Stock Photography: 15 Sources of Inspiration to Explore When You are Stuck in a Rut (or Not!)

At some point in their career, every creative person deals with the same issue – how to create inspired work? Lack of inspiration does not discriminate between writers (read our great write up about busting the dreaded writer’s block if you are a writer too), designers or photographers. So what is a creative person, who relies on his creativity to put food on the table, to do? Fortunately, the world is littered with amazing sources of inspiration! You just need to know where to start looking.

In this article we will get you started with 15 sources of mojo to capture the most inspired photographs that you ever took.

1. Check out the explore section of flickr

Flickr has an amazing feature called “interestingness” based on how viral a photograph is in flickr. Photographs with the most interestingness score land on their explore page. These are the photos that have been most tagged, favorited and commented upon and can be a great source of inspiration no matter what kind of a rut you are in!

2. Stop at the local library and flip through a bunch of magazines

The magazines need not necessarily be design oriented (though that would definitely help the creative juices flowing). Even boring business magazines can give you great ideas for setting up your next microstock photo shoot.

3. Discover a model by offering a TFCD

There are so many struggling models out there desperate to put together a good portfolio. Offer to do a photoshoot for free – they get the prints or CDs of their pictures and you get some great shots to add to your micro stock accounts. Don’t forget to get them to sign the paperwork and the release forms!

4. Become a foodie for the day

Just grab your camera and go grab pictures of food. You may be able to approach a restaurant owner and strike up a deal similar to TFCD where you offer them copies of the pictures of the food (or kitchen scenes or other still pictures) you shoot for use on their restaurant site, while you retain the copyright and the ability to upload the pictures to your stock photo accounts.

5. Look through the showcase sections of stock photo sites

If you are in the business of stock photography, you probably have accounts on several stock photo sites. Start by combing through their showcase sections. I get photos for this site from and on their site you can look at the bestselling photos or the featured galleries or the list of categories. Browsing through these images not only inspire you to grab that camera and start clicking, but they will also put you on track to capture the shots that make you money!

6. Play with Photoshop

Sometimes you don’t even need a camera to turn out the best pictures! Look through your old pictures and pick a few of your “rejects” and start playing with them in photoshop. Play with the shadows, depth, highlights, frame. It is a great trick to keep your photoshop skills polished, to learn a few new ones, and to salvage all those pictures that you had given up on!

7. Browse through the portfolios of other photographers

You can do this on the stock photo sites where you have accounts to get an idea of what the most successful photographers are doing. For example, go to the most popular photographs and then start looking through the portfolios of the photographers who shot this. Alternately, you could start looking at the portfolios of photographers outside the stock photo niche. Just google “photography portfolio” or “photography gallery” and you should should have enough to keep you busy for a while. This, this and this are some of my favorites and a great place to start!

8. Find a local event and start shooting away

It does not matter whether it is a local farmers market or the movies in your community park…. as long as there are people around you will have immense opportunities to start taking pictures. If you are primarily targeting stock photo sites though, remember to make your pictures abstract enough to not have any recognizable people images, or get the appropriate release forms signed.

9. Pick a theme and try to shoot at least 20 pictures on that theme

If the holidays are just around the corner, you can pick a holiday theme – stock photo sites will love these pictures as most of their customers will likely be looking for these pictures at this time. If not, you can pick any topic -example: sad, motion, red, energy, innocence, magic, shadows, etc. That list could go on, and with each theme you pick, you may surprise yourself with how creative you can be.

10. Think outside the box

Literally. Stop at your local Walmart and walk through the toys aisle to look at the cover art on the toy boxes. Or you could peruse through the CD and DVD section to gain some instant inspiration. Similarly, a trip to the local bookstore and just looking at the covers of all the books can give you an amazing number of new ideas to start working on.

11. Tell a story in pictures

While you are at the bookstore pick a childrens story book. You can read through most of these books cover to cover in 5 minutes flat. Now, go out and start shooting pictures to represent that story in photographs.

12. Gain inspiration from boring, insipid, text only blogs

As a photographer, you are probably used to reading blogs with stunning visual imagery in each blog post. For every single one of such blogs, there must a thousand insipid, boring, text only blogs out there. Just go to or google blog search engine to find a boring blog and think of what photographs you could take to bring that blog to life. Now go click those pictures.

13. Go to your local zoo

Who says you need an exotic locale to click wildlife photography? Now if you can travel, great, you should… there is nothing like some travel to bring back the mojo. But if you are a ramen noodle budget, and traveling is definitely not an option, just hit the local zoo (or even a petting zoo, or a farm) and click away.

14. Mess with your body clock

If you are a night owl and have not seen a sunrise ever, then being in a funk might be the best thing that happened to you. Set your alarm to go off before sunrise, grab the camera and head out. You don’t need to shoot a spectacular sunrise, just shooting away seemingly “regular” objects in the first light of the day can be inspiring enough. Similarly, if you are an early bird by nature, stay back late and try you hand at night photography. Capture the images of the city as the night lights start coming up, and street scenes under the light of a street light, the energy in a pub and the shadows of an alley.

15. Go to a hospital near you

There is nothing more humbling than being in a hospital surrounded by flailing patients, scurrying nurses and assured doctors. Draw from the sorrow, the fear, the optimism and the hope. Find interesting ways to frame your pictures.

So there you have it – some conventional, and some rather unconventional sources of inspiration to make sure that the next photograph you take will be an inspired shot. Go ahead, click away!

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