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Episode #030

3 Critical Questions To Go From Inspiration to Creative Action


UPDATED: May 21, 2023


Inspiration and creativity are two distinct things, but they depend on each other. Learn how to mine inspiration for the keys that help you flex creative muscles and create amazing images.


Inspiration and creativity are different – here's how to use them both to your advantage

To put inspiration into practical use as a creative, you really have to get at the WHY behind that spark of inspiration. I’m walking you through three important questions to ask every time you’re out looking for new sources of inspiration because they’ll help you go from, “ohhhhh, hummm…” to “Ah-ha! Yes!” and send you running for your camera.

There’s a difference between inspiration and creativity.

Inspiration is a mostly passive thing. It is something that happens to you. Creativity, on the other hand, is an active thing. It is something you do, it is something you work at.

You get a spark of inspiration, which can drive you to act creatively. 

Creativity is also like a muscle. It’s something that you exercise, and the more you do, the stronger it gets.

So in this episode I want to talk about how to work out that muscle and how you can move from inspiration to creative action. 


You'll Learn

  • The difference between inspiration and creativity
  • How to understand the what, why and how behind inspiration so you can develop ideas and put them into creative action
  • Two underutilized yet totally useful sources for inspiration

Resources Mentioned

Episode 030: 3 Critical Questions To Go From Inspiration to Creative Action

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/30

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)


Jaymi Heimbuch:
Crafting really fresh photo ideas can be tough. And if you're looking in all the same places for your inspiration, then you're probably not going to find very much to help you break through that creative barrier. So it's time to expand your search, and I'm going to suggest a few unique places to start out, but it's also more than just looking to put inspiration in a practical use. You really have to get up the why behind that spark of inspiration. What about that scene or that idea? That concept is so inspiring and how are you going to actually put that inspiration into use? So I'm going to walk you through three important questions to be asking yourself every single time you're out looking for new ideas, because they'll help you go from that. Oh, Hmm. Yeah. That's a, you know, I could, I could go that route too. Oh my gosh. Yeah. That's totally what I'm going to try. And they are going to really send you running for your camera to go put into practice, whatever inspirational thought or idea or creative new thing you're thinking of. So let's get started.

Welcome to impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch. And if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business to marketing and everything in between this podcast is for you, the conservation visual storyteller, who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in!

This episode is full of information that I cannot wait to dig into. But before we do, I've got to let you know that Conservation Photography 101 is open for enrollment. This is my signature online course that teaches you how to find photograph and pitch a powerful photo story. Now all week, I've been welcoming new students into the course, and it's amazing to get to work with photographers who are so eager to take their skills to a new level and to learn how to go way past taking single images into crafting complete photo stories and learning how to get those photo stories in front of editors and audiences. Conservation Photography 101 is a roadmap. It walks you step by step through the process from finding and organizing your photo story ideas, to crafting the visuals, to editing your portfolio, to writing an eye catching pitch, and yes, even how to get that pitch in front of editors. And the best part is I'm right there with you in the trenches. This course includes ongoing weekly Q & A sessions with me. So every single week we hop on a live call where I help you through troubleshooting and sticking points and images and helping you to confidently create amazing stories and get them out into the world. Now, enrollment is open until June 27th and on June 27th doors close. And won't reopen again until next year in 2021. So if you've been wanting to learn how to create photo stories and how to get published, this is the best possible time to jump forward into that journey. I invite you to go to LearnCP.com/Enroll, To get all the details about this course, that's LearnCP.com/Enroll. All right, now let's get into this episode.

There is definitely a difference between inspiration and creativity. Inspiration is kind of this passive thing. It's something that happens to you. So you see a really neat scene and you feel inspired, or you look through a magazine with great images and you feel inspired creativity on the other hand is an active thing. Creativity is something that you do. It's something that you work at. You receive a spark of inspiration, which can drive you to act creatively. And creativity is a muscle. It's something that you exercise and the more you do the stronger it gets, the more you work at creativity, the more creative you become. So in this episode, I want to talk about how to work out that creative muscle and with all good muscle building workouts, you start with great equipment. And in our case, that equipment is questions. Now I believe that there are three questions that if you ask them often enough and think deeply about the answers, you're going to find yourself digging into some very creative ideas.

