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Finding Inspiration

Lesson 4 from: The Storyteller's Guide to Taking Better iPhone Photos

Dan Tom

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Lesson Info

4. Finding Inspiration

It's important to be ready when inspiration strikes. Dan teaches how different things like photo height, focal length, and composition choices all affect the photos you take.

Lesson Info

Finding Inspiration

And for me, like inspiration comes from a lot of different things. Like it's not always through photography. It could be something that someone said to me, it could be a story that I read through a news article. It could be a lyric of a song, it could be like the weather today. Like maybe the fog is kind of rolling into San Francisco like, in an incredible way that I've never seen before. All these things I feel like are important and a part of your everyday life, that you have like the power to tell. Like you can choose whether or not you want to photograph it or whether it's interesting to you. Like these are all kind of decisions and kind of the way that I think. If you start to process things in that way, you'll be able to find the stories close to you that are already there, that have existed way before you even thought of them in that way. So, I think when you think about where you are... Like I'm in San Francisco. I live in the Sunset District, I walk around, take photos. Like t...

hat's kind of my context, and those are all things that are proximity wise like very close to me. Like I might not even leave within... Like a half mile radius of where I live, like from day-to-day. And I think that that's what is important to see and realize that you have that context for that specific area, and that specific place. So whether you're in Denver, whether you're in a city, rural town, it doesn't really matter because that's like the life that you're living. That's the story that you're kind of given during this time. And I feel like those are things that you're gonna bring to the table, that I can't bring to the table. Like I'm not gonna be able to shoot a farm in Illinois, or the Midwest. But yet those are things that would be interesting to me because I don't see that. So I think to have like a context of... Even though you might see it every day and it's so familiar to you, it could be super interesting to someone else who has never seen it, has never been to the place that you live in. And I think that's kind of the mindset that I really want you guys to get is that, what is familiar to you, is like... We all see things in different ways. So what sparks interest to you, what you're given, what you're around, what you're close by to, those are all things that could be of interest or something that could inspire someone else. So I think like when I talk about kind of exploring your area what you're given, what's close by. Like I'll usually kind of do like a very similar route around my place from day-to- day, maybe once or twice a week. And I'll always discover new stuff. And it's not like I necessarily intentionally, try to discover new stuff. I think depending on the time of day maybe I'll take a different route. Maybe I'll just literally just be walking, then I'll notice something different. I think I pay attention to like the light, how the light's hitting certain things. And that actually creates... There's something powerful within that, because you're seeing like what you've been seeing maybe like for 20 times prior to that time, like something that you're noticing. I think there's always ways to discover a familiar place what you're used to. And I think that a beautiful thing about photography is because you can see things that you're familiar with, that you're so used to, but because the light's hitting a different way... Because it's portraying something in a new way that stands out. That'll be like a moment that I think you can really capitalize on, and it'll be really cool and interesting to someone else, as well as yourself. So one example for me that I recently took a photo of is... There's a house on the corner about a block from where I live, and I probably walked by there at least 30 or 40 times. But for certain reason in this particular time of the day, the light created... It highlighted the bush in a very interesting way because the shadow that it reflected on the house itself, created like a continuation of the bush. But it was very specific to that time of day, and the angle of the sun. There's all these things that kind of have to contribute to how the light hits, to how you see things, to being that specific time of the day. So yeah, like if you're going out in the neighborhood, I think it can feel a little bit overwhelming if you're just like, I just want to take beautiful pictures of my neighborhood. So I think a good place to start, or a good a good thing to kind of help that not to happen or to avoid that, is to maybe have like a framework of mine. So, maybe you just wanna shoot cars in your neighborhood for this day. Maybe you wanna just shoot plants. And I think that helps you focus and be intentional with how you wanna shoot things. And I've seen you can even create your own photo series as well. Like I just want to take plants around my block because I've noticed a lot of different varieties. Maybe it's different colors that you want to focus on, and just have a series around that. I think there's a lot of ways you can go about noticing different