In today’s article I present a type of photography that you may have heard from afar, or have feared to approach, or have tried but have remained in the intention. It is about conceptual photography. A type of photography that can be a very wide field although as extensive as it is all works have a clear common denominator, to express an idea, a concept.

This seems so complex, it is not if you know how to do it. That is why today I tell you in a few simple keys so that you can achieve your first conceptual photography. And that, instead of getting frustrated and throwing in the towel, you want to keep trying. If you do not, let it be because it does not go with you, you do not like the experience and you are more of other disciplines. But not for not knowing where to start or how to run. That for that we are in the blog;).


If we say landscape photography , it is easier, but if we talk about artistic photography , for example, or conceptual photography as it is in this case, the thing gets a bit complicated, right? It seems that the limits are less clear and the concepts can be confused or mixed. So you don’t miss out, a direct definition to the point: conceptual photography is one that aims, with an image, to convey a generally abstract idea.

«Half Full» (by Jordi Larroch)


You could say that there are two types of currents within this discipline:

  • The one who tries to make the message as clear and universal as possible. The idea is that everyone who observes the picture understands the message immediately and without ambiguity. In this type of photography the messages are clear, with simpler images, without distractions.
«Time» (by Jordi Larroch)
  • Another stream that sends more subjective messages, with more complex ideas that leave possible interpretations open for the viewer to draw their own conclusions. In this case the risk is greater, as the viewer may not understand the message or even see that there is an underlying message. Here, the photographs can be more complex, with more symbols or even more loaded with elements.
Photograph by Gerome Viavant

To give you a clearer idea, I recommend, without a doubt, to take a look at Chema Madoz’s work. He is one of the best conceptual photographers in history (and my favorite). His message is clear, direct and his images are prepared but not retouched. You can see here a documentary about his work.


Beyond the artistic connotations that conceptual photography can have because it is photography, there are some applications or outputs for this discipline.

  • Advertising photography. Advertising photography is not only intended to show a product, an object, but tries to associate that product with a message or idea, from the idea of ​​happiness to that of freedom, to give some examples. Advertising has a great ally with conceptual photography and makes the most of it.
  • Image banks If you are looking to expand your work opportunities as a photographer, you can consider creating conceptual images to sell through image banks. These images are used both for advertising and to illustrate articles (such as this or any other type), whether in digital or print media.
  • Social complaint. Conceptual photography, although it is very different from documentary, is also used as a social complaint, to portray the society that surrounds us, as a claim to reflection.

If you identify yourself with any of these reasons, or just curiosity bites you or you like to experiment and try new photographic styles, I encourage you to continue reading to discover the keys that will help you achieve a conceptual photograph.


Although first of all we will talk about a subject that can be controversial. Many of the conceptual images imply a large dose of manipulation or digital retouching. Now, is it necessary? No, it is not. You could say that this is one of the most creative disciplines and that most requires the imagination of the photographer, because the idea can be transmitted without the need for Photoshop or any other photo editing program. In fact, I have commented previously, the great Chema Madoz, does not achieve his photos with retouching, but with ingenuity. The ingenuity and imagination can supply more than a touch or photographic manipulation.

Moreover, the more real an image looks, the simpler and more direct, the more it will impact and reach the public. Sometimes you see conceptual photographs where the result is due more to a computer creation and may end up squeaking in the brain. If you want an efficient message, you better get to the point.

It is not necessary to modify an image to convey a concept

On the other hand, there is a powerful tool with touch-up programs that opens up a world of possibilities and, of course, can be used for your own benefit and the message you want to convey. This tool is not necessary but can help.

Raffaele Claudio Rossiello

In the end, the important thing is not going to be if retouching has been done or not, but if it impacts the public, if the underlying message arrives. The choice is yours ;).


In this case, the way of working is different from how we usually proceed. You usually grab your camera and go in search of landscapes, emotions, beautiful scenery, street snapshots, and so on. You seek to capture the beauty of your surroundings or immortalize moments, for example. There is a reality that you photograph, although in the process you modify that reality through composition, speed or any other photographic technique that you have within your reach. In conceptual photography you believe that reality . Nothing is random, it requires planning (although it is possible to capture it by chance, it is unusual). Shooting is the last.


Below I detail the seven steps to follow to achieve a photograph of this type:


The first thing you have to decide is what idea or concept you want to convey with your photograph. It can be what you can think of, from death to freedom, through economic crisis or family. Anything goes.


With the same concept you can express very different messages. In this second step you will have to decide which one you want to send to the viewer. It can be a positive or negative message.


It is not the same as photography is aimed at a young audience than a more adult or mature one, it is not the same if it is aimed at women or men, your audience may be the workers of a specific company, or of a specific city . Define the audience and help you fine tune in the next step.


Once you have the idea and the message, and your audiciandia defined, you will have to decide how to transmit it. For this you can brainstorm ideas of what you relate to the concept and the message. From adjectives to situations, people, places, etc., always taking into account the people to whom it is addressed so that you are related to the symbology, with the colors, the place, and so on.


You have a first sketch in your hands, the first ideas on the table, try now to visualize them in your mind, imagine how your photography can be. You can even imagine different scenes. Stay with the one you like best, the one you see the clearest or the one you find most comfortable to execute, this will have a better result and the desire to repeat;).


The time has come to build your reality, prepare the objects, the lighting, the ideal setting and everything you can think of to achieve the image you have visualized.


Well yes, it is a photograph in which the important thing is the message, but … do you think you can forget about a good exhibition ? Or a good composition ? Absolutely. Your image must be correct at a technical level, with a good approach , well exposed and with a careful composition, because otherwise, the public will not stop to look at it, and so … how will the message arrive?


Finally I leave you with some conceptual authors so you can continue to deepen this type of photography:

  • Chema Madoz
  • Jordi Larroch
  • Amy Stein
  • David Levinthal

I hope this article has been so inspiring that you can’t resist taking paper and pencil to start expressing your ideas. If so, I am going to ask you a favor, to share it so that other people can also try a bite of this interesting photographic discipline. Spoons of ideas for everyone!