Investing in Inspiration - 5 tips to boost creativity and improve your photography

There are many ways to invest in our photography.

When I think of investing in my photography, I tend to think of the obvious investments, such as new gear, like a new camera, new lens or new filters. However, new gear can be very expensive and, beyond owning a few of the basics (such as a camera and a tripod), the improvement in our images from owning a new piece of kit can sometimes be quite small.

Now I'm not saying that having good kit isn't important (it clearly is), but it's sometimes worth putting new kit into perspective - some of the best photo's I've ever seen have been taken on smartphones!

If you can afford to splash out on the newest camera, or that lens you've always wanted, then go for it. But if, like me, you need to keep to a fairly tight budget, there are far more important things to spend your hard earned money on - things that will really help to boost your creativity.

So What Exactly is "Investing in Inspiration"

Investing in inspiration means exactly that - investing in things that inspire me to go out and take photographs. These things can be photography related, but can sometimes also seem completely un-related to photography.

However, I feel that investing in things that inspire me is every bit as important as investing in new kit. It may take me longer to buy a new piece of equipment, but I'd rather be inspired to go out shooting with my old DSLR than have the newest model camera sitting on my shelf collecting dust.

After all, what's the point in having a expensive camera if you're uninspired to use it!

So if you're new to the concept of investing in inspiration, or you're after some new ideas of ways you can invest in your own creativity, check out my list of the top 5 ways I invest in my own creativity to improve my photography.

 Inspired to explore - you never know what's to be found!

Inspired to explore - you never know what's to be found!


5. Books and Magazines

When it comes to inspiration and books, the obvious place to start is with photography books. I like photography books and have several which can be great source of inspiration. 

However, sometimes it's worth looking outside of photography for inspiration. Art books can be a great source of inspiration, as can travel and adventure books.

Hiking and route guides are one of my favourite sources of inspiration. I love to thumb through a route guide and look for hikes with potential images en-route. This is one of the best ways I've found to spark my imagination and get my creativity going! 

Finally, Magazines. There are loads of photography magazines, but I also regularly read hiking, cycling and travel/adventure magazines.

Just remember when looking at books and magazines that it doesn't all have to be photography - inspiration can come from all sorts of places. Some of the books and magazines I have recently drawn inspiration from include:

  • Walking the Himalayas - Levison Wood

  • The Accidental Adventurer - Ben Fogle

  • 127 hours - Aron Ralston

  • Landscape Photographer of the Year: 10 Year Edition

  • South with Endurance - Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917 - The Photographs of Frank Hurley

  • Outdoor Photography Magazine

  • National Geographic Magazine

  • 50 Walks in North Yorkshire - AA Books

  • Walk the Langdales - Bill Birkett

  • The Wainwright Collection - just stunning books!

 After reading a hiking book, I was inspired to try one of the routes where I found this spectacular viewpoint

After reading a hiking book, I was inspired to try one of the routes where I found this spectacular viewpoint

4. Working Environment

I cannot over emphasize the importance I place on a clean and uncluttered work space. I find it nigh on impossible to feel creative and inspired in a cramped, cluttered and unorganised space. I recently moved all my kit into my own office space at home and I have seen a huge improvement in my creativity, efficiency and workflow.

Now I know that not everyone can have a dedicated office space to themselves - this is the first time I've ever had my own office space - but spending some time and money investing in creating a clean, clear and inspirational working area can pay real dividends.

Even if you have a desk in your bedroom or living room, investing in some organisation and space savers can go a long way to de-cluttering and organising your work space. some simple drawers, a filing cabinet and some shelves can help to free-up desk space. 

For me, being organised and clutter free, so I'm not wasting my time and energy on looking around for things, has really helped reduce my stress when I'm working and, the less stressed I am, the more creative I generally become!

 After organising my work space, I have been able to invest more time and energy into photography

After organising my work space, I have been able to invest more time and energy into photography

3. Fuel/travel costs

This is a big one for me.

I shoot with an old DSLR camera and second-hand lenses. I'm sure I will up-grade at some point, but at the moment, my kit doesn't cost me anything (I have no loans so no re-payments to make). I could at some point take out a loan to by a new camera and lenses, or get them on credit, but that could cause me a problem........

