Tag Archives: Inspiration

Winter photography inspiration – colour, texture and tone…

• Winter Bliss • By Kyle McDougall

• Winter Bliss • By Kyle McDougall

Winter photogrpahy – free your vision.

Too often the dull, dim and dank days of Winter leave us cold. Venturing out? Winter photography? Noooo! Yet Winter offers a world of inspiring colours, textures, sights and light not there at other times of the year.

Not grey, great!

Like any other time of the year sunset and sundown are times of the day when the most amazing colours are revealed. The magic of the golden hour pinks and golds is just as exciting in the winter as it is in the summer – and you don’t have to be out so early or so late with shorter days. What is not so obvious to the inexperienced, Winter photography is the power of the winter colours. There is amazing colour, strong colour. However, especially in snowy environments, the golds, pinks and blues are mellowed into a softness that you don’t see at other times of the year. The wonderful pink tones in the image above show the point beautifully.

I have mentioned before in these pages that often the best pictures are captured just after the sun has gone down or just before it comes up. This “blue” period of the day provides infinite tonal blues that caress the eye. I just love these times of day. The great thing is that most photographers have packed up and gone home as the “blue” time starts… you have the stage. Make the best of this time as you will be among the few who use it well.

In Winter, texture wins the day

The lower light levels, and lower angle of light in the sky, often puts off photographers in Winter. But this is the best time to capture some wonderful textures. Muted winter colours and low light combine to create excellent contrasts and micro-shadows. Along with the soft light these environmental factors are a gift to the seeing photographer. Ice, snow and even water take on an almost ethereal glow punctuated by texture. If you can capture that with a good composition your pictures will create wonderful and lasting images in your viewers mind. Look for opportunities to get the sun low in the sky and those lovely early morning or evening tones and shadows from the side.


In your winter photography look for opportunities to express the colours and contrasts that appear. They are different to those you find in the Summer. The subtleties of tone, texture and colour are there for all to see, but only the insightful photographer will make good use of them.

My thanks to Kyle McDougall for his permission to use his photographs.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Keep it simple… thats it!

There is no better way to improve your images.

If you can keep it simple the power in the photography comes out. If you can cut out all the clutter the image comes alive with the main subject in it. If your subject is all you have to show, it is the meaning and the message in the photograph.

Here are some quick ideas about simplicity in photography… Enjoy!

The basic idea (1min 24secs)
National Geographic Photography Tip: Keep it Simple

National Geographic Photography Tip: Keep it Simple
Uploaded by National Geographic Channel  External link - opens new tab/page to YouTube


David Bailey (30secs)

David Bailey is a famous UK contemporary photographer who was pretty prominent in the 1960s and continued to create photo-masterpieces right up to the present day. Here is his page on Wikipedia: David Bailey  External link - opens new tab/page

David Bailey on simplicity in 30 seconds

Uploaded by: softlad telly visual  External link - opens new tab/page

Hmmm! Did he actually say anything useful? Why not leave a comment about that? The next video is very useful!

Dominance and simplicity (2mins 21secs)
Outdoor Photo Tips with Jerry Monkman – Week 4: Composition – Dominance and Simplicity

Uploaded by: Jerry Monkman  External link - opens new tab/page

World class motivational quotes for photographers

Sir Steve Redgrave giving a speech at a regatta

Sir Steve Redgrave giving a speech at a regatta.

Sir Steve Redgrave is an inspirational athlete.

Five times an Olympic Gold Medallist, he has plenty of experience to pass on to people who aspire to great things. He went on to get his fifth medal despite saying he was going to retire. In an article about another great sportsman Redgrave said…

Self-belief is probably the most crucial factor in sporting success. The bodies are roughly equal, the training is similar, the techniques can be copied, what separates the achievers is nothing as tangible as split times or kilograms. It is the iron in the mind, not the supplements, that wins medals.
Sir Steve Redgrave: Winning is all in the mind,
Daily Telegraph: 7:00AM BST 10 Oct 2009

World-class quotes to motivate photographers

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

    Henry Ford
• Stop talking about it – go take a photograph!

