Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?

Well, before I get into this more deeply, I’m going to recite a short story I sometimes tell when I do my talks….. it goes like this…

When I first started in digital photography, I was using a Canon 350D, I thought it was great, and I even had two lens….  A 17-55 F4 I think it was, and a small 60mm macro.  Excitedly, I joined a local camera club too.  I’d done my research (I thought) and looked at what was around, and chose the one nearest to my home – only a 10 minute or so drive away.  

That first night – eager to learn new things – I turned up, camera in hand – to realise that no-one took cameras to a camera club !!  OK, lesson learned….. but they had a competition on that first night – I forget what the theme was, but suspect there was one……. Anyway – there was obviously a winner at the end, and whatever it was (I honestly can’t remember it now) – I was impressed by it – the photographer had done something I must have thought was miraculous in photoshop or some such thing.

Impressed, and probably a little nervous to approach a photographer of such skill, I tremulously asked how they had done it…. The answer….. well, somewhat disappointing really – he said “if I told you how I’d done it – then you would know”….. and then he walked away……

That off the cuff comment stayed with me over the years, and as I slowly improved, changed clubs, moved house and so forth, the remark still stayed with me…….  In fairness, over time I met any number of photographers who were more than generous with their time and explanations and help generally.  Folks who mentored me through my LRPS, and my ARPS, and other things too – not just photography, but the ability to make spreadsheets for my AFIAP…. In the end far too many to mention individually,  (But if you are reading this, you will know who you are)…

Why am I telling you this?

Well, at some point, I decided that if I ever reached those giddy heights where someone asked me how I did something – I’d tell them – I’d spell it out in words of not more than one syllable if necessary…..  and somehow, some way – here I am, doing talks for clubs on how to be more creative in their photographic art life.  There are no secrets in photography.

What I talk about ad nauseam is the need for the photographer to forget the camera – and learn to use it instinctively.  There’s a real reason to not be thinking about buttons and dials – there’s a need to create without the camera being a hinderance.

The ability to assess ISO, Fstop and shutter speed for instance, is critical – it is this sort of thing together with a sense of imagination and creativity that goes towards the finished product.

One of the subjects that comes up most, is my ARPS panel – made up of multiple images in each finished shot.  Up to 70 in one case, and as few as 20 in another.  

It’s here if you fancy a look…..

Even though I finished this panel nearly two years ago now, they seem to be as fresh (to me anyway) now, as they were when I made them.  

Most times when I talk about these, I go into some detail about how I made them, and I’m always flattered when people ask me for the formulae…..  and in essence, there really isn’t any right or wrong way to make these, it’s just practice and working with enormous files in photoshop.  Also, the need to accept that some subjects just don’t work, and others do – quite unexpectedly – sometimes.  Others just ‘flow’.

Where does inspiration come from though? – well in my case it started with a painting, by James McNeill Whistler  – it’s called ‘Sea and Rain’ and I really loved the softness of the whole image, and the fact that the figure on the beach is nearly translucent.  This combined with images created by a Canadian Photographer, and the Catalan Pep Ventosa set me off on a trail lasting over 18 months.   Practicing with different subjects, and refining how the entire process worked.


Most flattering though is when a photographer takes the bull by the horns – uses the techniques I have ‘taught’ them, and produces something special.

Such an image came in from Roy Goulden of Freeland Camera Club – we emailed back and forth for some time – with me suggesting different ways of dealing with this technique, and finally, he nailed it. He has very kindly allowed me to use his image in this blog post.

Burnham On Sea by Roy Goulden – Freeland Camera club

I take an intense delight in seeing people collect ideas, run with them, and make them their own – and, it’s even better if their results turn out to be better than my own…..

Why do photographers keep ‘secrets’?  I have no idea, other than it might give them a sense of superiority….

Ultimately – whatever it is that inspires you, whether another photographer, painter, or any creative, it has to motivate you to ‘do’ something.  Look around for ideas, look at other peoples work – ask how they did it if necessary, and then use that inspiration to make something uniquely your own.

Author: Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* - D Seddon Photography

I am a retired freelance photographer, based in Louth, Lincolnshire.

11 thoughts on “Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?”

  1. Good morning. I found a great deal of help at the camera club I joined in 2014 when I retired a year or so after I received my LRPS in 2013 because I knew that I didn’t know much at all and absolutely zero about post processing. I decided, after a year or so to have a go at competitions. Initially, I was appalled by the quality of the judging; so many rely on a list of “rules” and are unable to interpet in other way. I remember an abstract I put in to that first competition. It was of the pattern created on scribbly gum bark that I had taken when I was visiting family and friends in Australia. His flippant remark: ” This could have been sprayed on the kitchen floor for all I know.” Anyway, I found tremendous support from the club chairman with printing. I watched him very carefully over the periods when I was working on my A panel.

