9 Ideas for Your Conceptual Photos (with examples)

January 20

13 min. to read

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Want to dive into the world of conceptualism but don't know where to start? I’m here to help!

In this article, I will talk about what are concept photos and share some ideas that, I hope, will inspire you to experiment on your own.

Concept photography: definition and features

The main thing to know about the conceptual image is that it is based on a concept or idea. Whereas a documentary photographer uses a camera to capture the moment, and an artist-photographer tries to convey the aesthetics of the world around him, a conceptual photographer wants to say something with his shots that cannot always be expressed in words.

Photo concepts don't always have to look pretty. Of course, this is not a rule, but if the idea requires it, you can ignore the rules of composition, the quality of the shot, the story your photo tells, and other things that the viewer usually pays attention to: the main thing is that the photography concept ideas are understandable.

9 Ideas for Your Conceptual Photos (with examples) Image1

“Three chairs” by Josef Kosuth

For example, take a look at this example of conceptual photography by Josef Kosuth. Is it beautiful? Hardly, but the idea is easy to read here. The author explores the nature of art, asking us to figure out what we mean by saying the word "chair" and which is more "chair" of the three presented: a real chair, a definition of a chair from a dictionary, or a photograph of a chair.

It is also essential to understand that conceptualism is not a genre or type of photography. This is a way of thinking, and the image is only a carrier of the idea you want to convey. Therefore, it can be conceptual portrait photography, landscapes, still lifes, street, self-portraits, surreal shoots, etc.

Now that we've got that out of the way let's look at a few concept creative photoshoot ideas.

Get creative with photo shoot concepts: useful tips

Here are some conceptual photography ideas that can be your starting point in finding your own unique style. Please note that originality is the main thing in the originality. Those are all of the following, but this is not a guide to action, just a few examples to push you to your own brilliant ideas.

Take a series of photos

One photo can convey an idea, but sometimes it's much more expressive to take a series of shots. For example, a series of photographs of the same bus stop at different times can convey the stories of many people and make the viewer wonder where they are going and for what purpose, what drives them and what excites them. It is not always necessary to take deep creative artistic portrait photography to tell the person`s story. Find a potent metaphor that can be a red line that cuts across all facets of your photoshoot concepts and ideas. This will help you make the thought more understandable.

Try to go beyond the laws of physics

9 Ideas for Your Conceptual Photos (with examples) Image2

Photo by Filips Halsmans

The surreal style is a technique used by many conceptual photographers. Make things fly that can't fly; put an entire city in a coffee can... That's the first thing that came to my mind, but I guess you get the idea. Violating the laws of physics will make the viewer feel uncomfortable and wonder why it looks the way it does and what lies behind it.

This may seem a slightly more difficult task since you will have to master professional photo editing software. But you can break the laws of physics without post-processing at all, for example, by building a composition in such a way as to create unnatural proportions of objects.

If your photo concept ideas are too complex and you can't do it without editing, I can suggest using Luminar Neo software. This artificial intelligence program makes it easy to bring even the most complex idea to life. AI algorithms help you create absolute magic with just a few clicks: change colors and lighting, move objects, and distort shapes... All this is quickly done in Luminar Neo. In addition, there is a separate set of tools in the "Creative" tab so that you can do tricks that take a lot of time when editing in other programs, such as completely changing the sky.

Try to catch a photo in the photo

I have already shown you "Three chairs" by Josef Kosuth. This photograph, like many works of conceptual art, explores the art itself and its perception by humans. Other typical examples are old photographs of locations against the background of the same locations today or photos of the camera`s viewfinder. Yes, it has become commonplace, but it's still a great example of creative photo shoot concepts that you can use to create something new.

9 Ideas for Your Conceptual Photos (with examples) Image3

Study Art History

9 Ideas for Your Conceptual Photos (with examples) Image4

Photo by Jeff Wall (top) and surimono by Katsushika Hokusai (bottom)

Here is a unique example: conceptual images by Jeff Wall refer the viewer to the famous surimono (classic Japanese woodcut) by Katsushika Hokusai. It should be noted that this is probably the most understandable work of Wall and, as a result, the most famous. The author lures you, as it were, by showing you a conceptual photograph, the language of which is understandable to you because it is the language of modernist photography familiar to us. Its conceptuality is manifested in a dialogue with the history of art: Japanese engraving combined with a modernist photographic language. This is another great example of how conceptions in photography explore themselves.

Feel free to scare or confuse

Sometimes, to realize a bold idea, you need to show the viewer not the most pleasant things, so don't be shy. People are used to being in their comfort zones. Push them out of there and impress them with your extraordinary ideas.

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Don't be afraid of hard lighting

Hard light is a type of lighting in which the boundary between light and shadow is clearly visible. Many photographers avoid this light because it is challenging to work with, but it can create a theatrical effect and make your photo stand out even more.

Please note that when working out the photoshoot concept for models, you should also consider his / her wishes. Some people don't like how they look in hard light.

9 Ideas for Your Conceptual Photos (with examples) Image6

Use Archetypes

As you let your creativity run wild, don't forget that your photo should be understandable to the viewer. Therefore, it is very appropriate to use archetypes to convey the idea as accurately as possible. It doesn't have to be the most apparent metaphors like "lion for strength," "dog for loyalty," etc. Think, for example, of the mirror's role in art and folklore and try to refresh this idea.

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Exploit topics that are meaningful to society

Sometimes photography concepts list steps into interdisciplinary zones with one foot, exploring issues close to contemporary art: everyday life, man and society, environmental change, migration, globalization, media, and society. It dialogues with modern philosophy, religion, science, psychology, sociology, politics, etc. By exploiting these themes, you can create significant work that will resonate in the minds of your viewers. For example, the excellent photoshoot concepts for a female shed light on women's problems in a patriarchal society.

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Edit your photos

Concept art photography provides many opportunities for self-expression. And the capabilities of modern photo processing programs, such as Luminar Neo, allow you to realize even the most daring and extraordinary ideas. Unfortunately, the camera can't always capture what you see with your eyes, and the real world can't always produce scenes that your imagination can produce. Therefore, I strongly recommend not neglecting this opportunity because now, in the age of globalization and quick access to information, your photos can be lost among thousands of others.

Luminar Neo software is the perfect assistant that will allow you to stay afloat in the world of conceptual art:

  • firstly, you will be able to quickly process your photos thanks to artificial intelligence and the automation of many processes;
  • secondly, Luminar Neo itself is a source of inspiration, as it provides many opportunities not only for improving images but also for their creative processing. That is, you can not only blur the background or adjust the white balance, but also add fog, change the sky, enhance the photo with bright sunlight, create fantastic collages and surreal art, etc.

As for me, Luminar Neo is absolutely a great thing for any photographer, whether he shoots concept or fine art.

Final thoughts

Dear readers, conceptual photography is a complex and multifaceted area that you can talk and write about for hours, but it is best to try to understand and feel it on your own. Perhaps I did not mention some subtleties or missed something important in your opinion, but unfortunately, it is impossible to say everything about conceptual photos in one article. So for now I just hope my pieces of advice will inspire you to explore your own creativity. 

By the way, what are your favorite concept pictures?

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