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

    Albert Einstein
• Imagine greater images! Technique will follow.

My secret is practice.

    David Beckham
• Practice, practice, practice, then do more! Your photography will improve!

Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.

    Oprah Winfrey
• Negative people will hold you back. Supporters will maximise your potential.

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

    Wayne Gretzky
• Always carry a camera! ‘Nuff said!

Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.

    Lauren Bacall
• Using your imagination to pursue great images will yield the greatest satisfaction and deepest meaning.

I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.

    Marie Curie
• Learning photography, like anything else, requires time and effort.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

• Do it well and repeat it… you’ll soon become a quality photographer.

The reason why so little is done, is generally because so little is attempted.

    Samuel Smiles
• If you don’t try it, you won’t learn it.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

    Father James Keller
• Teach kids, friends, mother, aunt, enemy… everyone, about photography.

If you don’t have any critics, you probably don’t have any success either.

    Johan Bruynell
• Self assurance will get you past criticism – then move on to success.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

• Dust off and get going again!

Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.

• You have to start somewhere. Work on it and you’ll get there.

Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.

• That says it all!

A year from now you may wish you had started today.

    Karen Lamb
• Get your camera out. Do it now!

The simple secrets of the single subject shot

Cabbage - the single subject photo allows an in-depth study of the subject

Cabbage – the single subject photo allows an in-depth study of the subject. Getting the shot to work is a matter of how you present it.

Working with one item in a picture helps you get deep into the concept.

Using almost any perspective, you should be looking to bring out the character of your subject and explore its nature. To portray your subject well you should think of these simple ideas.

A while ago I asked members of the 365Project what I should consider when doing a single subject photograph. The ideas below are developed from that discussion.


Many simple subject shots have no background. Put the subject into the centre of the viewers vision and fill the frame. My cabbage (above) is an example. However, if you have got a background make it simple. This is a great way to use a high-key shot. A bright featureless background throws the subject right into the foreground. The bright background highlights the subject and focuses the viewers attention. Alternatively, dark backgrounds can be good too. Remember that they also need a bright subject to carry them off if you are exploring the nature of your subject, and not just portraying its moodiness.

Focus, Lighting, colour and Texture

In a single subject photograph you explore your subject. The character of something is shown by its shape and form. Lighting and colour bring out the shape and form by exploring the shadows and textures. Lighting is key to the success of the shot particularly by creating texture. Remember, as you take a low angle of light across the surface of something you create more texture. The light and shadows are longer and darker with a small angle. Pay attention to the lighting and colours that make that texture stand out. Really accentuate the contrast of light and dark as well as colour variation.

Perspective or the angle of viewing

Perspective is particularly important in single subject shots. It is easy to make a single item look flat – especially if it has little surface texture. Consider what angle you photograph your subject. Try to show its perspective – the diminishing size with distance from the eye. If that is not possible show the form by exaggerating curves or by capturing angles.

Normally many of the objects we look at are seen from above. It’s natural really since we hold things in our hands and look down. To bring out the character of your piece viewing it from a different perspective helps to highlight its character. You are forcing the viewer to look at it in a new way. Show it from below. Or take a shot from the side – any angle showing shape and form which is different to a normal view. Try to show how the subject varies its shape with distance from your eye. Exaggerate it if necessary. I find using a wide-angle lens in close up often brings out the shape and perspective fully. You will need to experiment.


Filling the frame is not essential. The rule of thirds is a great way to display simple shots with one subject…

Composition is important to draw the viewer into the image.

'Rule of Thirds'
A powerful compositional tool.

Other placements work too. Normally central placement in a scene is boring. In single item shot a central placement with a square crop is quite fashionable at the moment. Try anything to increase the interest value and draw the eye.

