photography. It may not be apparent straight away, so try spending 6 months experimenting with your genre and sub genres.

2. Share your results

When people try something new and step out of their comfort zone in any creative profession, you're going to feel a little uncomfortable. You're more than likely not going to create the same standard of work as all the other people doing it day in day out, therefore you might feel slightly nervous about sharing your work. So instead of getting overwhelmed and discouraged by the idea that people may not value what your producing, concentrate more on breaking that mould. Make a blog solely for the photographs, send emails to newspapers, online blogs and industry leaders to showcase what you're creating, don't be scared of people saying no.

Don't underestimate your own creativity, if the work you produce doesn't work for everyone then that is fine, but the achievement and buzz you will feel from giving it a go and remembering what inspired you will be a good enough reason, I promise!

3. You will never stand out if you don't break out of your comfort zone

When you begin a profession in any creative field, you dream of the day everything is simple and not chaotic, the day when you're not running around like a headless chicken and can just sit back and do the things you enjoy. The truth is, as soon as that day comes around, that same day you will loose all interest in photography or your business.  

The day I became comfortable with shooting 30 + weddings a year I knew had to add something else to my business model to keep me inspired.  I challenged myself, on top of 30+ weddings per year to write 3 blog posts per week. Skip ahead 27 weeks later of blog posts and I now feel comfortable both shooting all those weddings and writing 3 blog posts per week, I'm now challenging myself to shoot more documentary work. 

Yes, you might fail from time to time and it will probably take a while until you're happy with your results, but don't let that stop you! 

4. Don't be a Sheep

When you're attempting something new or challenging yourself, you're inevitably going to look around for inspiration. When you take the leap to do something new in the creative industry which is already saturated, the popular social media apps, such as Instagram and Pinterest, are probably going to be your first calling point to see what other leading creatives are doing in that particular genre. At this point it's very easy to go off and mimic what everyone else is doing, let's be honest, if you copy their style which is seen by the viewer as the correct way to capture/represent that genre, then you know you're kind of doing it right. However, those leading creatives didn't achieve success and fame because they copied someone else's style, they broke the mould and brought something new to the table. So remember, if you challenge yourself to break out of your comfort zone and try something new as a creative, be unique and don't worry about ticking boxes, embrace your title as a creative. 

5 . Keep your results separate

You've probably heard me talk about how easy it is to fall into the trap of the 'Jack of all trades' photographer, which again, there is nothing wrong with the concept if you particularly love shooting all genres of photography. To really become successful and make a career in photography, 9 times out of 10 you're going to need to hone in on what particular service and photography you're offering. 

If you shoot more than one genre, then I highly recommend separating your portfolios just like I did with my weddings and commercial & sports photography For the purpose of this blog post, I included the documentary shots I captured with Josh, but they won't make an appearance on any other wedding pages of my website and that goes for all my social media accounts that relate to my wedding photography. Instead, I'll include them on my commercial website and email around to particular blogs, magazines and other people who would be interested in the photographs.

So go out and shoot those photographs you've been thinking about capturing for a while, just be conscious about your existing portfolio and branding before you share with your audiences.