Get Inspired — Photography Ideas from 11 Insta-Famous Photographers

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But in the age of Instagram and social media, it should be “A picture is worth a thousand likes”. If you’ve ever wondered what goes into taking a photo that rakes in thousands of likes, you’re not alone.

To get the scoop, we asked 11 talented photographers to share the inspiration behind some of their favorite Instagram images. Capturing their story and surroundings with the use of color, lighting, and unique angles, these photographers have grown quite the following on Instagram for good reason.     

To get your creative juices flowing, keep reading to see what inspired these photographers’ most iconic images.

1. Beauty in the moment

“I’m all about movement and capturing the beauty in a moment. Light plays a huge role in composition, but I’m most inspired by people. I think the greatest part of life is trusting a person and learning about what makes them beautiful, because we are all beautiful creatures walking our own strange path.”

2. Inspiration through music

“Alisa and Amy are musicians who play together as a musical duo. When they asked me to photograph them, I was immediately moved by the idea of their musical connection and unity and felt inspired to represent that in a surreal, colorful way. When I hear live music that really touches me, I sometimes close my eyes to more deeply immerse myself in the experience and that’s why I chose to represent them anonymously.”

3. Movement in space

“I’ve always been fascinated by studying movement within a given space. Photographing dancers at the Hammer Museum was a wonderful opportunity to explore just that.”

4. Turquoise waves

“I’ve always had a connection to the ocean and the spontaneity of the crashing waves below the pier. This was a particularly sunny day, the water was a bright teal color, and the waves were massive. It’s fascinating how powerful this natural ebb and flow can be in an instant.” 

5. Following the shadows

“Every corner of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art feels meticulously crafted and designed. The ventilation being of no exception. This was my first time seeing the dramatic effect the shadows cast on the museum wall during the day. It didn’t take long for someone to walk by and add a frame of reference.”

6. Blank canvas

“The Blain|Southern art gallery, the, located in Berlin, is one of my favorite spots to shoot in and just be present in whenever I need a nice white empty space. The art, and the space itself, is always inspiring. It used to be an old newspaper factory, so I like the clean industrial vibe of it.”

7. Playing with color 

“I love playing with color and scale. The yellow jumpsuit is meant to make the subject pop against the blue sky, but because the shot is so pulled back you still focus on, and appreciate the grandiose nature of the location.”

8. Architecture and texture

“I love shooting at The Legion of Honor — it is one of the few places you can go to shoot in the middle of the day. You get some really interesting shadows that are fun to work with. The key is using that light with the architecture’s lines and textures to work in your favor. Make sure your subject is interacting with the space and include the elements in your composition. They do close at 5pm so keep that in mind!”  

9. Dreaming on the California coast 

“I grew up in this small California town and this beach is my favorite place to come to think, play, and celebrate. They recently installed this lifeguard post, which is necessary because it’s a dangerous beach to swim in the ocean at. So many photos of California’s coast focus on the beauty of the bright sunshine and gorgeous beaches. I love to showcase the dreaminess of California’s stunning and dramatic coastline on a cloudy day.”

10. Highlighting the little moments  

“Sometimes you don’t need to go anywhere at all to take a great photo. I prefer finding little moments in my everyday life to capture, rather than creating elaborate shoot. When I was in Tokyo last year, I was waking up around 4 or 5am thanks to jet lag. At first I was sort of annoyed about but I ended up loving being up to see the sunrise, and watching an elderly Japanese man attempting to exercise on his roof across from my window. It was amazing. Anyway, the sun was so bright and moved so quickly that it was hard to capture. But, one morning I had my iPhone out at the right second and snapped this beauty. Now seeing it brings me right back there.”

11. Shooting under pressure

“This was a very very rare opportunity that came up. A friend of mine had access to the bridge while it was closed for the new east section upgrade and we decided last minute to try and shoot. We drove across it 3 or 4 times and finally stopped to ask a police officer if we could snap a few photos. He said, ‘You have 5 minutes.’ One of the most epic 5 minutes ever.”

Explore creative venues for your photoshoot in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Austin.

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