things in your neighborhood that you've seen plenty of times. But yet in the context of a series or like a photo essay sort of, that can really be a great way to step out and be creative. But also it's easy because you've seen these things and you know what you're looking for. So you know what you want to shoot already. I think that's a good way to start. So now I'm gonna take you through my neighborhood, and I'm gonna show you some of the things that I look out for, and hopefully you guys can pick up some of the things I'm talking about. One of the first things is to always be ready. So make sure you have your phone close by. Again, it's the easy swipe up to get to the camera. The second thing I wanna emphasize, is that there's literally nothing... There's no wrong photograph. Like don't be afraid to take photos of anything. There's no right way to necessarily photograph. If it's important to you, if it's something that you notice, if it's something that's of interest to you, just take the photograph. What's the worst that can happen? You can always delete it later. Other things to look out for are colors. So colors are what I always pay attention to, like complimentary colors like red and green, blue and orange. Like those are kind of things that always kind of work well together. So if I'm shooting like at the beach, typically the water is blue, the sand is orange. Maybe the sunlight, the light is usually orange or yellow. Like, those colors work really well together. Another thing that I'm always looking out for are just patterns. If it's like a bunch of lines, if it's like a grid, if it's repeated, those are kind of things that are visually interesting to people. So another one that I look out for are leading lines. Typically, it's done with like a road shot and it kind of leads to a vanishing point, but there's all sorts of things that you'll find if you walk around. It doesn't have to be a road shot, it doesn't have to be necessarily like a landscape. It could be a pattern that you see, could be in an object, but just pay attention to how your eye kind of draws. Follow your eye and figure out if your eye is kind of leading to a certain place. And I think that's always makes for a good composition. Another thing that I like to do when I'm out in the neighborhood kind of shooting with my phone is if you shoot something, take multiple shots of it. Like, take your time. You don't have to just walk by, shoot it and then leave. I think it's important to figure out like different angles, maybe get closer, maybe frame it. If it's a flower, for example, like you might wanna shoot the entire flower plus like the house that maybe it's in front of, but maybe you just wanna focus on the flowers. You getting close, you wanna show the texture of like the pedals or details or color. Like those are all decisions that you can make that impact your photograph. I think photography ultimately is about observing. And the more that I photograph, the more that you just become aware of your surroundings. And like I said, there's always something going on, especially if you're out and about. Like in your city or outside of your house, pay attention to everything that's going on, be quiet. It's almost like being a good listener, but you're listening with your eyes. And you want to just kind of take a step back, take a pause, and then just stand in one place, and just literally look around and see everything that's going on. It could be like a guy riding by on his bike, It could be like a fire truck zooming by. Those are all things that if you're ready and you have your phone accessible, you can capture that moment easily. So I think one thing that I would love to challenge you guys to when you guys are out on your walks, is to maybe start with just photographing one thing. One thing that I did actually a few weeks ago, was I started... I noticed that there's a lot of street signs, and so I would literally just be walking around. But every time I would see a street sign, I would already know in my head because I had already decided prior to my walk that I wanted to shoot all the street signs. So I would just shoot street signs. And you'd be surprised. You'd think, oh, that's so easy and that doesn't make any sense, but it's kind of cool how it all comes together in the end. And when you put all those photos together, it does tell the story. Because it's telling the story that these are the signs. It gives you context to like my neighborhood, it's specific to San Francisco, and it's something as easy as that.

Ratings and Reviews

Lindsay Remigio

Great Workshop - Not just for iPhones This workshop was concise but packed a lot of great information. The things taught can not only help you take better photos with your iPhone but can also be applied to any format of photography. I particularly enjoyed the section where Dan edits viewers photos. I feel inspired to get out and try what I learned.

Déborah Mocquant

I like the way Dan Tom sees the world and how he is inspired. This is more than a workshop for me. I felt like I was in an other world. This workshop also gave me a lot interesting informations about photography. To be honest, I watched this workshop 4 times already.

Emily Guldborg

He has a definite passion for what he does and encouraging people to share their stories through photography. Not a huge time commitment and he refreshed my interest in sharing my perception of the world.

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