Have you ever heard of conceptual photography? If you’re not familiar with the term, you’re sure to have seen conceptual images. Conceptual photography is an exciting genre that involves creating a staged setup that conveys an idea or message. These photos are preconceived rather than spontaneous. In this tutorial you’ll discover six ideas for creating incredible conceptual iPhone photography that really captures the viewer’s imagination.
Conceptual photography involves planning your image based around a particular idea or message. This might be a story you want to tell, a dramatic or emotional moment, or a light-hearted and fun take on reality.
It starts with using your imagination to come up with an idea. Then you have to plan what you need to take the photo, such as location, subject, costumes, lighting, props, etc.
You can then bring together these elements to create a powerful and intriguing image that evokes some kind of emotion in the viewer.
Keep in mind that all photography is subjective, so each viewer will interpret the image in their own way. The important thing is to come up with a strong idea, and then use your skills to create what you envisioned.
Now let’s take a look at six ideas that you can use to get started in the wonderful world of conceptual iPhone photography.
1. Shoot A Conceptual Portrait
Most conceptual photography is based around portraits. Including a person in your shot is one of the best ways to tell a story and convey a particular mood.
Shooting a conceptual portrait is about capturing emotion in an interesting or unique setting. This is typically different from a headshot portrait for professional use.
When you’re planning your shot, think about what kind of story you want to tell, or what you want the viewer to feel when they look at your photo.
Think about the pose, facial expression and body language of your subject. How could you use them to create a certain mood in your photo?
You’ll also need to choose a location for your portrait. The space around your subject is an important storyteller, so use interesting spaces such as art museums, abandoned buildings, a forest, or a field full of flowers.
For a vibrant appeal, make use of colorful and flamboyant clothing, or even colored body paint.
Use movement to create a sense of energy. For example, consider asking your subject to run away from the camera.
This will create an intriguing story in itself. Where are they running to? Or what are they running from?
If your subject has long hair, ask them to shake their head as you take the photo so that their hair swishes around in the air.
This technique works particularly well when the subject is backlit as their hair will glow in the light.
A rainy day is perfect for conveying a melancholic feeling in your portrait photos. A great idea is to have a person stand on the other side of a window covered in water droplets
Bus stops, cars and coffee shop windows are great places to execute this concept. On a rainy day, you can create a story around a person who’s feeling sad or missing someone.
Somehow, portraits taken in the rain seem to portray really powerful emotion, and it’s one of my favorite techniques to use.
2. Use Geometric Spaces
Once you’ve chosen a subject for your conceptual photo, you need to find a good location for your photo shoot.
Of course, the location should be chosen based on how it will help you tell the story or convey the message you have in mind.
But one of the most powerful ways to create visually striking images is to shoot in geometric spaces that have strong shapes and lines.
These geometric architectural elements can be used to create incredible compositions that really catch the viewer’s attention.
Make a point of exploring buildings with the purpose of finding lines, squares, rectangles, circles, triangles and other geometric shapes that you can use to form a solid composition around a subject.
One of my favorite techniques is to use spiral staircases. In the photo below, the curves and lines draw the eye deep into the image.
Make sure you include a person somewhere on the staircase to add a storytelling element. Think about unusual ways that you could pose your subject to convey a certain idea.
To draw attention to your subject, try framing the person within a geometric shape, such as the triangle in the photo below.
To make this photo more intriguing, I rotated the image in post-processing. This creates the impression that the subject is defying gravity, as if she’s in a space station.
Even if your subject is quite small within the composition, using geometric architectural elements to frame them will help to draw the viewer’s attention towards them.
This is especially useful if you’re shooting your subjects from a distance, as I did in the photo above.
3. Use Interesting Props
Props are often used in conceptual photography. They add a strong visual appeal and help you tell a story or portray a particular mood.
There are endless options for props that you could use in your photos. It all depends on the overall atmosphere you want to create.
Some easily accessible props include helium balloons, umbrellas, books, watches, glasses, hats, masks and picture frames.
Thrift stores and antique shops are great places to find some hidden gems that can be used as props in your photos.
Often, an idea for a conceptual photo can start with a prop. So be sure to surround yourself with interesting and unusual objects to get some inspiration.