    In between attempts at my ‘A’, a speaker came to the club – Giles Penfound. He was a former chief photography for the army and had obviously seen some horrific things in the Balkan conflicts. His presentation made me realise that trying to please a panel of assessors or randomly talented judges was pointless and I had to please myself – the voice of an aunt comes to me when I type that; the phrase “please yourself” at the time was obviously a very unwise or bad, selfish thing!

    I began taking photographs on the coast [family illnesses had us travelling up and down to the north-east for at least 3 years] and realised that a new panel had found me. At the same time, a new member [FRPS] to the club showed us his work [not his FRPS panel] based in museums which included a small figure or two. I realised I was doing this at the coast. The chair helped me print for the advisory and then printed on my FS NST Bright White after that.

    Of course, to find friendship at the clubs is another bonus – more difficult over zoom – but a helpful way to stay in touch.

    Regarding the question of why people don’t share: competitions are perhaps the principle reason for that. For some, winning is the only thing that matters. For others, having work in galleries may well be their reason for silence. I once declined to explain what I had done for this reason – it was my first show. I initially thought that the person was a beginner and went away and wrote it up [handy for me now] but a week later he won a competition for portraiture and he turned out to be a photography evening class teacher. Since then, I have explained my process if anybody asks although I don’t do camera club talks. Perhaps I should consider it, although the prints for me are the thing and zoom doesn’t really hack it on that front. Well, that was a long response!

    Stay safe.

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    1. Hi Linda – you raise a lot of valid points. I think most photographers (lets forget clubs for the moment) are willing and able to give advice, and will detail how they have achieved certain effects. You are also correct in that you should shoot firstly for yourself, and secondly for a judge – unless of course there’s something specific you want to say with regard to a certain competition theme.

      Friendships to can become firm and long-lasting. I made a good number of friends when I first joined Flickr – this would be a good 10 years ago now – but a lot of those people I met in real life, and still keep in contact with. Similarly an online camera club I helped to run for many years…. We met up fairly regularly, though it was difficult sometimes, as members were so spread out across the UK. Again, friendships formed and have been held for many years.

      The topic of judges, is one I return to again and again. It’s difficult to know what to say really – as some are much better than others. In the end though, they are all volunteers, and so you will get to hear good and bad. I hope you have experienced some good ones too.

      I agree, that winning for some is the ultimate accolade, and maybe they fear to share their knowledge in case someone else can beat them at their own game.

      If you think you can do a talk for a club – then have a go – if you start with your own, then they are going to be more forgiving if it all goes pear shaped…. I found that with my own club at Cleethorpes. I learnt that I really enjoyed it, and actually I think I might be pretty good at it too…….

      Keep going – and enjoy your photography…. that’s all that matters in the end……

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  2. Well put and interesting, good to see people do take notice and try something completely different and out of their normal photography.

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  3. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience upon visiting my first camera club meeting. It took me two years to try again in a club.
    I do think that we photographers can put too much pressure on ourselves to attempt to be “original”. There is no shame in trying to emulate someone we admire —to start with.
    I believe Picasso said that “All artists are thieves an I am the biggest robber”
    Often, when interviewed, well known photographers are asked “Who influence you the most”?
    They might just as well ask “Who did you copy early in your career”?
    If someone inspires you – go with it. You will eventually develop your own style.

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  4. Well I felt the need to comment seeing as I am that photographer mentioned in the blog 🙂
    After watching Diane’s zoom talk covering aspects of being creative in your photography, I visited her website. I was particularly intrigued by the effect created in the multi exposure, multi layered images of her mentioned panel (well worth a visit) . I also looked at the work of Pep Ventosa the inspiration for Diane’s work (amongst others).
    So, I took it upon myself to contact Diane in the hope of picking her brains… and, I have to say, she could not have been more helpful to the point of sending me a photoshop script which does most of the tedious stacking work.
    The image shown was the better of my attempts to reproduce the technique and Diane was extremely kind in giving me a constructive critique… I guess the moral is.. never be afraid to ask, there is always someone kind enough to point you in the right direction and share their knowledge just like Diane.

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  5. Unfortunately, there are still people in camera clubs who jealously guard their “secrets”, I think it displays their sense of insecurity. I was lucky when I set out on my photographic journey at Cleethorpes Camera club in the 1960,s as an experienced & very talented member took me under his wing. Mike Hooton ARPS, was an excellent Pictorial photographer producing wonderful B&W exhibition prints and passed on all his darkroom skills to me. Mike is no longer with us but I’m eternally grateful to his help at a time when I might have just given up photography.
    So, to answer your question, my inspiration came from a kind friend when I was learning, and to this day I often remember things he taught me and incorporate them into my photography.

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