PICTURE this. You've cranked up the computer, connected to the internet and are searching for great photographs that will inspire you to try harder.
Give Flickr, Picasa and Facebook a miss. You'll waste a lot of time looking for the gems among the dross. Go straight to 500px.com or 1x.com. These are the sites where the ultra-talented put their work.
First look at 500px (you say: ''500 pixels'' - which in the olden days was considered about the right size for a photograph on the web). It's a Canadian photo-sharing and marketing website that attracts spectacular work from photographers around the world.
It is not clear how the high standard is maintained, except that there is a sorting process based on viewers' votes for individual photos. If a photo makes it into the ''popular'' category or the ''editors' pick'', it will be noticed.
The technical standards of these photos are high, in many cases making you wonder how they do it. But there are 6 million photos hosted on 500px, so there is a lot of sameness and you can't escape the impression that there is a certain lifelessness of perfection about them. Still, it's well worth regular visits to see what's new. We check in at least once a week.
Meanwhile, 1x.com is a Swedish photo-sharing site with the distinction of being curated. They say only one in 20 submitted photographs impresses the judges enough to be passed for exhibition. The standards are high indeed. These are consistently the best images on the internet.
Melbourne photographer Bill Gekas has his work displayed on 1x.com. His speciality is portraiture in general but his most dazzling work is a subset of the genre.
Gekas has taken an idea - to make photographs that mimic the painting of the Dutch, Flemish and Italian 17th-century masters - and played with it to great effect. This concept is neither novel nor unique, but his execution of it certainly is (billgekas.com).
Using various models, including his five-year-old daughter, Gekas has brilliantly re-imagined the masters, replicating the lighting style for which they are famous. The so-called Rembrandt lighting is characterised by strong window light falling on one side of the subject's face and body, producing shadows amid a rich glow. Gekas uses artificial light to simulate the admired window-lighting effect.
Not surprisingly, some of Gekas' photos have won prizes in international photography competitions. He is also the subject of a photographer profile in the latest issue of the free magazine f11 (go to f11magazine.com to register and download issue 17).
Which brings us back to the beginning. Asked where he gets his inspiration, Gekas says: ''The internet is a huge inspiration … [photographers] are doing awesome stuff that we wouldn't normally see, if not for the internet.''