Say you're in the mood to take some photographs. Where do you typically look for inspiration? I always find that I want to take photographs but don't really have anything to shoot, or can't find good, unique subjects. So what are some of your suggestions for those occasions when you want to shoot some pictures but can't find anything to photograph?
Look at as many other people's work as you can. Really look and then ask what you are drawn to, what fascinates you. You will be at the beginning of understanding the style and subjects that inspire you. Now set about unashamedly copying them. This will develop your skill in mastering the style and subject. From there it is a short step to developing your own original approach. Your search through other people's work will lead you to the subjects that inspire you and you will learn so much from them.
Another approach. Imagine you have a friend living in, say, rural Africa (or anywhere else for that matter). Now imagine how the region you live in would be fascinating and unusual to your friend. Look at it through his eyes. If he came to visit you, what would you show him and what would you tell him? Then set about creating a photo essay that would convey to your friend what is so fascinating, unique or unusual about the area where you live. Then make a photo book. Having a tangible goal like this will concentrate your mind and help motivate you.
I have found this is a powerful technique for seeing my area with new eyes.
I usually go for a walk with my camera and I look at stuff, ordinary stuff, natural stuff, human made stuff, whatever...
I ask "what's interesting in shape, line, color and/or texture about this stuff that people walk past every day and never pay attention to?
Having found something, I ask "what's an interesting angle to view this from?", paying attention more to what's in front of and behind the main subject. If the subject has strong lines, how does it look with parallel, perpendicular or other lines in the rest of the picture? If the subject has an interesting texture, how does it look with no textures, similar textures, or different textures in the rest of the frame? Is there stuff that forms a frame within a frame here?
At this point I'm looking through the LCD and playing with the shutter speed and f-stop to see what features of the scene become prominent as I run my camera's contrast curve and over the scene.
By this time I have a few photos that I think are fairly interesting.
That's one method.
Walk, ride, drive.
Just live in the moment and be wondered by the world like a child. Be connected to yourself.
Be conscious to where your eyes are drawn, be conscious to what you are feeling.
Then and only then, ask yourself how to communicate your current emotion to others by ways of a single picture.
Maybe the Picture is not there yet, remember your emotion and come back later when the light is in harmony with the emotion. Or find another subject that carries that same emotion.
Every sincere photograph is a self-portrait, whatever the subject.
Various photo blogs on the web, photo sites (Flickr, PBase, etc.), and sometimes photography books.
Additionally, at work we have a hobbyist photo club. One of the activities we have is topical assignments. At the beginning of the year we set an activity calendar where some of the meetings are dedicated to assignments of various topics. Many times this requires some research for techniques and ideas which lead to inspiration and beautiful images.
Maybe I'm the only one, but I generally find inspiration by doing a short hike without the camera. It's almost inevitable that sometime during the hike I'm going to see something that makes me wish I had the camera with me. When it happens, I spend some time looking at it from different angles and such, trying to figure out exactly how I'd take the picture if I did have the camera with me...
Personally, I take my camera with me when we go anywere with our (or other people's) children. They always provide great material.
I rarely come back without one shot that makes me smile - and that kicks my creative energy back into gear. :)
For me it's a combination of having a project to work on, and looking through other photos. Often that just means glancing back through my library and trying to improve something I've tried before but didn't turn out how I wanted, but sometimes I look through other photographer's work to get ideas.
Flickr Last 7 Days - This is always a great source of inspiration, and it's always changing.
Portfolios of well known photographers - Seeing different photographer's styles helps me to look at the same environment I'm used to in different ways.
Famous Artwork - Looking outside of photography at other artwork provides even more different viewpoints.
I reach for a daily theme from a site that I put together.
It's kind of a photography assignments backlog.
There is a huge variety of themes - one dominant colour, weather photography, pattern orientation and others.
It's great as it helps you get out of your box and try something you wouldn't even think about or you might think it's boring.
Also, having a theme makes it more fun on those days when you are just out of ideas and you wouldn't shoot otherwise.