man drawing on his face Photo by Marina Montoya on Unsplash

Guide to Conceptual Photography: Step-by-Step Tutorial | 8 Creative Examples

February 16, 2023

Have you ever wondered how some photographers can create such stunning and unique images? If you've been intrigued by conceptual photography but didn't know where to start, this guide is for you.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding conceptual photography, which is part of what makes it so creatively freeing. However, there are some helpful tips and techniques you can use to create your stunning conceptual images.

Read on for a step-by-step guide to conceptual photography, complete with creative examples to inspire your work.

What is Conceptual Photography?

person jumping into a TV in the forest

Photo by Yahor Urbanovich on Unsplash

Conceptual photography is a type of photography that is based on a concept or an idea. The photographer uses various elements, such as lighting, composition, and props, to create a certain mood or feeling. You can use conceptual photography for various purposes, such as advertising, art, and social commentary.

It is often used to challenge traditional notions of beauty and to push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. Conceptual photography often has a strong emotional impact and can be used to provoke thought and discussion.

Types of Conceptual Photography

The Surreal Photograph

body with no head part

Photo by Yahor Urbanovich on Unsplash

Surreal photograph creates a dreamlike or unreal scene by combining elements that don't normally go together. The photographer may use double exposures, photomontage, or other techniques to create a Surreal image. For example, a picture of a person with a bird's head may be used to represent the feeling of being trapped, while a picture of a person floating in the air may represent the feeling of freedom.

The Symbolic Photograph

man hanging himself through a hole

Photo by Maxwell Dugan on Unsplash

A Symbolic photograph is one in which the subject matter represents an idea, feeling, or emotion. The photographer may use an object, scene, or person to stand in for something else to make a point. For example, a picture of a lone tree in a field may represent loneliness. In contrast, a picture of a person standing in front of a large body of water may represent feelings of insignificance.

The Abstract Photograph

person holding a skull in hand

Photo by Daniel Obscura on Unsplash

An Abstract photograph is one in which the subject matter is simplified or reduced to its essentials to emphasize form, color, or texture. The photographer may use a close-up lens, unusual angles, or extreme lighting to create an abstract image. For example, a picture of a flower may be reduced to a study in shape and color, while you may reduce a picture of a cityscape to a study in lines and textures.

Guide to Photoshoot Concept

Step 1: Brainstorming

Before starting your photoshoot, you need to have a clear concept. This will help to determine the direction of the shoot and the type of images you want to capture. To brainstorm your concept, start by thinking about what you want to convey with your images. What is the overall message or feeling you want to communicate?

female dresses herself as in sky

Photo by Cesar La Rosa on Unsplash

Once you have a general idea, you can start brainstorming more specific details. What type of setting or location would be best for your concept? What type of props or wardrobe would help to bring your concept to life? Once you have a solid plan for your photo shoot, it will be much easier to execute, and you'll be able to get the results you're hoping for.

Step 2: Define Your Message

Before you can begin to create the actual images for your photo shoot, you need to take some time to define your message. What is the purpose of the shoot? What do you want people to take away from the images? Once you clearly understand your message, you can start to plan the specific details of the shoot.

Step 3: Creating the Image

Now it's time actually to start creating the images. This is where your previous planning will come in handy. Having a clear concept will help you know what images you need to capture. If you're shooting with a specific purpose, getting the desired results will be much easier.

a hand holding the ancient phone through a hole

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

Remember that the message you're trying to communicate should be evident in each image. As you're shooting, think about how each frame contributes to the overall story you're telling. Every detail should be carefully considered to create a cohesive and impactful final product.

Step 4: Editing and Post-Processing

Once you've captured the needed images, it's time to start the editing process. This is where you'll fine-tune the details of each image and ensure that they all work together to convey your message. Pay close attention to the overall tone of the images and ensure they are consistent with the concept you originally brainstormed.

In post-processing, you can also add any final touches that will help to bring your concept to life. This might include adding text or graphics or manipulating the image in other ways. Whatever you do, make sure that it enhances the message you're trying to communicate and doesn't take away from the impact of the images.

Creative Concept Examples for Your Inspiration

1. Use a Negative Space To Create a Message That the Viewer Can Interpret

In conceptual photography, the photographer uses the negative space to create a message that the viewer can interpret. The negative space is the area around the subject that is not the focus of the image. Using the negative space, the photographer can create a message that is not immediately obvious. The viewer has to take the time to look at the image and interpret the message. This can be a very effective way to create a message that is not immediately obvious.

2. Capture Adorable Pictures of Kids with Props

the photo of the leg part of painting girl and boy

Photo by Roselyn Tirado on Unsplash

If you want to take conceptual photos of children, you need to be able to work with props. Props can be anything you use to help create the scene you are trying to capture. You can use anything from stuffed animals to actual props that the children can use. The key is to make sure that the props are not too distracting. You want the viewer to focus on the children and the message you are trying to convey.

3. Use Your Creativity to Represent Different Ideas With Mirrors

Mirrors can represent various ideas, including deceit, reality, and fantasy. You can use mirrors in your conceptual photography to create a message that the viewer can interpret. The key is to be creative with how you use the mirror. You can use the mirror to reflect the subject, or you can use it to reflect the background. You can even use it to create a message that is not immediately obvious. The key is to be creative and to think outside the box.

4. Search for Concepts Outside

conceptual photo of a bottle dropping the 'sun'

Photo by Musnany on Unsplash

One of the best places to find concepts for your conceptual photography is outdoors. There are so many different things to photograph outdoors, and you can often find interesting concepts just by looking around. If you see something that you think would make a good concept, take a picture of it. You can also look for concepts in magazines and online. There are often pictures of concepts that you can use as inspiration for your photography.

5. Consider Using a Double Exposure to Combine Two Concepts Into One

Double exposure is when the photographer takes two images and combines them into one. This can be done in-camera or in post-processing. Double exposures can be a great way to create a conceptual image.

6. Create Confusing Photos with Motion Blur

Motion blur can create a sense of movement in your photos. This can be a great way to create an eerie effect. You can use motion blur to create a sense of movement in your image's background or foreground. You can also use it to create a sense of movement in the subject. The key is to be creative and to experiment with different techniques.

lighting motion blur with curved shape

Photo by DongIpix on shutterstock

7. Experiment with Moonlight Silhouettes Using Different Moon Phases

If you're up for a challenge, try to photograph moonlight silhouettes. This is best done during a full moon, but you can also experiment with other moon phases. You'll need to find a spot where the moon is visible and position your subject in front of it.

8. Use a Piece of Glass to Create All Kinds of Different Effects

A very popular way to create interesting and unique conceptual photography is to use a piece of glass. You can use it to create all kinds of different effects. For example, you can use it to create a distorted reflection. Or, you can use it to create a double exposure.


Conceptual photography is a great way to create unique and impactful images. By brainstorming a concept and planning your shoot, you can ensure that you capture the images you need to tell your story. And by carefully editing and post-processing your images, you can create a final product that will impress you.

Back to blog