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Conceptual photography aims to express some idea or concept through photos. As in other forms of conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the creation process.
Although there are many approaches to conceptual photography, most conceptual photographers communicate an idea through photograph staging and editing.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pinpoint what makes conceptual photography conceptual photography. In other words, there’s a lot of debate about the definition of this photographic niche. Due to the difficulty in defining conceptual photography, it could be difficult to get started in the niche.
To help you out, we have found 34 conceptual ideas that could get you inspired. These photographs artfully demonstrate the idea behind conceptual photography so you can get started in your own creative sphere. Take a look.
This portrait shows how to take a standard portrait shot and turn it into something else entirely. If you follow the link, you will see a number of other portraits that used this fishbowl technique with other portrait shots. Some shots include other light, water, and different fish. If you are looking for a conceptual image that involves portraits, this could be a great inspiration for you.
Perception shows how you can manipulate an image to tell a story. In this photo specifically, no people are used, but the shot is breathtaking and expresses something incredibly problematic in our society. This shot is a great inspiration for individuals who want to be digital artists in addition to photographers. Be sure to look at the rest of the photographs in this collection to get a full look at what Perception has to offer.
Technology is a huge issue in today’s society. This photo is a great example of how you can use conceptual photography to talk about pressing issues in our society that are understandable and palatable to everyone.
You can also see how conceptual photography is used for lucrative gains since this picture specifically is found in Reader’s Digest Canada. Use this photo as inspiration for conceptual photography, as well as an example of how your conceptual photography can reach more people.
When some people think of conceptual photography, they imagine photographs that are weird and unique looking. Although this is true, conceptual photography can be stunning as well.
This picture is dark and dreamlike, making it a great example of conceptual photography. At the same time, it is absolutely breathtaking and is something that anyone could appreciate in terms of beauty.
While the photo above is downright beautiful, this one is definitely eerie. It is found in Aesthetica Magazine for its unique appearance. A flock of arms is reaching out almost like blades of grass. The photographer wants audiences to stop, pause, and consider when they are looking at this photograph. You can have the same sort of message using your conceptual photographs.
This photograph is definitely eerie and creepy looking. It is something that could be found in a horror film, but it also expertly exemplifies conceptual photography as well. This photograph was featured in T Magazine Spain in June of 2018, further showing that conceptual photography is well sought after and well needed within the photography community.
Much like the above picture, this one is pretty creepy looking. However, it expresses something that is a lot scarier than the picture first implies. This fact means that this picture beautifully portrays the idea behind all conceptual photography—the idea that photography can express deeper ideas, much like other art forms.
This photo is absolutely breathtaking. It is something that could easily be found in a modern rendition of Alice in Wonderland or some other fantasy film. The great thing about this picture is that the photographer even offers some tutorial and image editing advice using this picture as an example. So, definitely check out this picture if you want to learn more about conceptual photography.
Phobia is a lot like a few others on this list in style and design. Dozens of hands are coming out, reaching for the main individual. This photo itself is a good example of conceptual photography, but its photographer has many other conceptual photographs to check out as well.
This photo shows that conceptual photography can have the same staging as regular photography but with a conceptual twist. Without the extra fabric, you could imagine this photograph showing two lovers, but the extra fabric changes the picture entirely. Use this picture as inspiration for how to take a normal photo and change it to look conceptual.
Shadow shows how conceptual photography can turn an idea into reality. Much like painting, you can use your imagination to lead the way and alter the photograph using editing. Conceptual photographs like this one take some effort to perfect, but they’re worth the effort and time.
This photo is inspired by the dystopian idea of merging the machine with humans. This photoshoot is complete through makeup, lighting, and editing. Needless to say, it perfectly embodies what conceptual photography is about. It also shows that conceptual photography can be cutting edge, technique, and technologically advanced.
This photograph is downright eerie to look at. It takes a lot of skill and creativity to pull off a conceptual photograph like this one. Because of the technique and imagination behind this photo, the photograph makes a great example for individuals wanting to dabble in conceptual photography.
Conceptual photography isn’t always about going to the extreme. You can use simple items found around your home to create a dramatic conceptual photograph. This image simply uses a paper bag and makeup to express a well-executed idea.
Conceptual photography doesn’t always have to be over the top in terms of editing and props. Instead, it can be all about camera angling and background. This picture is in a series about grief. The photos in this collection are stunning and beautifully exemplified grief, but they take a unique approach to it.
This is a part of Marlena Wells’ portfolio. This picture has everything you could want from conceptual photography and more, including editing, interesting staging, and unique props. As a result, this photograph is deep and encourages the viewer to continue looking at the image.
Blind with Anger is an example of conceptual photography that relies heavily on editing. This photo almost looks like an adult take on a scene from Harry Potter. At the same time, it is a scene that everyone can relate to.