So as you seek to go from inspiration to creativity, and I'm going to talk with you about a couple places to find inspiration, but as you go from that inspiration into creative action, I want you to basically hold these three questions with you at all times, and to be actively asking them. And eventually these three questions will become almost like muscle memory. And it'll be really easy. You'll be asking them and figuring out answers without even consciously realizing it. And that's going to help make that creative muscle incredibly strong. So the three questions are number one, how does this make me feel? Number two, why does this make me feel this way? And number three, how would I photograph this feeling? Now these three questions revolve around emotion because the emotion inside of an image is really important. And it drives you to figure out all of the technical detail, the compositional detail, it drives you into that creative thinking.

So as you're looking at something, either seeking inspiration or feeling inspiration, if you ask these questions, it's going to get you into action, to be creative. So to put this into practice, I'd love for you to start with a pretty obvious source of inspiration that you've probably been using often, which is a photography magazine. So look at the images and think about how the completed, produced images that are printed in front of you, how they make you feel, why do they make you feel that way what's going on with this image that makes you feel that emotion and how did that photographer achieve these feelings through how they photographed that scene? So, yeah, you're looking for inspiration inside of a pretty typical source, but you're really digging into the guts of why this feels inspiring. And as you ask these questions and you dig at these layers, it's going to drive you to be more creative and to how you implement that inspiration into creative action.

So once you try this with a magazine that feels pretty familiar, then it's time to try it with a scene in front of you where you have some time and some space to really think about this. So for instance, on your next hike or a walk down a neighborhood street, if you see an inspiring scene, ask these three questions, how does this make me feel? Why does this make me feel this way? How would I photograph this feeling and start noticing that when you spot something that you want to photograph, instead of just raising your camera and taking a picture, you ask these three questions and really think about the composition that you make. How are you using the light to reflect the emotion that you feel about the scene? How are you layering elements of the scene to achieve that feeling? What are you doing with your shutter speed would blurring movement or stopping movement help you achieve that feeling?

These three questions drive you into creative thinking and what you build out of that is going to be a lot more interesting and unique. Now I promised you that I would also mention a couple of unusual places to look for that inspiration, that spark that can help drive you toward creativity. I have two suggestions that are under utilized, but hopefully rich for putting this into practice. So take your three questions with you when you go into these two recommended sources. So number one, go window shopping. Now I know that the sounds a little bit weird, but the thing about window shopping is there are all kinds of displays that are crafted. Some are really well crafted. Some not so well crafted, but no matter what what's going on inside of a storefront window is intended to spark you in some way. It's intended to get you inside of that store to buy things.

So there's a rhyme and a reason to what is put into a window display and how it's put that way. So I invite you to go into shopping, especially in some of the stores that are extremely purposeful about their window displays and look at what's going on. How are things arranged? How is your eye guided through all of that? How does it make you feel? Are you excited to go inside? Is it more thought provoking? Are you engaged with what's going on in a window now as you're window shopping, if you find a display that makes you pause, then it's time to ask your three questions. How does this make me feel? Why does this make me feel this way? And how would I photograph this feeling? And depending on the store that you are standing in front of it can spark a whole range of different potential emotions.

There are some window displays that are pretty terrible. And when I walk up to a storefront, they make me feel like kind of depressed or a melancholy, and there's use to that. So what's going on about this window display that makes me feel kind of depressed. Is it lackluster color? Does it look like the store owner barely tried with trying to set things up? Is it cheesy or hokey? Like what's going on? So yeah, you can find some really cool window displays that creatively inspire you for, I don't know the way that you compose an image, but there can also be some window displays that you come across and you can use the less than stellar emotions that they spark up to think creatively about how you would go about replicating that type of emotion and an image. And honestly, it's kind of tough to figure out how to replicate a melancholy feeling in an emotion, especially one where it's hard to put your finger on why.

So that's why these three questions are so great. How does this make me feel? Why does it make me feel this way? How would I photograph this feeling? You really have to dig deep on some of these. Now, the second place where I suggest looking for inspiration that can drive you into creative thinking is to watch a movie look at how scenes inside of that movie are composed. I suggest starting with movies that have won awards for best cinematography and cinematography is simply the art of photography and visual storytelling inside of a film. And if you're looking at movies that have already won awards, then you know that you're looking at already a pretty rich source of inspiration. So grab a note pad, make sure that you have a remote to be able to pause that movie. And as you're watching it pay attention to the composition of scenes and also the emotions that are going on within that, and you can pause it and really think about, okay, so this is a very weighty emotional scene.