You see, I would rather keep my car running, which means paying for repairs and keeping it fueled, than have the latest kit. For me, getting out in the landscape and being able to get to locations that give me the best possible opportunity at getting great shots is far more important than having a really nice camera sitting on a shelf in my office collecting dust! 

For me, it's all about balancing the cost of new gear with the cost of getting out on location or going on photography trips.

Now every individual needs to make this call for themselves and it will depend hugely on your personal circumstances and budget. But I'd encourage anyone reading this article to think long and hard before spending your hard earned cash on new kit if it will restrict how much you can actually get out and shoot - this is particularly true if you are new to photography: An "all bells and whistles" top of the range camera will not make you a great photographer if you haven't learned the basics first.

 Travelling to inspiring locations has helped progress my photography far more than new kit ever could have

Travelling to inspiring locations has helped progress my photography far more than new kit ever could have

2. Courses and Workshops

My penultimate top tip for investing in inspiration is to think about taking a course or going on a workshop. 

There are many great online courses for photography, but I would suggest looking for one that has some real feedback from a tutor or working photographer.

I have done a couple of courses with the Institute of Photography (IOP). They do a selection of courses from general photography diploma's through to more specialist courses such as wedding and street photography. 

I really like the IOP as, unlike some of the other online courses that I've come across, the IOP modules each have an assessment in which your images are looked at and marked (with valuable feedback) from your personal course tutor. The course also has an active Facebook group and a monthly competition - so it really does provide a fantastic community of other photographers (at very different levels) where you can share images, ideas and inspiration.

If you don't feel that you need to do a course, you could always try a photography workshop. There are so many photography workshops run by both professional organisations and individual photographers. These can be in far flung exotic places, or in your local neck of the woods. Some are taught in groups, whilst others are one-to-one and prices vary wildly from a few hundred pounds up to thousands for some of the more exotic trips.

A Google search will quickly find workshops, but if you have a favourite photographer, why not take a look at their website and see if they do workshops (many do)!

 My first assignment from an Institute of Photography course - I got some really valuable feedback which really helped me improve

My first assignment from an Institute of Photography course - I got some really valuable feedback which really helped me improve

1. Time

This is the number one tip I have for investing in your creativity. All of the tips above rely on having some time to implement them. You can't de-clutter and sort your work space with out time put aside to do it, you can't sit down to read a book or magazine if your day is completely rammed with other tasks. Travelling to locations or doing a course - forget it if you don't have time!

For many of us, time is the hardest commodity to free up. Most of us are extremely time poor these days (myself included), but often we can free up a little time for being creative. I'm going to do a separate post on this in the future, but for now, I've added a few small tricks that I've found effective at freeing-up time and allowing me space to develop my creativity:

  • Shoot early in the morning - if you start early, you will be finished before the day really starts. I've found this one really helpful, as I manage to regularly get out and shoot AND do all my work/jobs/chores etc.

  • Turn the TV off - it's easy to waste time watching things that don't really inspire or add any real value to our lives. This is something I find I now do more and more - I instead try to read a book or magazine that will inspire me.

  • Organise, organise, organise. The best thing I own for this is a Filofax (straight out of the 1980's). By scheduling in my time for photography and time to develop my inspiration and creative eye, I am able to fit it into my busy life.

  • Make an appointment with creativity - this is similar to the point above. By scheduling in creative time, writing it in your diary and committing to sticking to it (like you would if it was an important appointment or social event), you will be far more likely to stick to it.

It's worth noting that many of us are great at making time for other people, but making time for ourselves and NOT feeling guilty about it can be far more challenging. But it's so important if we really do want to invest in inspiration and to ultimately become more creative.

 Making time to be inspired made the biggest difference to my photography

Making time to be inspired made the biggest difference to my photography


So there we have it, the top 5 ways that I invest in my creativity. Obviously there are many more ways that you could invest in your creativity and everyone is different - what works for me might not work for you and vice versa.

But whether you agree with me or not, I'd love to hear from you!

How do you invest in inspiration? Do you have any suggestions for boosting creativity or is there something you use that you feel should be on my list? If so, please do leave a comment below and, if you've enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my blog so you never miss a post!

Next week..............Photography Vlog Report and Roundup from a hike up Blencathra in the Mist!