When I think of what makes a photo inspiring, it’s hard to pick out just one thing.
I mean, there’s a lot that goes into making a successful image.
There’s the need for a strong subject.
If it’s a landscape, including foreground interest is often helpful.
When creating a portrait, having the focus spot-on the model’s eyes is advantageous.
So what joins these different genres of photography together under the tag of inspirational?
Personally, it’s mostly about how the image feels.
You know what I mean...that “WOW” moment when you see a jaw-dropping shot.
Well, this month’s Inspirational Photos of the Day certainly made me say wow.
If you missed them earlier, here they are in all their epic glory!
January 1, 2017 - Trevor Anderson
This photo, titled “Quietly,” shows how not every element in the shot has to be in-your-face in order for it to have a profound effect. In this case, the soft, muted foreground provides plenty of visual interest while contrasting nicely with the more vibrant and lively background. The way that he captured the snow blanketing the landscape, which is mimicked in the clouds blanketing the mountains, creates an image with tons of depth and interesting layers as well.
January 2, 2017 - Jorma
When creating a black and white photo, incorporating shadow and highlight, as well as patterns and textures helps elevate the shot and create a more interesting photo to view. In this case, Jorma mastered all three! The strong backlighting adds brightness to the scene that contrasts well with the darker foreground elements. The repeating pattern of the fence adds visual interest while the texture of the tree trunks and their branches gives the shot added depth.
January 3, 2017 - Ed
This photo is a great example of what a little searching can do for your photos. In Zion National Park, there are plenty of “postcard shot” opportunities. But getting off the beaten path can reveal lesser seen territory, as Ed has done in this photo along the Subway Trail in Zion. By using a 15mm ultra wide-angle lens, Ed was able to capture the entirety of the waterfall, giving us a better sense of its scope and scale.
January 4, 2017 - Florian Pascual
A close-up portrait is an ideal opportunity to highlight the subject’s face. But as we see in this shot, by covering part of the face, the eyes become that much more prominent. When taking close-ups, ensure that your point of focus is absolutely spot on, as Florian did in this photo. Notice how the subject’s eyes are perfectly sharp. That allows us to engage with her eyes, feel as though we know her, and develop a stronger connection with the photo. That’s what portraiture is all about!
January 5, 2017 - Destin Sparks
Winter landscapes can be tough to master because of the difficulty most cameras have metering the lighting, resulting in white balance that is off. However, Destin was able to create an image that, with a bluish hue goes nicely with the cold, wintery theme while representing the snow as it should be - as pure white. Notice as well the framing of the shot - by including the foreground trees, the image becomes much more interesting to view, inviting the eye to move upward and towards the cliffs and cascading waterfall in the background
January 6, 2017 - Nicholas Steinberg
Taking a high perspective and shooting with a wide-angle lens affords you many opportunities to create images with layers and layers of interest. Nicholas shows us how it’s done in this photo, with the foreground fog, the bridge in the midground, and the lights of the city in the background coming together to create a compelling cityscape. Notice as well how the softness of the fog contrasts beautifully with the linear, harsh lines of the bridge and city buildings. Now that’s an interesting shot!
January 7, 2017 - Trevor Anderson
Foreground interest is one of the most important components of a landscape shot. Here, we see the value of the foreground as Trevor uses the texture of the rocks to help guide the eye upward and deeper into the image. At 18mm, the foreground is on full display with little if any wide-angle distortion, while also allowing Trevor to capture the beauty of the sky. The long exposure also creates nice mood in the movement of the ocean to give the image an added bit of visual interest.
January 8, 2017 - Alister Benn
Sometimes, even the title you give your images can have an impact on their effect. In this case, “Rebirth” is an apt title as the subject of the shot is a small sapling that’s found root in the remains of a long-dead tree. Note how the rebirth theme is enhanced by the lighting - the young tree almost looks as though it’s glowing when compared to its surroundings. The muted, darker blue tones of the surrounding water also help give the tree more significance in the shot.
January 9, 2017 - Paweł Uchorczak
As we’ve pointed out before, lighting is crucial to a good photo, and this one is no exception. The quality of the backlighting as it illuminates the landscape is absolutely gorgeous, but the framing of the shot helps make that light even more visually impactful. Note how the placement of the brightest area of light is in the center of the shot, then radiates outward from there. Though this breaks the rule of thirds, in this case, it works to the benefit of the photo because it allows the eye to move from inward, out, which is a unique way of interacting with an image.
