Articles Tagged with: Inspiration

Photography Resolutions 2017


So a new year. No doubt you’re thinking about what you want to develop and experience in 2017.

I’ve never been a stickler for the usual resolutions of diet and detox, but I do make a check list of things that are going to keep expanding my creativity and craft across the next 12 months.

Even so, I hold these things lightly. If they don’t all happen, that’s ok – the important ones will rise to the surface.

Maybe some of these will chime with you.

Keep A Lighting Notebook/Scrapbook.

The more I photograph, the more aware I become of the beauty and complexity of light. It is after all the basic ‘building block’ of photography. Thing is, there’s always room to learn more about it. Both natural light and the artificial variety. It’s an infinitely endless subject: how light changes through a given time and across different surfaces, how to manipulate it to best effect both indoors and out. This year it’s time to delve even deeper into light through natural observation, lighting diagrams and practical experiments. So I’m keeping a lighting notebook where I can collect my observations, and the observations of other photographers and artists, through notes, cuttings and ‘sketch’ photo’s. And translate that learning to my photography.


There’s probably lots of you out there who have physically exhibited your work in some way. I’ve never done it. But it’s one way to get out of the comfort zone. For a start it will mean printing much more of my photo output than I normally do. I usually only see my work in print when it’s been shot for client use. Plus we all know how easy it is these days to only see photographs on a screen of some kind. And it has to be said that a physical print is so much more satisfying. Indeed, it will make me more conscious of the techniques I’m using to make and  develop images. There’s also the gift of meeting an audience/community face-to-face and having the opportunity to observe the response to your images: are they are speaking to people or not? Something that’s impossible to truly gauge via social media ‘likes’.

Give away more.

It’s not always about the bottom line. There’s always room to give something away. It’s important. I’ve always done it and 2017 will be the year I do more of it. Over deliver. Offer skills and learning to someone for free. Give away a shoot every so often. I’ve noticed that whenever I do give something away something else comes along that gives back to me – a new opportunity, a booking, whatever! Funny how that works. So, give it away in 2017 – your time, your skills, whatever you’re comfortable with . . .

Draw, paint and collage more.

This is about experimentation. Throwing out any notion of a ‘final’ product and instead going with the unexpected. Playing. Following what is suggested and being open to it. Especially by putting unrelated things together or combining differing types of media. In the long run I find it helps generate ideas, and develops my image-making in unexpected ways. Often I’m using prints of my own work to cut-up or alter in some way. Other sources are magazines and newspapers, things found on the street, and random bits of text or notes that come to mind.

Travel more.

I’ve just come back from a flying visit to Berlin in Germany. And it made me realise something: when you’re a sole trader/freelancer travel for travel’s sake often gets forgotten. Sure we get to do it for work from time to time, but that’s not the same. Deliberately heading out on a journey is good for the mind, body and emotions. Deliberately setting out with an eye to embrace the new and unknown is also part and parcel of photographic and creative learning. Exposure to diversity, difference and change. Paramount experiences for this photographer.

Develop personal projects.

In 2016, I started developing a number of projects in collaboration with other photographers and crafts-people. The process has been a wonderful thing: challenging, inspiring etc. It expands critical skills as we look at our own work in the context of working alongside fellow practitioners. It improves technical and organisational skills. When you drill down into a project theme it’s surprising what that process fulfils in terms of expanding the creative ideas you have, the subjects you’re interested in, and altering the approach to the way you work. It also reduces the sense of isolation we can often feel as photographers.

Get to know local people and  businesses.

Since moving to Brighton in early 2016, I’ve made an effort to devote time to getting to know local people and businesses. Their experiences, likes and dislikes. Seeking out where we chime together and where we differ. Not necessarily because they might become clients, but because relationship development is one of the key strengths of being a photographer. Especially in such divisive times. Maybe it’s part of the natural curiosity photographers have? Also, on a personal level, I’m an introvert so it’s a good way for me to challenge how that affects my relationships. Making a concerted effort to get out and meet people locally in 2017 will, I hope, make it a less divisive and more relational year. One that is likely to reap benefits that aren’t only about the bottom line.

Choose Yourself.

