How to stay Inspired as a Landscape Photographer

I have been a landscape photographer for just over a decade. Professionally, for only a few of those years. When I first picked up a camera, I never thought it was something that would become a career. There have been countless times of self doubt and moments I considered giving it all up. This is something I think all photographers struggle with at some point. I know many other landscape photographers who get down on themselves because they feel their work is no good. Oftentimes, I look at their work and become jealous of an image and wish it were mine.

After many years of wanting to visit this location, I finally managed to get a permit. Most times, the conditions don’t work out in favor of landscape photographer, especially for spur-of-the-moment trips. However, on this morning, a storm moved over the canyon creating wonderful atmospherics and pastel colors.

It’s dangerous to try and hold yourself to a specific standard. One thing many new landscape photographers believe is, if they aren’t good in the first year, then they are a failure. Once again, I have been taking photographs for just over a decade. I can attest that, for the better part of those years, I had no clue what I was doing. Honing your skills as a photographer and artist takes time.

It’s important to keep finding ways to remain inspired, especially if photography is your passion. It’s easy to assume that just looking at some pretty photographs will inspire you to keep shooting. However, for me, it is often photography itself that becomes uninspiring. We see images daily on social media with a repetition of subject matter and processing styles. I find it easier than ever to become uninspired by photography. There are a number of ways to remain inspired without having to look at a photograph.

Painters & Artists

Take some time to walk through an art gallery and explore the other art forms that are presented. Oftentimes these are paintings and sculptures. Lately my inspiration comes from past and present painters and learning of new artists in these crafts. Viewing paintings often inspires me to be more creative with my camera and seek out new and unusual perspectives. Because I specialize in landscape photography, I’m often drawn to painters of the same subject. However, it is also nice to gain new perspectives from artists who utilize different subject matter, such as portraiture or abstracts.

Professional Critiques

Are you struggling with your photographic vision or feel like you don’t know which direction to go? Seek out a professional for critique or even a photography workshop. Professional critiques can be a great way to discover your path and vision. They are usually honest; you should have some thick skin to hear what they have to say. I was once told during a critique to toss some of my work into a dumpster and light it on fire. I’m still here with a camera in hand and I work harder than ever for my photographs. Find a photographer you truly admire for initial inspiration and see if they may be willing to critique your photographs.

When the conditions are less than ideal for wide angle landscape photography, I tend to look towards the ground for subject matter. During a time when most landscape photographers will have their cameras packed away, I had mine out to photograph this scene.

Photography Workshops

If you are struggling with your compositions, understanding light, or post processing, workshops can be a great learning experience and can often lead to becoming more inspired to create. You should find an instructor with the subject matter and style you are interested in and see if they offer in-field workshops. Learn from these instructors, but be sure not to follow too closely as to emulate and copy their work.

Go With the Flow

When you travel, it can be easy to be uninspired despite initial excitement. Weather can be less than ideal for your trip, or flowers and fall colors could be too early or too late or just non existent. Instead of feeling uninspired by such conditions, try to maximize what conditions you have by being creative. Oftentimes, this allows you to create images you weren’t even thinking of and they can sometimes be the best images you will create. If you set your expectations too high then you set yourself up for disappointment. If you just go with the flow of things, you will find that you are not as stressed to create a specific type of photograph and the photograph will come to you. This can spark inspiration.

Do Your Own Thing

Lastly, a great way to remain inspired is to just ignore what others are doing. If you tend to focus on what others are doing, you will lose focus on what you should be doing. This often leads to missing out on opportunities such ignoring specific locations or visiting locations at the wrong times. Even worse, it can lead to taking the completely wrong path for your photography. Focusing on yourself takes away the distraction of what others may be doing, whether they are being successful or not.

Remember, being a successful landscape photographer is subjective. That success is up to you to interpret whether it be monetary success or visual success or another form of success. There are probably landscape photographers and artists that make you wonder how they managed to be so successful. How did they manage to make the amount of money they have over their career? How did they become so well known? Is their success something that will inspire me to reach my own? The important thing is to focus on what success means to you.

After a tough week of photographing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I spent the last evening of my trip at a remote overlook. I had been feeling uninspired after recent setbacks in my own life. When I took in this sunset, it was an instant spark of inspiration to see such a display of light and color here.

What other ways do you find inspiration when inspiration begins to lag?

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About Author Peter Coskun

I am a professional photographer based out of the Sonoran desert of Arizona. I've been fortunate to explore and wander the southwest for the majority of my life. Having grown up in the suburbs of Philadelphia as a child, I wasn't quite familiar with the outdoors or nature for that matter. Aside from flipping through Nat Geo magazines during class, I wasn't sure if any of this stuff actually existed. After moving across the country to the desert I soon found myself exploring the desert landscape. I became fascinated by the flora and fauna as well as seeing the rugged mountains for the first time. Soon enough, I picked up a camera and began to document my explorations. I began to look at the scenery in a different way, studying how the light and weather worked with the landscape. It became more and more enjoyable for me, and one day someone asked to purchase a print. As they say, the rest is history right? I've been fortunate to have my work printed in such publications as Arizona Highways Magazine and Digital Photo Mag UK as well as many online publications.