The Role of Inspiration

Have you ever, honestly, taken a truly great photograph when you were uninspired or simply going through the motions. I don’t mean the creation of that single errant photo that all of us once in a while simply luck into when snapping the shutter out in the world, but rather a day where you created consistently great imagery that matched the grandeur of your inner vision.

I had a friend once who said, after seeing an Ansel Adams print hanging in my office, “Yeah, nice photograph, but anyone with a camera could take that.” I resisted the urge to argue with him but instead spent the next few days thinking about what he said and contemplating what it was that made one photograph different from another in terms of quality and essence. After all, I knew that two people could stand in virtually the same place, under the same conditions, and at the same moment, and render two absolutely different renditions of the scene.

I knew, of course, that the differences in knowledge of capture and post processing techniques, understanding of light, and good equipment - to some degree, plays a role in determining the final outcomes of the two images but I wondered what was truly at the center of the ability to create a great image, rather than an average one, consistently.

Later that week I spoke to my friend again. He was railing about how Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback that professional football had ever seen. I listened to him go on about it for some time until he paused and looked to me for validation of his point. I responded, ‘sure Joe was pretty good, but after all anyone can throw a football.’ He looked incredulously at me for a moment and then, apparently remembered his comment to me about Ansel Adams. Then he smiled and said “point taken”. Later he told me that he thought that Joe was so good because he was not so much talented as he was ‘Inspired’.

There are numerous definitions of ‘inspiration’. But one of them that I think might explain how inspiration makes all the difference is this one from Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: ‘A divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation’

I believe this definition, though almost spiritual or cosmic in nature, contains therein the essence of what makes the difference in the greatness of what it is we may choose to do as humans. Whether it is the tossing of a football, or the creation of imagery that moves and inspires others, sometimes the scene simply bespeaks of something larger than ourselves and almost demands that we capture it and communicate it as our own sacred revelation.

So when you find yourself in nature, or among a group of people at an event, or even simply shooting food product or business application shots, it is worthwhile to find the source of beauty and ‘truth’ in the moment, if you wish, and let that inspire you in whatever it is you wish to present to the rest of the world.

Photo credits: Lightart.

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October 13, 2009


Wow, that really puts another dimension to my learning. Im about to embark on an excursion around the bottom coast of the south Island, NZ in a couple of weeks and this information (your thoughts) will be invaluable. Thanks. Karen

April 20, 2008


Really interesting blog - nicely written. Great shots too.

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