Photography Blog

5 Ideas For Finding Inspiration in Photography Without Plagiarizing

Creative people need inspiration. With the Internet, finding inspiration in photography is easier than ever. There are creative photographers all over the world doing interesting things and finding new ways to photograph things. I take inspiration from the things I see from these folks, and they have taken inspiration from the things that they have seen from other photographers before them. This has been going on since the beginning of time. Artists build upon one another’s work.

Stealing photos, derivative work and taking inspiration...What's the difference?

photography of the Brooklyn Bridge

I've seen this photo of the Brooklyn Bridge done a million times—this is not an original idea, but it is an interesting photo still.

I feel like the concept of “inspiration” needs to be better understood for photographers to create their best work. On one hand, you have photographers who are searching for a truly original idea—one that has never been accomplished before and is nothing like anything we have ever seen. They don’t want to be compared to another photographer’s work or judged as a copycat. Of course, this is nearly impossible.

On the other hand, you have people who blatantly steal other’s ideas, replicate exact photos or plainly steal photos and pass them off as their own. Of course, this is wrong and sometime illegal. There is certainly a middle ground that is morally acceptable and creatively freeing. Here are five ideas to help you take inspiration.

It’s OK to replicate photos

See a really awesome idea that you wish you had thought of first? Do a similar photo just for the fun of it to challenge yourself. Make sure to give credit to the artist who inspired you. Or, even better, give the image a little bit of a twist, so that it’s clear that you are paying homage to the original artist while staying true to your own style. Some photos have been done so many times that it’s hard to know who first thought of it! If it’s a good idea, go ahead and copy it.

It’s OK to emulate the style of your favorite photographers

One of my friends does stand up comedy. Years ago he asked Jay Leno for advice. Leno told him to copy the styles of some of the stand-up greats. Your own style will come through. Besides, you will always get compared to someone. I think the same is true in photography. Want your photos to look like Annie Leibowitz? Try to copy her style. Chances are, you will not get it exactly right and your photos will take on a look of their own. Being influenced and inspired by Leibowitz is a good thing.

Couple in a field: using bokeh for exaggerated depth of field

I like the way Ryan Brenizer creates bokeh panoramas for exaggerated depth of field. I can borrow the technique while keeping a style of my own.

It’s OK to Combine Ideas

Sometimes the best ideas are just a combination of two other good ideas. There was a photo series going around for a while of a dad who took photos of his daughters in funny situations, like taking a bath in the washing machine or duct taped to a wall. The dad had probably seen lots of photos of kids and lots of photos of funny situations. He just thought to do both at the same time.

It’s OK to use other genres of art

Look to all types of artists for inspiration. Maybe you saw a scene in a movie that would make for a really cool still photo. I think that re-doing classic paintings as photos is really cool. Illustrations, advertising, music, sculpture, architecture, graffiti, or dance can all be sources of inspiration. Take the time to study other forms of art and to think about how to show them in a photograph.

It’s OK to Daydream

I’m convinced that all truly original ideas were the product of daydreaming. Of course, your ability to dream is based on senses you’ve experienced, so the inspiration is coming from somewhere. Sometimes, it just takes time for ideas to percolate in your brain and to fully form. Go somewhere relaxing or somewhere new, away from the regular workday, just to let your mind wander on the things that you find interesting. Inspiration is bound to make it’s way into your photography.

Where do you find your inspiration?


Bob Geary

Great article. Thanks Marie-Ann D’Aloia! You’re absolutely right, I can think of one too!

Thephototoday Photography

Thank you for the article, I loved it ! Just what I wanted. A time that follows the blog and I can testify to harsh penalties beginner ago, I have much to learn and especially soak my passion. I decided to start with the documentary one night is easier to keep an eye and go inspiring. Wait to get out and start to see the world with different eyes.


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