How can I (be) inspire(d)?

I started taking pictures of toys because of others.

At first, I had seen the work of Chris McVeigh, AvanautSmokebelch and Brett Wilson among others and what they created inspired me.

I wanted to do like them, but not exactly like them.
I was inspired but I did not want to copy.

I believe that our imagination does not have any limits so why going the simplest path and just copy the work of others.
We are creative people, so let’s create.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The creative process. Inspiration by @Ballou34 on #StuckInPlastic” quote=”‘There are really three parts to the creative process. First there is inspiration, then there is the execution, and finally there is the release.’ – Eddie Van Halen”]

Let’s focus on the first part.
What are my inspirations?
How do I get my ideas?

What is my recipe for making pictures?
What are the ingredients that inspire me?

As I said in my last post, I can get photo ideas everywhere so I write them down not to forget them. My ideas arrive when I don’t expect them: at work during a boring meeting (the best time I get my mind to float away…), during my daily commutes, in my shower (I don’t have waterproof sticky notes, though), … 

As soon as my mind has a chance to escape, I can have inspiration coming in. (Exhale, inspire, breathe…)

Is that what an idea looks like?      –     (For this picture, I was inspired by one of my first picture, which is still one of my favorite: Wall-E)


My ideas often revolves around 3 majors points:

LocationCharactersMood (MY mood).



The location is really important because it will dictate the story.

Should I take my pictures in studio or should I take them outside?
Using the same concept in different locations will not create necessarily the same stories.

If I am going outside, do I want the place where I am to be fully recognizable in the background or do I only want to use foreground details?

Do I only want to use the light and environment colors?

Light is a key element in any composition. I tend to prefer natural lighting. It gives a nice glow to your picture, especially at golden hour. It is also challenging because it is constantly changing. So, you always have to be on your toes, and a nice sunlight can inspire you a beautiful picture. Also, to be honest I still have to learn and improve how to light my scenes properly at home. I’ll try work on that this year (I promise).

When I am travelling, I am influenced by the place/country/culture of where I am. I have the opportunity to travel around the world for work, in various environments. So, when I know where I am going, I immediately think of the scenery I may encounter and what types of creations I could do. For example, if I know that I am going to a place with sandy beaches, I will more easily see my characters having a swim or lie down in the sand instead of skiing,… Except if this is for a comedic purpose and supports the story I want to tell. (I know that you can also do sand skiing… but you get my point)

I always plan my minifigures depending on the destination, either fitting perfectly in the environment or, on the opposite, being completely out of place. So, location is a great source of inspiration.



I find it easier to tell stories with characters. I have done pictures with accessories only and I liked them a lot, but I still often use minifigures in my pictures.

For those characters, looking back at my photo library, I noted that I have a tendency to often take them from the same universes. It is either the Lego classic spacemen from the 80’s, Star Wars characters, Batman and other super heroes, pirates, Indiana Jones, Pandas…

My inspirations are mainly coming from movies or comics. And when I use characters from a very well known universe, such as  Batman or stormtroopers, I like to give them a twist. Their worlds are so codified that I prefer to see them in “unusual” situations. Unusual for them, but sometimes very common for us.

As I use my own life to inspire my work, I will also use those characters to represent myself. Am I not a Batman in some way? Bruce Wayne in my everyday life and Batman when I carry a camera? (OK, I don’t really fight crime with it…)

Character inspiration     –     (It is not visible in this picture, but it was actually taken at the BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France), the French national library, where books are full of characters that can inspire us all – You can also notice that I was inspired by my 100_shadows project)



Your mood always influences what you do and how you do it.

It is of course the case when you are doing photography or toy photography. Your mood will define intrinsically the feel of your picture. You will more easily tell a happy story through your picture when you are happy yourself. It is much more natural.

For example, I took a picture of a mime in Paris. And when I looked back at my picture afterwards, I found it in the end “not particularly interesting”. What disturbed me was the fact that the mime was happy. And that day, with my state of mind at that time, it did not work for me. He had to be sad. It was too late to retake the picture as I was already back home, so I took one of is eyebrows and replaced his mouth with it. I call this picture “The hard life of the mimeand it is one of my favorite. I prefer him sad, because that was me at that time.


And finally Music. I know that it was not listed before as part of the three main steps of my inspiration process but when I go on my photowalks alone (like in most cases) or when I am at home working on a picture, I always put on some music. The playlist that I select depends on my mood, so it is linked a lot to my previous point. It will help me focus and get the appropriate feel for my picture.

If you want to know, my current playlist is composed of La la land soundtrack, Woodkid, Radiohead, Avicii, Electric Light Orchestra, Scissor Sisters, AbbaVery varied styles.

I believe that life is better with music.
So, I always have some music playing in the background of my thoughts.

Inspiration – What will be my next idea?


But, in the end, inspiration is a tough animal to tame. It does not let itself be caught easily. At first you struggle to find it, well hidden around you and the more you practice and play with it the easier it gets.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working. – Pablo Picasso” quote=”‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.’ – Pablo Picasso”]

It’s not always easy to start a photoshoot session. You struggle to find the first idea. But after a while, the (good) ideas start flowing and the process seems more natural. During your walk around, each gravel you find tells you a story. Each puddle you see makes a beautiful mirror into another universe.

Inspiration is a beautiful thing.
So, let be inspired, let inspire others and create.

I hope my story will inspire you.

~Juilen / @Ballou34


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7 years ago

So far I’ve never been aware whether my own mood at the time of shooting a pic is presented in an image. I’ll make a sticky note and try to use it next week to see what my workflow is (or whether there is one at all?). Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

7 years ago

Another great post, Julien. I learn a lot from you guys and see what drives you. I am not a big music groupie. I like music, and will for sure pick up a few names (not ABBA) from your music list (ahh, another list we can make, inspirational music) but normally when I shoot, I do that in silence. The sound of music actually distracts me. And the quote about boring big Inc meetings, really made me smile. You actually touched on a few words to come later in our journey, so I am sure we will revisit this post!… Read more »

7 years ago
Reply to  Boris

I’ll totally add to the list of inspiring music. Guessing I could start my own. There are sooo many great, inspirational tracks…

7 years ago

I wish I could listen to music while taking photos but like Boris, it’s too much a distraction. I was used to multitask and always listen to music while doing something else, but now I can’t anymore. I get too excited about music and lose focus. However I like listening to music when traveling alone, afterward there’s always a couple of songs that will get linked in my mind with the location and will always remind of the place. In particular if I want to remember what it was to be like in Montreal or Seattle, I know what songs… Read more »

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