Sources of Inspiration


Kimberly Smith
Texas School Instructor

Have you ever had a dream that felt so real, so vivid that you questioned whether it actually happened or not? The emotions sometimes can leave you with feelings of regret for waking up too soon, wishing the story could have continued. Yet, later in the day, the dream begins to fade, leaving holes in your memory. The mind is a crazy thing. We think we will never forget important details, but we do.

I have learned, (the hard way, unfortunately) that when I have a dream, an idea, anything that truly sparks my imagination, it has to be written down, recorded, documented… or it could be lost forever. We have an amazing tool at our fingertips for recording those thoughts and it’s called a cell phone. “Back in the day” it would have required a notebook or tape recorder and sometimes pulling over while driving just to write it down. Ahhh… technology.

So when I hear or see something that inspires me, I quickly type it into my notes or do a screenshot and save it on my phone. There… it’s done. There is no need to rely on my fading memory. This has been something I have done for the last eight years. As you can imagine, there are a “few” ideas on my phone though, on occasion, some eventually get weeded out.

The thing is, when it’s time for me to start working on competition images or when I’m teaching or when I just want to do something creative for a client, going through those thoughts and images gets my mind going in the right direction. I never want to copy what someone else has done, so the goal is to make it my own. It’s called inspiration, not duplication.

In the image called “Nesting” my inspiration image was from a close up of a girl with hair done similarly. That’s where the comparison ends. The image was created in one of my private workshops I did at my studio in Muskogee, Oklahoma. My goal in a workshop is to show as many things as I can on how I create an image from start to finish. So here’s how my thought process goes…

I love birds so I knew I wanted to incorporate them into the image. I have several bird images photographed at the zoo. So I built a nest from some materials that were purchased at Hobby Lobby and found some eggs to
add into the mix.

The hair was my inspiration, so what can be added that will tie in to the nest, birds and eggs? I decided on some twigs. Some were added to her hair before I started photographing her. I had purchased some horrible clothes from the Salvation Army for a whopping $4. I liked the style of the clothes, color wasn’t important as I was planning to show how I change that so the worse it looks, the better. I wanted bell style sleeves and couldn’t find what I wanted so I cut them off of another shirt and tucked them into her sleeves.

On my way to the studio that day I noticed my neighbor had a few limbs down in their yard so I grabbed them to use in the background. Hey, it was a win-win! They didn’t have to haul them off and I got a prop! And, most importantly, it was free. So now I had something to add interest to the image, tying the bird theme into my background and giving a nice landing for one of the birds to perch on.

I wanted her dress to have a Renaissance feel to it so that gave me the direction I needed for the outfit. While teaching, I started painting the collar out because I wanted it to be bigger. But in sticking with my theme,
I realized that feathers would be a nice addition.

It’s a process. It builds on as you go. Sometimes I have the whole idea in my head. Sometimes it doesn’t work and I end up going a whole different direction. You just have to keep an open mind and be willing to add or change as you go.

Creativity may not be your strong area, but the more you work at it, the easier it will come, as with most things.  I saw this quote recently…
“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally. It comes from what you do consistently.” That’s good stuff. So Practice. Practice again. And then practice some more. Finally, when you think you’ve got it, keep going… because you’re just getting warmed up.

Kimberly J. Smith began her professional photography career in 2001 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She is a Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman, Master Artist, and CPP. Kimberly truly believes in lifelong learning and that every competition and every journey to a new degree has pushed her to become a better, more creative photographer. She will be teaching a class, “The Artist Within,” at the 2021 Texas School of Professional Photography. Learn more about her at and