Think about how the prop will fit in with the environment, and where you should position it within the scene so that it supports your creative idea.
In this photo, I used the helium balloons to cover the subject’s face. This creates a wonderful sense of mystery and it appears as if she’s buried in deep, floating thoughts.
4. Make Good Use Of Color & Background
When planning your conceptual photo, think carefully about the colors that you’ll include in the scene.
Pay attention to the color of your subject’s clothing, the color of your props, and the color of the background and surroundings.
The best concepts are well executed when there’s perfect color coordination. For example, matching the person’s outfit with the backdrop will have a powerful impact.
In the photo above, the subject’s outfit complements the green color of the railings on the stairwell.
Colorful walls and interesting art murals are another place where you can have fun with backdrops and colors.
You may even find murals that have some sort of action that could easily be imitated.
Have fun by having your subject either emulate the action or pose in a way that complements the backdrop. Such photos can convey a strong sense of energy and emotion.
Even a colorful umbrella can be used as a vibrant backdrop behind your subject.
Keep in mind that different colors can evoke different emotions in the viewer. For example, greens and blues tend to conjure up feelings of peace and tranquility, whereas vibrant red can indicate energy or even anger.
5. Use Lighting To Create Mood
Lighting always plays a key role in photography, and it’s especially important in conceptual photography. This is because the type of light that you shoot in can dramatically affect the overall mood of the scene.
Factors such as the strength and direction of the light, the time of day that you shoot, and whether you’re using natural or artificial light will all play a big role in how your photo turns out.
Shooting during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset allows you to capture warm, golden light for a fairytale, atmospheric look.
The contrast between the bright highlights and dark shadows creates a strong visual impact. Including shadows in the scene is great for creating mystery and intrigue.
Don’t be afraid to include large areas of dark shadow in your photo. This negative (empty) space can help to add tension to your image.
Think about whether you want to include the lights in the scene, or just capture the light emitted by them.
In the photo above, I chose to include the lights in my composition as they add lots of extra interest to the scene.
But in the photo below, I just captured the light on my subject without including the actual light source itself.
If you’re shooting out on the street at night, try positioning your subject beneath a street lamp to create a dramatic spotlight effect like this one.
Another great technique is to capture the reflection of street lights in raindrops on a window. Simply ask your subject to pose on the other side of the glass.
6. Capture Reflections
Reflections are one of the most interesting elements to add to any photo. They act as an extension of your imagination that can be interpreted in many different ways by the viewer.
Look for reflections in mirrors, on shiny and polished surfaces, and on bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, rivers and puddles.
A good tip is to flip your iPhone to get the camera’s lens closer to the reflective surface. This allows you to create stunning symmetrical compositions.
In the case of a window or a floor, contact can be made with the surface for desired symmetry. If you’re photographing water, get your phone as close as you can to the surface without getting it wet!
Try to think outside the box by looking for other reflective surfaces where you’d least expect to find them.
For example, in the photo above, the reflective surface of a watch was used to create this abstract reflection.
You can create fantastic illusionary effect with reflections, and you can even play around with them in editing to make them more interesting.
Upon taking a closer look at the photo above, you’ll notice that the reflection doesn’t match the original subject. Apps like Image Blender and Juxtaposer can be used to create this effect by blending two photos together.
If you want to create this kind of edit, make sure you shoot both photos using the exact same composition but with the subject in different poses. This will make it easier to create a seamless and symmetrical blend.
Conclusion On Conceptual iPhone Photography
Conceptual photography is all about coming up with creative ideas and executing them to convey a story or message in your photo.
A good conceptual photo should always leave the viewer in a thoughtful mood. It should evoke some kind of reaction, emotion or questioning.
People and props play a major role in conceptual photography, offering you endless creative options.
Make sure you choose a location and background that helps you tell your story.
Use of architectural geometry such as lines and shapes, as well as color co-ordination to create strong visual appeal.
Think about what kind of lighting will create the mood you want to convey, and then shoot at the right time of day or in artificial light to create a particular atmosphere in your image.
Finally, make use of reflections to create symmetry and optical illusions that will captivate the viewer.
Conceptual photography can take a bit of practice and patience. So take your time to come up with ideas and enjoy planning the shoot.
The results are immensely rewarding and you’ll learn so much about photography in the process.