Well, like what's going on that guides me to that emotion? Especially when it comes to the composition of the scene. What's going on with the depth of field, with the lighting, with how the main character is positioned, with what what's going on around that main character, like really dig into how does this make me feel? Why does it make me feel this way? And how would I photograph that emotion now, especially when it comes to movies. Back in episode 26, I talked about how to create an inspiration board and with movies, you can basically screenshot some of the stills and you can have those to an inspiration board and start to map out what's going on and the answers to those questions and really spending some time mapping all that out can help you to return to it again and again, and really develop the answers to those questions until you feel super confident, figuring out how to put this concept into practice in your photography and when you're using movies as inspiration.

Another amazing way to watch a movie is to look for emotional transitions. So if you're in the middle of maybe a sentimental scene that suddenly jumps to something more energetic or a scene that goes from maybe a discussion into an argument, well, look at the composition, that visual layout of the scene, and what's going on to drive that emotional change. How are the scenes composed that help take you as the viewer into that emotional transition, along with the characters. And that's going to be a really great source of a creative workout as you try and answer the questions, how does this make me feel? Why does it make me feel that way? And how would I photograph this? How would you photograph that energy going from low to high or that energy going from high to low? There's a lot to unpack inside of all that.

Now, once you've spent some time practicing this, maybe you've gone window shopping a couple of times, or you've watched some movies and taken notes, and you've really analyzed a few of the scenes. Now it's time to take those answers to the questions and put them into practice. So every time you've answered the question, how would I photograph this feeling? Now it's time to pick up your camera and go give it a try. And as you photograph, come back and analyze your images. Did you capture that emotion? Did you photograph that scene in a way that really did pull off the emotional impact that you had hoped that it would have for the viewer? So if you intended to photograph a scene and evoke a melancholy feeling, did you pull it off? Or if you intended to photograph a scene and have it be really, um, invigorating, and to really capture that the energy behind the characters and movement and drama, did you pull it off?

What else might you try if you were to go back out and photograph that scene again now, after a while, after you really practice this, this is going to become second nature. You'll realize that you're inspired by something and you'll have the tools to dig into why that inspires you so much and what you're going to do about it. And that is where creativity really blossoms.

Okay. Before I sign off, I want to send out a thank you. So I read every single review that comes in for this podcast and they are incredibly encouraging and energizing like this one from almost there. Almost there says, "From practical marketing skills, like building a mailing list to inspirational interviews with successful conservation photographers, Jaymi has consistently organized, enthusiastic and supportive inner message that the world needs your stories. And you can do this. I was so impressed after the first episode that I have binged on episodes until my phone battery died, then went back and caught up in terms of getting published. I have a long history, but not in the arena of conservation. Jaymi's podcast is just the push I needed to get moving along that path."

Oh my gosh, that is inspiring. I am so excited. Every time that I hear that this podcast has helped someone advance their photography or as motivated them to get out into the field. So if you're enjoying this podcast, it would mean so much to me. If you could leave a rating or a review right now, wherever you're listening and tell me how it's helped you in your photography craft. And this is not at all about ego, either the ratings and the reviews that come in help to push this podcast in front of more listeners, which means helping more people with a passion for conservation photography and visual storytelling. And ultimately that helps all of us along. So if you could take two or three minutes to hop over and leave a review, wherever you're listening to this podcast, that would be amazing.

All right. I hope that this episode has helped you to move beyond just inspiration and really figure out how to put that inspiration into creative action. These three questions will take you far. I promise, and I hope that you break into some new creative muscle building as you learn how to answer them. All right. I will talk to you next week

Before we wrap up, I would love to ask you to do one quick thing. Subscribe to this podcast as a subscriber. You'll not only know when each week's episode goes live, but you'll also get insider goodies like bonus episodes. You might miss them unless you're subscribed. And I don't want you to miss out on a thing. So please tap that subscribe button and I will talk to you next week.


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