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Searching for Inspiration: Cinema the Closest Relative

Searching for Inspiration: Cinema the Closest Relative

Looking at other photographers’ work for inspiration can be overwhelming. With an almost unlimited amount of photography to look through, I can feel lost. I often turn to other mediums to look for inspiration.

Recently, while I was cooling down on the bike at the gym, I set my phone up to watch the most recent Ted Forbes video, something about inspirational zines. Instead, without realizing it, I was given a March 24, 2017 video about inspiration beyond photography:

I must have missed this one on its first time around. It really struck me. Flipping through magazines or, worse, scrolling through Instagram is only going to lead us to more of the same. 

So, what to do? As Forbes points out, look elsewhere. Find that jolt somewhere. But where? 


If a picture is worth a thousand words, a book with a few hundred thousand words must conjure up some helpful visuals. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, for instance, is full of moods and locations that could translate well into photography. The emotions in novels could also serve to help frame a new photo series in your head. Think about the anger and unbridled desire for vengeance in Moby Dick or the consuming passion and frustration in The English Patient. What does that kind of anger and vengeance look like as a photo instead of a plot motivation? 

It doesn’t have to be just novels. If poetry and drama can inspire paintings (think John Waterhouse), what might it be able to do for your photography?


Whether it’s a painting, sculpture, or installation, as a visual medium, art can help send you in a new direction. Think the abstracts of Jackson Pollock or the perception / vantage point of the early Renaissance. After all, Rembrandt lighting did come from Rembrandt’s paintings. What other gems are waiting to be discovered?


If these roads seem like too big of a jump to start with, think cinema. Photography and film are about as closely related as any two arts could be.

Cindy Sherman is a master at picking apart cinema character tropes and creating photographs.

I often find myself taking advantage of YouTube’s and Vimeo’s trendy supercuts. With a subtle idea in my head, I can search for supercuts that mesh well with this idea and expand my vision. 

Thinking about color blocking, why not take a look at the master’s work? Color blocking from Kubrick:

If you’re creating a project based on diptychs, check out (note, there are three parts to this series!!):

Perhaps you’re originally thinking about complimentary images, but something like this can kick start you into thinking more thematically.

Exploring the idea of emotion as they’re worn on faces:

Maybe you had been thinking about screaming faces, instead, you decide to aim for something more subtle to capture the potential for sinister in faces.

Considering composition, negative space, and symmetry?


Perhaps you’re just toying with a theme, like running and wouldn’t mind a look at the theme from someone else’s perspective:

You had been thinking about quick frozen in time leaping shots, but, when you see the Billy Murray clip you decide to go with something with a bit more motion to capture the feeling of release. 

Where Do You Go for Inspiration?

I'd love to hear in the comment where you go to find inspiration, especially when you don't want to look at any more photos. Please let me know where you either actively look, or, where you find inspiration seeping in.

Cover image used with permission of let us go photo

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Guy Incognito's picture

There is a YouTube channel called "Every Frame a Painting" which I enjoy. It breaks down cinematic techniques which are often very relevant to stills shooting.

Guy Incognito's picture

Awesome. Those channels seem right up my alley. Thanks for sharing, Mark. :)