January 10, 2017 - Jabe147
When creating a landscape photo, don’t be afraid to push the highlights right to the edge of being blown out. As you can see in the image above, this helps create a nice, even backdrop on which you can highlight other elements of the landscape. In this case, the linear lines created by the tree trunks create an interesting visual element, especially because of their repeating pattern throughout the photo. Had the background been more moderately exposed, the impact of the trees would have been lessened.
January 11, 2017 - Fran Venter
Like a previous example on our list, this photo benefits greatly from a high point of view. By framing the shot from above, we get a better sense of the lay of the land, with the relationship between the sea, the beach, and the landscape on full view. Notice how the soft sidelighting adds a greater sense of depth to the shot, with the shadowed and highlighted areas creating dimensionality, much as the repeating pattern of the waves coming ashore does.
January 12, 2017 - Jianwei
In this beautiful example of a “throwback” photo, we see the value of using a high ISO to get a grainy, film-like look in the shot. The bright backlighting is the perfect backdrop to show off the forms of the buildings and the people in the foreground. Note the very low perspective used for taking the photo as well - by getting close to the ground we get an up close view of the texture of the street. That low perspective also gives the sense that the buildings and people are taller than they actually are.
January 13, 2017 - Yaopey
This photo demonstrates that a waterfall needn’t be tall to be impactful. Instead, Yaopey used the available lighting and a slow shutter to enhance the visual power of the waterfall. The smooth, milky water has an ethereal vibe to it, and it works well with the harsh, jagged structure of the rocks surrounding the water. By shooting at 18mm, Yaopey was also able to squeeze more detail into the scene, such as the foreground rocks and the sky in the background.
January 14, 2017 - Maja Topcagic
As the editors said when they selected this shot, “using props in portraits can easily go wrong. However, photographer Maja Topcagic gets it just right…” I couldn’t agree more. There’s a delicateness and softness about this image that is conveyed in the use of the flower. Yet, note that although the flower has a prominent role in the photo, that the point of focus remains on the model’s visible eye. That shallow depth of field gives this image a wonderful level of dimension.
January 15, 2017 - Bruce Getty
Framing is a powerful element in any photo. Get it right, and the impact of the visual you’ve created is enhanced. Get it wrong, and it can totally ruin the effectiveness of the photo. In this case, Bruce shows off his framing skills, with the setting sun shining right down this New York City Street. Note how a large depth of field is advantageous here - elements from foreground to background are in sharp focus, so we’re privy to all the details the urban jungle has to provide.
January 16, 2017 - PJ van Schalkwyk
Golden hour usually gets all the glory, but blue hour affords landscape photographers all sorts of possibilities for creating epic shots as well. Here, PJ managed to capture a long exposure image of the Bay Bridge that oozes with mood. The coolness of the colors remind one of the cool temperatures associated with the Bay Area. The indication of fog in the background - which reflects the lights of the city - further enhances the vibe of this quintessential Bay Area photo.
January 17, 2017 - Michael Matti
A landscape photo doesn’t have to incorporate the entirety of the scene to be effective. Here we see how a frame within the frame - the cloud layer - helps simplify the scene and keep our attention on the texture-filled foreground. What’s more the waterfall appears as though it’s simply falling from the clouds, which gives the photo an interesting, whimsical element. The darkness of the exposure helps enhance that whimsical mood as well.
January 18, 2017 - Nico Babot
Much like the previous photo, this image relies on a frame within the frame to direct our attention towards the subject. But here, we see how the frame within a frame helps exclude unnecessary elements. Without the walls of the cave to add texture and a bit of darkness to the shot, it might have been overwhelmed by the bright tones of the sky. Instead, we have a perfect balance that marries the foreground and background together.
January 19, 2017 - Jens Klettenheimer
Adding color contrast to landscape scenes is a key way to amp up the visual interest of the photo. In this case, the cool tones of the blue water and snow-covered mountains are contrasted nicely with the bright, robust red color of the building. But note how Jens framed the shot from a good distance away such that the building (and its red color) don’t overtake the shot. Instead, we get a nice view that shows how the building relates to its surroundings.
January 20, 2017 - Steve Wallace
Leading lines are often talked about in landscape photography, but they are just as impactful a tool for portraiture as well. In this photo, the horizontal and vertical lines created by the two walls direct our attention to the child. There, our eyes are treated to the soft light emitted by the candles at his feet. The candlelight throughout the image helps amplify the warmth of the image, but does so without taking away from the incredible colors and textures of the wall.
