Keep a reference file.
In my Lightroom catalog, I keep a folder in my collections called “REFERENCE.” It’s a folder of images I’ve shot that I think are ideas that could be further improved or even turned into a new project. Most importantly, these are my photos. I shot them. They are my ideas.
This is completely different from looking on Pinterest or searching on Google for references from other photographers. Your reference folder is made up of images you created yourself. I’ve noticed this provides a confidence and inspiration boost, simply because you know you could come up with original ideas yourself without having to look out to see what everybody else is doing.
Instead, you can look in.
References photos are often the mistakes or throwaways. These photos are the ones where someone accidentally walked into the frame, where the lighting was off, or where the image was slightly off focus. Usually, happy accidents are the birthplaces for new ideas, projects, and series.
So, the next time you look back on your images, throw these accidents into your reference folder instead of the trash. Think of it as creating a compost pile. At first glance, your “bad photos” may seem like garbage but when put together, it could be fertile ground for greater work to emerge.
by Jason Lam