Taking Better Photos – The Concept

Take Better Photographs

Taking better photos means having an idea, a concept, a reason for capturing an image. This doesn’t have to be an intellectual artistic message. It can be the reason behind a simple holiday snap.

I recently took part in a critique where a photographer put up a technically perfect but aesthetically boring picture of a nude. He commented that he had no concept or message when taking the picture but would like to do more ‘artistic’ work. I suggested, as nicely as possible, that if he worked on having the former then the latter might naturally flow.

I always suggest to my students that they have a concept or reason for taking a picture. This doesn’t have to be a highly intellectual artistic message which will emphasise the need for world peace it can be as simple as documenting a walk or taking a portrait that tells the viewer something about that person.

Think about a simple holiday snap. The reason for taking it may simply to provide a record of the place you visited which is perfectly valid. But as soon as we add the idea of showing that it was really pretty, or a complete dump, what a good time we had, the people we met or even how much we drank the dynamics of our picture taking change. We are trying to produce a picture in response to our feelings about a place and convey an idea. As soon as you as a photographer start to work towards a specific theme or concept the creation process becomes much more interesting and creative.

Chania fish market is described by travel writers as loud, bustling and chaotic. I wanted to try convey some of this energy. Getting in closer the action produced better photos that the standard tourist view.

Explore People and Places Folios

Unfortunately this doesn’t prevent you from producing a picture that the majority of viewers think is crap but, and it’s a big but, if you are happy with the result, it conveys what you wanted to show then stick with it. Monet, Van Gogh and Cezanne didn’t get rave reviews at first.

Because digital photography is an instant process many photographers think that, with luck, they may go out and take that award winning picture today although they are not quite sure where or what of. Most artists have an idea, work on sketches and then create various canvases to explore that idea. Great photographers do the same.

Read an interview with a landscape photographer. They will say that they scout locations, think where the light will be at different times of day, examine what they want to convey about the landscape and then make several visits until they achieve the result they want.

Take better photos - have a concept in mind. Think about the light when capturing landscapes

The Norfolk coast is a great location but the light is often poor in the evening. Getting up early catches the morning sunlight.

Another misconception is that the only bar to taking great photographs is a lack of technical knowledge or an expensive camera. Read Is My Camera Any Good? Any artist must first learn their medium. You wouldn’t expect sit down at a piano and compose a sonata or pick up your kids water colours and paint like Rembrandt (who painted mostly in oils by the way).

Photography is a technical process and any artist must learn their craft in order to be able to capture everything they want to in their chosen medium. Digital cameras are able to handle a lot of the technical aspects of photography for us and we have a greater chance of success in recording a given subject with a high degree of technical accuracy. This gives us the opportunity to start thinking about creative ideas earlier in the learning curve than our predecessors.

Take better photos - have a concept in mind. Candid of couple on the pier

I love depicting peoples interaction with each other and their environment. It’s not something I set out to shoot but the concept is always in the back of my mind; even on a simple day out

Ironically the freedom modern cameras give us means that some photographers think less about about concepts, ideas, composition and all the elements that make a great photograph.

See more: People, Places and Food Portfolios

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