January 21, 2017 - Mark
Macro photography relies on all the same tools as a traditional photo - framing, composition, lighting, and the like. But working in the macro world is a whole different animal, which is why this perfect shot of these mushrooms is so impressive. The lighting is soft, yet immediately directs the eye towards the mushrooms. The level of sharpness is also on point - which can be hard to do in macro work. Note how Mark employs the rule of thirds - the tallest mushroom is aligned to the right of center, just as the rule suggests!
January 22, 2017 - Jianwei
This photo shows us how under the right conditions, a normal, everyday scene can be turned into a photo of epic proportions. Here, Jianwei uses a high perspective to look down at the subject, giving him the ability to highlight not just the person riding the bike but the long, dramatic shadow created by the setting sun as well. The low angle of sunlight also helps highlight the texture of the street, which amps up the visual interest in the shot even more.
January 23, 2017 - Paweł Uchorczak
If ever there was a picture that screamed “Fairy Tale” this has to be it. Aside from the gorgeous scenery, Paweł makes this a successful photo with his mastery of technical elements. Not only is the framing on point such that the reflection of the tower is perfectly captured, but the depth of field is also excellent. Note how all the elements in the frame have tack-sharp focus, which is exactly what you want when creating a photo of a detail-rich landscape.
January 24, 2017 - Alina Art
When selecting this photo, our editors had this to say: “Between the gorgeous golden hour lighting, the incredible vista in the background, and the unique framing that puts the subject to the far left of the frame, this is a visually stimulating portrait all the way around.” I have to agree! This is a prime example of how an environmental portrait can be so effective. Rather than placing the subject in the center of the frame, the positioning to the left allows her to become a part of a greater whole, which generates a more interesting and unique portrait.
January 25, 2017 - Gary R. Hook
Here we see the exact opposite of the previous photo, yet the result is still incredibly successful. Placing the subject in the center of the frame helps create a balanced, simple look that works beautifully with the black and white conversion. Note as well how sidelighting is used to accentuate Gary’s facial features. The result? A highly successful and dramatic self-portrait.
January 26, 2017 - Paulo
Here we see how using bright, saturated colors in a landscape photo can be incredibly successful. The key is to ensure that the other elements in the scene don’t compete with the colors, nor add too much interest that causes the photo to become overwhelming and distracting. With the smooth surface of the water and a single, strong subject in the boat, the colors of the sunset are on full display.
January 27, 2017 - Jigme Tshering
Bird photography can be a tough genre to master simply because of the type of gear required, if not for the patience that’s necessary as well. Here, Jigme is masterful with a 250mm lens, filling the frame with this gorgeous bird set in front of a deliciously blurry background. Note the placement of the bird in the frame - by shifting it slightly to left of center, the bird has “room to look into” toward the right, which gives the photo a greater feeling of depth and action.
January 28, 2017 - Destin Sparks
When you think of abstract photography, I’m guessing that a landscape isn’t the first thing you think of. Yet, Destin shows how all you need is some good lighting, a nice texture, and an eye for framing to turn a landscape into an abstract piece of art. With the image filled with virtually one color, the texture of the rocks becomes ever more important, not just for the purposes of adding visual interest but also for the purposes of creating a greater sense of depth.
January 29, 2017 - Ari Hoffman
In this beautiful photo, Ari uses fireworks to add a unique element of visual interest. The arcing bands of light add interest to the shot while also illuminating the rocks in the foreground. With a better view of the rocky shoreline, the image has improved dimension. Also note how the light from the fireworks acts as both a leading line, directing our eye towards the sky, and as a frame within a frame, containing the foreground rocks, the water, and the distant lights on the opposite shore.
January 30, 2017 - MikeClegg7
In the editorial comments on this photo, the editors noted that “This photo demonstrates how a severe perspective can be advantageous. That is, by looking up - way up - at a 90-degree angle, we’re afforded a more complete view of the buildings reaching toward the sky, which makes this a much more visually engaging image.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! When looking for interesting angles to use, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and offer viewers something that they rarely see.
January 31, 2017 - Paweł Uchorczak
This photo just goes to show that a gorgeous landscape photo can be created with good lighting and a simple subject. Here, though the oak tree is the primary subject, the manner in which the lighting falls on the rolling hills gives the image an incredible level of detail. It also helps to isolate the tree, almost making it feel lonesome on its own towards the top of the photo. Look for everyday scenes in your area and see how you can use the available light to make it more compelling.
With that, you’ve got a month’s worth of inspirational photos from some of the most inspiring photographers on PhotographyTalk.
Use these images to get your creative juices flowing, take note of the quick tips included in the description of each one, and make it a goal to create your own stunning photos. You never know...your next photo could be our next Inspirational Photo of the Day!