Authenticity. Being yourself. Not doing what other people are doing or following a ‘formula’. It’s the only way to keep us away from the distinct move toward homogeneity that we see in the world in various forms at the moment. I’m a huge fan of James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. It got me through the early years of my calling as a photographer when I was floundering in the dark. It taught me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and listen to my instinct. Not that the need for that ever fully stops. I find myself going back to Altucher’s book regularly to keep me inspired and motivated about who I am and what I’m doing. If you’ve never heard of James Altucher, check him out here or better still read the book.

Replace a certain four-letter word.

What word is that? W-O-R-K. This resolution is one that I’m really conscious of and already practising. Partly because it’s a promise that both my wife and I made to each other on New Years Day. But mainly because we want to re-frame what we do in our businesses as forms of exploration or play. And as words are powerful things, especially the word ‘work’ with all it’s connotations of duty, routine and drudgery, it’s an empowering thing to challenge. So words like craft, calling, skill, practice, and activity are going to replace that four letter word.

So those are my little declarations to the self as the year begins. Be great to hear what yours are.

Happy New Year…

All images © James Bellorini 2016. All rights reserved.

I’m a commercial and editorial photographer. I started shooting full-time in 2013. Subsequently I have worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: The National Theatre, Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 I joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers and I’m a founding member of the photography collective RISE. 


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What do you do with your old magazines or newspapers? Or (if like me you’re a photographer) your discarded contact sheets and unused prints that won’t ever see the light of day? Or even random bits of printed matter that catch your eye lying around on the street? Well call me old-fashioned, but I still gather them into what once upon a time we used to call scrapbooks.

I wasn’t even sure if scrapbooks still existed when I began writing this post (although I suppose Pinterest is a digital version of sorts), but a quick search on Amazon threw up a slew of very fancy versions so I guess they are still ‘a thing’.

Anyway, if you don’t know what one is, basically the idea is to collect your scraps and cutouts, get jiggy with glue and/or tape, and paste them into your book how you want. It’s lo-fi curation at it’s most hands on and tactile. But more than that it’s also a great form of creative freewheeling and play.

I tend to cut up a lot of my own work and use it quite brutally. In fact, as you can see from the images above, I often score and scratch the surfaces with a knife and then paint over them. Maybe that’s a healthy form of deconstruction?

I also give vent to verbal imagery and thoughts that don’t follow any logic or might rise as a suggestion from what I’ve pasted together. A kind of automatic writing.

And yes I confess to appropriating some found imagery and using it in contexts that wouldn’t normally be their home, so apologies if anyone out there is offended. I’m not making any money from them but using them because they are usually visually striking or speak to me in some way.

Anyway if cutting things up and sticking them in over-sized books appeals to you, I recommend it as a creative tool. It helps ‘out of the box’ thinking, breaks down ideas that have been stuck, preconceptions, or points to new directions. It also helps remove preciousness or perfectionism which in my case can only be a good thing.

Mostly though the value of a scrapbook is simply in the doing, the cutting and pasting, a form of collecting and ‘doodling’. The joy is enough.

Why am I highlighting this today in terms of my image making?

Well, recently I’ve given myself permission to try to unlearn elements of my practice as a photographer (and my ‘learned’ historic creativity in general) – to try to see again after half a lifetime of believing I was ‘seeing’. I’m hoping this will alter and improve my creative output. The scrapbook process is really helpful here. It’s pure playing. Trying to leap over or around logic and reason. And it often throws up unexpected things: unique juxtapositions, project ideas, a ‘hook’ or theme, who knows. 

One thing I have noticed is that a scrapbook distills the symbols and visual elements that I find appealing. It generates a kind of personal lexicon or dictionary and that is great to mine elsewhere in my work.

So forgive my indulgence in showing some pages here from my scrapbooks, but I hope that this might be impetus enough to send you on a quest to start (or keep going with) your own.

Actually there’s a great book called Photographer’s Sketchbooks published by Thames & Hudson that’s worth checking out – I’m not alone!!

So is there anyone else out there that indulges this passion for scrapbooks? I’d love to hear from you or better still share some of your pages if you can.

All images © James Bellorini 2015

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.  


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