Don’t show it all

A feeling of mystery is a great way to pull the eye to a subject. Consider cropping your subject hard so that some of the shape, form and texture of the subject is left to the viewers imagination. You don’t need to show the whole subject for it to become alive in the viewers mind. Unless you intend it, be careful not to create an abstract when cropping hard. A single subject photo is about your subject. An abstract is about the attributes of the subject. Often the eye cannot see the whole subject in an abstract and people may not know what they are viewing. This would not be showing the character of the object. It is a fine line. What you are intending to show should be clear. That is the key to success.

My thanks to the members of 365Project who contributed to this discussion and to my thinking on this subject. The discussion on this, including some excellent example pictures is still available. Please do visit: Single subject photographs External link - opens new tab/page.

How to capture attention with one compositional element

When something is unexpected is pulls the viewer into the shot.

When something is unexpected is pulls the viewer into the shot.

Most of the world around us is normal and as we expect.

When something is different or unexpected it changes our view of what we see around it. Suddenly our view is drawn to this new thing in our view.

The unexpected as a compositional element

When we take a picture we try to put into it something that is notable of attention. From a record shot to an extraordinary scene, the picture is there because it provides some sort of interest. Most things we photograph are found in a normal situation. When we find something that is unexpected it is the normal that surrounds it that makes it stand out. The unexpected is a contrast to the expected. It is that difference that makes the interest for the shot.

Go looking for the unexpected

As the unexpected is a strong compositional element seeking it out is a great way to find something to photograph. On the other hand if you want to find unexpected things you have to look in places where the unexpected might happen. One way to do that is to find sources in the media. Television, news, radio, events, local activities, community activities and one-off happenings are great places to find things where something different or unexpected is going on. Art events are great fun too. If they are held in public places there are usually some fun but unexpected things going on. Keep your eyes open for event and activity information and look for adventure in these places – the unexpected will find you!

Create the unexpected

Some of the worlds greatest photographers have become great as masters of creating unexpected things in their photography. Interesting scenes in unexpected places is one favourite. Check out Benjamin Von Wong – Photographer who has made a career out of unexpected happenings in his photographs. Be sure to check the portfolio pages on his site. There are some great and inspiring ideas for creating the unexpected there.

Objects in situations where they are not normally found creates the unexpected. To create something unexpected, take an ordinary everyday item. Put it into a place where it is not normally seen. Then take some great shots of it. A table place-setting in the middle of a road – how normal is that! A clock in a car engine – odd. Game of chess floating in a river… Try to think of the oddest combinations of ‘item’ and ‘place’. Then put them together. You will create the unexpected by an odd match.

Don’t absorb it – do it

Passively absorbing the world around you and then taking a photograph of it will yield a low hit-rate of successful photographs. Look for the extraordinary, the out of place, the contrast. Create the odd, the out of place, the different. Your compositions will be improved, so will your impact.

Five tips for boosting your photographic creativity

Getting ideas is more than just seeing new things to photograph

“Celebrity on the red carpet”
Getting ideas for shots is more than just seeing new things to photograph.
Click image to view large

Get past photographers block – try these tips.

When you run out of ideas you’re stuck. Getting past this block may be simple. Going somewhere new helps, but you’ll soon run out of places. Try a few idea-boosting tips.

The list of new places to go can be as long as your arm. But, you can’t get to them all. Too far away, too expensive, too time consuming… a problem. Sometimes you have to rely on your wits. You need to think past your lack of ideas. There are some simple things you can do.


In photographic competitions I often hear judges say “…it’s a good project, worth following up”. What they mean is the picture is pretty good, but more work will help it become perfect. It’s a fair bet there are lots of pictures in your portfolio that you can re-work with another shoot. Having looked at the shot you will see things you can improve. Repeating old work with a new eye and technique is a great way to improve. It’s also a confidence booster. You will see how much you have improved your skills.