Whenever you first get started in conceptual photography, learning how to stage a conceptual photograph is key. This picture is a great example of how your props and layout largely determine how your conceptual photograph will come out. You can use this photograph as inspiration about how to use other pieces of your work within your own conceptual photography.
Much conceptual photography is dark, creepy, and unsettling, but it doesn’t always have to be. Industry and Nature is one example of how conceptual photography can look bright but express a more serious topic. Plus, this photograph shows how a simple visual production can create an interesting photograph no one has seen before.
Although this photograph is untitled, it certainly should not be looked over. Using mirrors, unique angling, and natural scenery, the photographer masters conceptual photography in a subtle but attractive way. This photograph can get you inspired to think outside the box in your own conceptual photography.
This photograph perfectly embodies how conceptual photography merges traditional photography with other art forms. You can work with other artists, photographers, and painters in order to create conceptual photography that is natural, attractive, and evocative.
This is another example of conceptual photography that largely relies on editing. However, this editing is masterful because it seriously looks like the hand and heart are coming out of the mirror. At the same time, the image causes one to reflect on their own relationship with their reflection.
In contrast to Mirror, The Chosen Word does not rely super heavily on editing, though some editing is needed. All around, this photograph is simple, but it embodies the feeling that many of us have after we have been hurt by those we love and torn down by the world around us.
A lot of conceptual photography relies on natural scenery and ideas. This picture shows that conceptual photography can also rely on industrial objects, such as nails and string. In other words, your options are limitless when it comes to conceptual photography in terms of setting and props.
Whenever you are first getting involved in conceptual photography, you might feel like you do not have the skills or resources to develop highly intricate conceptual photographs. If that’s the case for you, this photo will get you inspired. With just some string and a friend, you can begin creating beautiful conceptual photographs that get people thinking.
As though we haven’t shown you enough creepy, scary photographs, this one is enough to make your skin crawl. However, the balance between the drop on the nail and the eye beautifully demonstrates the precision that goes into creating stunning conceptual photography.
This photograph almost looks like a modern take on the Mona Lisa. It proves that conceptual photography truly is an art form. Much like the Mona Lisa herself, the woman in this photograph has a peculiar face that is impossible to look away from, thanks to the creative editing of the photographer.
It can be hard to embody depression with a simple photograph unless you are using conceptual photography. This example of conceptual photography shows how you can use images to portray a sensation you feel inside.
In order to get fantastic conceptual photographs, you have to be willing to sacrifice some comfortability and resources. Take this photograph, for example. It was taken in a lake when it was extremely cold out, but the final results are breathtaking and worth the sacrifice.
This photograph is a lot like the picture Grounded we saw above. It uses natural scenery and the lower part of a person’s body. However, these two photographs are wildly different and express different feelings. This photograph shows how just slight changes in the staging can make a huge difference in the final results.
Little Daisy has an airy, ghostlike feel. This feeling comes from the staging, costuming, and editing. In other words, this photograph shows that conceptual photography relies on all aspects of the photographing process, not just one or two parts. You must get it all right in order to nail the photograph.
When it comes to conceptual photography, you have to think outside the box. This original water photography called Lake Iron proves this to be the case. It requires thinking outside of the box, as well as team members can think outside the box as well. The model in this photograph, for example, understands the goal and knows how to gently put the iron on the lake as a result.
In the modern day and age, it seems that everyone is getting carried away with work. This photograph expresses that concept perfectly in how the paperwork is literally carrying away the individual. This photograph relies heavily on editing and staging to get the best final result.
Finally, the last photo we are going to look at is Bet There. Be There is about how you have to be there for yourself, even when no one else is. You can express this idea in a number of ways, but the photographer decided to do it using a mirrored reflection.
One of the most difficult parts of being a conceptual photographer is developing conceptual photography ideas. Because the idea is the most important part of the photograph, it’s imperative to develop a good concept around which the photo revolves.
As with all art, there’s no one size fits all approach to coming up with great conceptual photography ideas. For some photographers, the ideas come naturally. For others, the ideas take a little bit more work.
If you’re having trouble coming up with conceptual photography ideas, go out in the world to think about concepts that need to be discussed. You can think back on your own life, consider the lives around you, or even look at the world at large for inspiration.
Once you have the concept in mind, you have to tailor the shoot around that idea entirely. That involves selecting the best equipment, choosing the right location, and handpicking the perfect models to best express the concept.
Now that you know what conceptual photography entails and have seen some examples of it, you can begin crafting your own conceptual photography shoots. Although conceptual photography can be difficult or awkward at first, it is something that provides a lot of creativity and opportunity to grow. Good luck!
Featured Image Credit: fran_kie, Shutterstock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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