How to Stop Mindlessly Scrolling and Find Real Inspiration

Every day, it's estimated that around 100 million images are uploaded to Instagram.

And that's just a tiny fraction of all the photos that get taken every day and every second—experts think that people shot over 1.4 trillion photos in 2020 alone.

With so much photography out there in the world, finding images that actually resonate with you can feel harder than ever. You might hope that more photographers means more inspiration, but it often feels like the reverse is true.

There's just too much visual media out there. Plus, the current internet isn't really set up to help you find content you care about. Algorithmic curation at platforms like Instagram and Facebook means that you get shown the posts the platform thinks you're most likely to engage with. You tend to see content that's super similar to what you've seen and liked before.

This means that discovering surprising, new photography or any other visual content on social media can be a serious challenge. What do you do if you want to see something totally different than what you usually enjoy?

Where do you find photos that feel fresh, unexpected, truly different—photography that can help you learn and grow as a photographer yourself?

Well, there's this amazing photography library called Pexels... Kidding! Don't worry, we're not here to sell you on why Pexels has more interesting photos than your IG feed. We're not out to get you to delete Instagram, either.

But finding real inspiration means exploring uncharted waters. We're here to send you on that journey.

Photo by Rachel Claire · View Photo

Where to find photography inspiration

Okay, wait, pause: what does it mean to "find inspiration"?

You know those days when you just feel totally blah, and like you might never shoot another photo? Maybe the weather is bad, you're stuck at home, you can't think of anything remotely interesting to shoot. Maybe you feel like you need a new lens before you can shoot, or different editing software, or, even better, a flight straight to some beautiful coastal locale with white sandy beaches.

You don't need any of this to create something new, though. We could all use a tropical holiday, but sometimes it's just not in the cards. What you do need is visual content that really says something new to you and makes you feel inspired to get out and create.

Finding inspiration as a photographer, or any kind of visual artist, is about finding new perspectives and trying them on for size. It's about discovering media that makes you feel intrigued, curious, surprised, thoughtful, and above all motivated.

Here's how to begin finding the photography that'll change your own work forever.

3 places to find IRL inspiration

Get offline for a while and start discovering photography in new places. Here are a few to start with.

1. Visit a local museum or art gallery

Not always possible during Covid times, but when you can, seeing photography in person is a great way to discover work you wouldn't come across online. When you mostly view photos on the internet, seeing them printed in large format can also be a surprisingly exciting experience. You see a lot of depth and texture that just can't be shown onscreen.

Try going to any photography exhibits that are on in your area and think about what you like and don't like about the work on view. Local museums might also have photos in their collections that you can visit.

2. Flip through old family albums

You might be surprised at the quality of the photos you find! Try borrowing photo albums from older relatives, or hit up a flea market or local junk store and browse through strangers' abandoned photos. You'll probably see unfamiliar places, funny candid shots, serious family portraits, and a ton of interesting visuals to get you thinking.

3. Invest in (or borrow) a few photo books

If you don't feel like investing in photo books just yet—they can be quite pricey—your local library probably has some for your to borrow. Or just browse throught the books on offer at the bookstore and maybe take some quick phone photos of the pages you like the best. Photo books are an amazing way to learn more about the work of photographers you like, and they offer a fresh way to consume photos that feels very different from online viewing. The same goes for photography magazines, of course.

Follow photo blogs and magazines

Cheaper than a print magazine and easier to access, photography blogs are always there for you when you're bored and tired of scrolling the same old feed.

These are just a few of our recommendations to add to your radar for artistic ideas:

Photo by cottonbro · View Photo

3 ways to get better inspiration out of Instagram

We know, we know, we were just saying you need to get off of IG to find real inspiration! But assuming you're already on there (if not, simply skip ahead), there are a few neat little tricks and tips you can use to get more out of Instagram before we move on to some new ideas.

1. Actually get social

As a photographer, you probably already follow other photogs creating work similar to yours. Start finding out who inspires them! Post a Story, send some DMs, get the word out. "Who are your favorite accounts on here? I need new photographers to follow!" This might sound like a too-obvious tip, but... have you actually done it before? (If you have, congrats, and please send us your results, we can never have too many new photographer accounts to follow.)

2. Do some IG detective work

Again, maybe you're already doing this, maybe not. Take a little sneak peek through the following lists of photographers you admire to see who's on their radar. You might find some surprising new names to freshen up your own following roster.

3. Browse some super-specific hashtags

Hashtags might seem like something you just quickly throw up in the first comment of your posts, a necessary evil to get that follower count rising. When used wisely, browsing hashtags can actually yield a lot of interesting new content—you'll just need to go for very niche hashtags and probably not, like, #streetphotography.

Find accounts in your chosen photography niche, see what hashtags they're using, and begin digging. For example, #firstoftheroll is a wonderful tag to find all kinds of nicely light-leaked film photos that came from, yes, the first shot in the film roll. There are lots of hidden gems like this hiding in IG.

Photo by cottonbro · View Photo

Go beyond photography

Sometimes when you're feeling really uninspired, looking at other photographers' work might be the last thing you want to do. Spend time listening to music, reading books, or watching movies instead.

But don't just pop on whatever's trending on Netflix—get a bit thoughtful about what kind of media makes you feel motivated and engaged. Try seeking out new stuff that you wouldn't usually listen to, read, or watch.

Maybe that means discovering content from countries you've never been to, or genres that you always thought you'd hate. Let yourself be surprised.

Make inspiration a part of your everyday

It's easier to stay motivated to create if you make a point to spend time pursuing inspiration every day. Our own video lead Ricky makes a habit of spending one hour every single day searching for new inspiration and saving the content that stands out to him for future reference.

If you bring the search for new ideas into your routine, it'll become a lot easier. Try making folders on your phone and/or computer for reference images that you want to hang onto. You could also tape these up in your room so you're always surrounded by images that inspire.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto · View Photo

Fuelling new work

The final piece of the inspiration puzzle: you've found some incredible new photos that really make you feel motivated to shoot again. But how do you bring that positive energy into actually creating some great photos of your own?

  • Try "covering" a photo or series you love by creating your own version of it
  • Shoot in the style of a photographer who inspires you, just to try it out
  • Give yourself the assignment of shooting a photo to match a song, movie, book, or any other media you enjoy
  • Found a new genre that you're interested in? Give it a try, even if you've never shot that type of photo before

We hope these ideas help spark your creativity and get you out of photographer's block. Still need more help? Try these ten fun ideas for photography at home.

Cover photo by Elina Krima.

Written by Jill Evans · Mar 09

Editor of Pexels Stories and 35mm photographer

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