Conceptual photography is described as a genre where the photographer attempts to capture an idea or concept in a photo. You have a message or story you are trying to convey through an image and, more often than not, this takes preparation for the shot to be a success. It challenges your creativity and imagination, highlighting artistic expression rather than simply technical expertise.
Conceptual photography presents a message
Many photos present the subject in a straightforward manner, what you see is what you get. Although these may be perfectly lighted and composed, there is nothing more to them apart from being a pretty photograph. Conceptual photos, on the other hand, usually present a strong message that is hard to ignore. Sometimes the message isn’t simple and clear, which entices you to look deeper at the nuances of the shot. It could be open to various types of interpretations.
Photo by Seyed Mostafa Zamani
Conceptual shots usually trigger an emotional response
One of the objectives of conceptual photography is to evoke an emotional response from the viewer. This can be done through many ways. For example, you can present “ordinary” objects in a different light. With the use of interesting composition, these can suddenly take on a deeper meaning.
Photo by Felipe Gabaldon
Lighting, mood, and colors can also greatly impact the viewer to connect with the shot. Bright and colorful scenes can make one feel completely different compared to when looking at dark and muted tones. Each element in a conceptual photograph, from the focal point to the negative space to even the image orientation, is carefully planned to elicit a reaction.
Photo by IPOX Studios
Where concept photography can be seen
Conceptual photos can be used in commercial photography for advertising and marketing. Many print ads make use of clever conceptual photos to get their message across and entice the audience to buy their product or use their service. Conceptual photos can also be found in fine art galleries where they are hung on walls to be admired by artists and analyzed by critics.
They can also be creations of photo hobbyists who want to flex their imagination or break some photographic rules to express their desires, fears, and uncontainable joy. Many of these may not have perfect lighting or sharpness, but will usually be filled with raw visual appeal. They are fascinating precisely because of their “imperfections”.
Photo by Srta. Gómez
Conceptual photo tips:
Now that the digital age brought about affordable and convenient digital cameras that show instant results, more and more people are using photography as a vehicle for artistic expression. If you are planning to try conceptual photography, here are some tips to get you started:
- Know your camera and the compositional elements before you break them. Understand the concept and uses of the Rule of Thirds, converging lines, patterns, lighting techniques, exposure settings, etc. These are your tools to create a good photo, and whether you use them or not will greatly affect the outcome of your shot.
Photo by Thesolarium
- Don’t let your camera stop you from creating conceptual photos. It doesn’t matter much whether you have a cheap point and shoot or a high-end DSLR, you can still take fantastic conceptual shots with it. For example, even a 2mp iPhone camera, such as the one used for this image below, is sufficient as long as you work with its limitations and advantages.
Photo by Kristine Hojilla
- Be creative in getting your message across in your shot. Brainstorm by jotting down possible compositions and do not be your own worst critic by killing baby ideas before they have a chance to grow.
- Always keep your audience in mind. Ask yourself who you are sending this visual message to and how you would want them to react. Is it for children or adults? Is the message clear in your photo? Questions like this can help guide you in improving your conceptual photograph.