The other thing you can do is take the same picture under different conditions. There’s more variety in the same scene than you might think. Try shooting out of the same window every day for a year. Capture all the seasons, all the states of light and events. There is enough to look at, just read this article… Photographer snaps a million photos out his window in two years External link - opens new tab/page.

Explore new topics

Sometimes a creativity block is about knowing your subject well so you seem to know all the angles. That is rarely true. How to get past it is to take a new perspective. Some of the great advances in science have been from people learning new topics and cross-connecting the ideas. So, try something new. Learn a new topic. Explore a new area of photography. Research a new technique and then use it. New things frequently lead to new ideas. These feed back to your block. Change tack and try a new direction.

Take up a project

Being creative and trying new things takes commitment and application. Often a creativity block is about not committing yourself enough. Try a new project. Commit time, resources and energy to your project. You will learn new things, try new ideas and explore them in depth. Set yourself a personal project. For example, try water-droplet photography – it takes time and practice to get it right. You need to do some research, you will have to put together some basic equipment. You will need to work with new techniques and new ways of looking at your subject. This is not a one evening project – you could make it a whole career. The point is that running a project on one subject gets you into a subject in depth. This opens up your ideas. Try it – its fun.

Challenge yourself

Developing yourself and your skills is about getting past what you can do and trying out some things you cannot do – yet. Sure, there is some fear of failure there, but, no one will criticise you for trying and not getting it right on the first shot. Take time and try out something totally new. You can do it. Look for more difficult approaches, try out alternatives or deliberately do it differently to your normal way. It is certain you will learn something. I often suggest to my students that they buy or borrow a new lens. Then spend a month using it – stop using all other lenses. You will learn a lot of new ways to look at old ideas.

Look for new inspiration

Read a book; search Google images on a new subject; talk to another photographer; break an old habit… there are thousands of things you can do to find new ideas. Most of them are about raising questions. Look at yourself and find out what you know very little about. Then find out about it. Ask new questions, get new answers. The Internet is an endless source of new information… do some idea searches. You will find lots to think about.

The way of creativity…

I have sometimes heard from students that ideas and creativity are a genetic gift of some kind. I don’t subscribe to that. Creativity is more often about playing with ideas, trying new things, and making connections. Creativity is not a talent. It is a skill that can be learned and encouraged. Watch this video. It’ll help you look at yourself as a different, more creative person: How To Be Creative – its not a talent! External link - opens new tab/page

Inspiration? What about all the other photos on a subject?

Mushrooms have been done before! Don't let that stop you doing it your way.

Mushrooms have been done before! Don’t let that stop you doing it your way. Inspiration is about expressing yourself – letting your passion out. Just do it!
Click image to view large.

Nothing’s new under the sun – except your way of doing it…

I have often been told that you need a ‘big/new idea’ to start a successful business. And, I have often replied… “what rubbish!” I agree that successful businesses need good ideas. Some businesses work with new ideas. But no business ever worked with just a big/new idea. The other ingredients are very important too. You need an angle on good customer care. Your product should be good. You need to sell it right… Well, you get the point. There is much more to a business than the idea. So it is with photographs.

I put a picture of mushrooms here for a reason. Look at Google images: mushrooms  External link - opens new tab/page. Google tells me there are “About 77,000,000 results”. Yes, seventy seven million images of mushrooms. They are pretty interesting subjects and there are lots of ways to think about them. There are even more ways to photograph them if you work all the different angles too. Getting the right shot means you have to have more than one pop at the subject.

When struggling for inspiration you don’t need a big/new idea to make a great photograph. You just need to put something of ‘you’ into your shot. Your idea is good enough. If you do it well your viewers will like your image regardless of all the others. Do not be put off. Have a go anyway. Your interpretation and your art will make it worthwhile.

Photography is fun! But more than anything photography is about expressing yourself and your passion. So, instead of being put off by the other images – look at a few and be inspired.