Creating Inspiration for Conceptual Imagery

Creating Inspiration for Conceptual Imagery

At some point, all creatives fall into ruts where it’s difficult to imagine new concepts. Unfortunately, inspiration doesn't always present itself. Sometimes we have to create it. Below is a list of practices I follow.

Pinterest: Mood Boards

Using Pinterest to create a mood board for your next photoshoot will likely help create inspiration. You don’t need to start with a solid concept right off the bat, but start with an image that has an aesthetic you like and from there Pinterest’s algorithm will find similar images. Once you have enough images pinned, you can go back and revise your board to match your developing theme. Often times the image produced evolves beyond the images on the board. For example, in the images on the left, the makeup artist contributed her artistic vision to the makeup, which advanced the original concept on the board on the right.

Color Palettes

Color never ceases to inspire. Simply Googling “color palettes” will present you with thousands of complementary palettes that you can adapt into your own work. Further, Color-hex currently has over 48,000 palettes. Once you've chosen a favorite, you can start imagining complementary wardrobe, makeup, and location to help you develop your story. To learn more about color theory, you can visit this article I wrote here.

"Fabergé Queen"

Turning Words Into An Image

When I’m feeling particularly uninspired, I’ll write down words, phrases, or idioms. Folk wisdom such as “Crying over spilt milk” or “Don't put all your eggs in one basket” can lead me to start wondering how I might represent those ideas in photos. I’ll get several lists going at once and use a small notebook to keep track of my ideas. Carrying this notebook around allows me to jot down anything that inspires me as I’m going through the day.

"Mother Nature"


Song titles and lyrics are another excellent source for inspiration. You can take the mood, story, imagery, or the words themselves from a song and arrange them into a visual representation. You can use this as a starting point to make the concept in the song your own.

"It Takes Two" inspired by the song "Run" by Daughter


Solitude enhances creativity. Being alone can force you to mentally step away from distractions and focus on your own creativity in order to maximize productivity. When you fully disconnect from others, including social media, you can develop a more true sense of your interests, allowing you to embrace ideas that you might otherwise have pushed aside. Intentional solitude helps you focus more clearly when creating conceptual imagery.

"The Wanderer"


Whether it’s print or digital, studying the work of others can help develop ideas, concepts, or moods you may want to incorporate into your own art. Although nothing is original, you can borrow anything you find inspiring to make your own art. Find a way to create work that represents your vision as an artist.  

"Off His Rocker"


Powerful imagery evokes emotion. Start by writing down a series of primary emotions; “happiness”, “sadness”, “anger”, etc. From there, circle the ones you find most compelling and break those main chosen emotions down into subdivisions. From there, circle the ones you find most compelling and break them down in into smaller categories. For example, if you circled “anger,” you can then break anger into “rage,” “resentment,” “indignation.” Once you’ve decided on an emotion, build ideas that might enable you to visually represent that emotion in a story.



We grow up listening to stories. They’re what make up and enrich our lives. Take inspiration in the stories you’ve lived; the stories your friends have told you; stories you heard as a child; or stories you’ve read. Pick up a favorite book. Try to move the images the story evokes from your mind to conceptual imagery. For example, the image below was inspired by stories in The Brothers Grimm.

"Lost Boy"

We would love to hear what works for you to get re-inspired. Leave a comment below to let us know!

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Arber Elezi's picture

Great, Love it!

Emily Teague's picture

Thank you!!

Vitaliy Latanskiy's picture

this is amazing
great post

Emily Teague's picture

So glad you liked it!!

Anonymous's picture

Solitude helps with just more than inspiration...

Emily Teague's picture

Absolutely agreed! Everything I listed is useful for more than just inspiration, but inspiration is the topic of this article ;)

Studio 403's picture

Ooh love this stuff, YEA for you

Emily Teague's picture

Thank you! :)

Helmut Steiner's picture

Great artwork, thanks for sharing!

Emily Teague's picture

Thank you so much!

Levi Keplar's picture

Great article Emily!

Emily Teague's picture

Thanks Levi!!