One of the things I love most about being a photographer is the openness that comes alongside it. There are no limits or boundaries or rules, whether you think so or not is actually up to you. When I was first starting out, I had no idea how to start other than by just doing it. Knowing nothing would come of making a “mistake” or having an end product that wasn’t what I had in mind only fueled a deeper interest to learn and create. Of course in the beginning there was self-doubt and uncertainty, but what new creative venture doesn’t spark those emotions? At the end of the day, all I really cared about was creating something that I felt proud of.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but I believe it’s more along the lines of ten thousand. You could tell someone the sunset you saw tonight was pretty, but they won’t truly understand the surge of serotonin and tranquility that filled you as you sat quietly gazing at Mother Nature’s profound beauty- unless they can see for themselves. While words can most definitely be powerful, I truly think visuals play a huge role in understanding on a deeper level. That’s why with every photoshoot I craft, there’s a whole book that could be written alongside it.

What is Concept Photography?

Creating a work of art that is not only visually stunning, but conveys genuine passion and needs no caption to evoke emotion is what I like to call concept photography. While weddings, portraits, and concert coverage were good for learning, nothing is more fulfilling than sharing my stories in ways that people can connect with. 

There’s no doubt it can be uncomfortable to talk about dark topics- but that’s exactly why we need to. We’re all just little meat sacks floating on an irrelevant, tiny rock in a sea of endless stars, yet we tend to make things bigger than they are. Fortunately as the years pass, mental health and human rights are advocated for and talked about more, and I’m making it my mission to contribute to the movement with my craft. 

I think more people struggle with dark things than we realize. From eating disorders, to depression and anxiety, to loneliness, to despair and grief, to social anxiety, to chronic pain, everyone deals with something. As someone who’s pretty much experienced any and every problem humanly possible in a twenty year lifespan, I know firsthand how relieving it feels to know I’m not alone. Concept photography means so much to me because it’s not only a coping skill that I’ve fallen in love with, but it’s a medium to reach others in a meaningful way.

How Do I Create Concepts?

I frequently get asked how I come up with photoshoot concepts, and more often than not I respond with, “Um…I just kind of did.” Not much thought goes into the initial planning of the concept. I don’t think it’s natural or effective to force myself to be creative because usually it manifests into stress and pressure, and then it no longer becomes something I feel freedom with. Letting the right side of my brain reign with no boundaries is the only way I get things done. Even if it’s a really strange idea- and I mean strange- I’ll still write it down and try to piece everything together after the fact. 

Personally, the only thing that I think needs to be kept in mind while planning are the goals I’m trying to achieve with the concept. For example, if I want anxiety to be my subject, I will literally just sit there and let myself remember anxiety attacks, what led up to it, how I calmed down, my surroundings, and more. With that flow of thoughts, comes ideas for color palettes, locations, models, and anything else that I feel would convey the message. 

Getting Started

One thing I wish I would’ve learned earlier in my journey is to not care- yes you read that right. If one hundred photographers were given the same prompt, you’d get one hundred (or more) completely different end products, and it’s amazing. This is just what I do, so read this with a grain of salt. 

For me personally, I feel like having strict rules and high expectations for a photoshoot usually results in disappointment. Ending a shoot with beautiful photos won’t feel complete if my expectations weren’t met or it wasn’t exactly what I had in my head. This actually made my self-doubt worse, causing a year long creative break. I learned that letting my ideas flow freely gave me trust in my own creativity and art.

If you have an idea, just go for it! Of course plan out getting materials, acquiring a model, and having a location lined up, but as far as the actual concept- don’t overthink it. The more you trust yourself and execute meaningful projects, the more successful and fulfilled you’ll be. 

I wouldn’t be a photographer if it wasn’t fulfilling. I prioritize goals, emotions, and transparency, I’m definitely not in it for the money. 

Once again, everyone has different ways of doing things, but concept photography means more to me than anyone will know. I hope you fall in love with creating concepts as I do over and over again.