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How to Find Inspiration in Film Photography

Writers aren't the only ones to get blocks - photographers get it too!


Inspiration comes and goes, and the same applies when shooting in film. There are highs where I would carry my film cameras everywhere and every moment seems capture-worthy. But there are also lows where my cameras would slowly catch dust on the shelf while the film counter stay on the same number for weeks on end. Lows when I would feel rather uninspired and in need of a muse.


I, myself, have just gotten over a slump of a few uninspiring months. Got a few rolls developed that were not perfectly to my taste. Then lost a bit more of my excitement by making one of the most frequent mistakes in film - finishing a roll, only to find out that there was no roll in the camera to begin with. Which is extra frustrating since I was taking pictures with a new (secondhand) camera AND in a new and exciting neighbourhood! These things happen, but it does not mean that the slump should continue.


How do we end the slump, you ask? Here are some tips and tricks for you to find inspiration while shooting film.


Explore a new place


A view of a beach club in Uluwatu, Bali from atop
Travelling always help to keep me inspired when shooting film

Travelling always does the trick for me. Whether it's travelling to Jakarta, Bologna, or Athens, there's something about seeing a place for the first time that gets the juice flowing and makes you want to take up your film camera. But then again, who doesn't get excited when they get to travel? The problem is, of course, that most of us don't get to travel as much as we'd like to. However, this shouldn't stop you from taking up your film cameras.


You can also take a walk, and try to explore new places anywhere you are. Perhaps take a different route to work, or go to that grocery store that you don't normally go to. You never know what you might find, it might be a moment worth capturing with your film camera.


Shoot at different times of the day


Maybe you start to sense the theme here. Doing something different can get the inspiration going.


If you normally shoot during the day, perhaps it's time to try doing so closer to the evening. It will bring up new challenges as you try to find ways to work around the low light conditions. Maybe you will finally get to work the flash setting you've never used on your camera before. Maybe you'll even like it.


Browse other people's work and photos


The internet is full of them. Spend some time scrolling through other people's work and photos to see what inspire them, and maybe it can also inspire you.


And don't be hesitant to put some effort into actually being inspired! When I scroll on Instagram sometimes I would even save a few photos and try to recreate something similar. It also becomes a learning opportunity when you get to compare your resulting photos to your inspo. Maybe you learn that you should've taken the shot from a different angle. Maybe you learn that it would've looked better in black and white than it did in colour.


Bonus point if you make the effort to go to a photo exhibition.


A woman browsing at an art gallery
Get inspired - browse other people's works and photos at an art gallery

Join a photo challenge


You can get creative and set up your own photo challenge, or join the many that other people have set up online. See if there is any photo walk event around you - it's a great opportunity to go out on a casual walk with your camera and take pictures. You'll even meet fellow photographers to further get you inspired!


You can also challenge yourself for a photo a day. It's an easy way to force yourself to try to get inspired everyday and keep taking photos.


Another idea for a challenge is to take photos of strangers. The thought of approaching a bunch of strangers and asking them for a photo is enough of a challenge for me. But master this, and you'll be able to find your muse in the face of a stranger. So next time you're in need of an inspiration, maybe all you'll need is to find a crowd.


A gondolier sleeping in his Venetian gondola
Stranger I: A gondolier sleeping in his Venetian gondola

Two men chatting on their balcony overlooking the Venetian canal
Stranger II and III: Two men chatting on their balcony overlooking the Venetian canal

Make a photo zine


Many people went back to film photography as they were craving for the pre-digital era excitement of taking photos. Quite ironically, many of the resulting developed photos nowadays still end up online in the digital world.


For a change, you can try to have your photos printed and make a photo zine with short captions/essays. You can create a theme and plan for the types of photos you want to take as you try to curate your photo zine. This can help you get inspired, especially as you plan for your next photo. It will also do wonders for your caption game on Instagram ;)


Well, there it is. Your top 5 ways to find inspiration when shooting film. Hopefully it will prolong your days full of inspiration and shorten your duller ones.


Have any other suggestions to stay inspired? Don't be shy. Share with us on the comments below.

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