Finding Beauty: My Start in Conceptual Photography
I believe that deep down, we are all artists. No matter who we are or what we enjoy doing, we all have a spring of creativity inside of us. No one had to tell me this, I just understood it as natural. And how I came to call myself a “conceptual photographer” seemed just as natural.
I’m Reylia, and I’m a conceptual photographer, but that isn’t all I think I am. I am also a graphite artist, a poet, a dancer, a model, a writer and a reader. Not because I do all of those equally as much, or that I’m spectacular at any of them, but because I love them all equally, and have all had their place in my life.
It started with the pencil, but when my interest in taking pictures started to overpower it, I put drawing on the back burner and flung myself into photography. I loved natural light, but then felt I needed to learn how to manipulate it so I experimented with soft boxes and other things, and gradually got comfortable, only to realize again how much I loved being outside and in the sun. Still up to that point, I was sticking with portraits and beauty shots, but I felt like it still wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be.
But in the spring of 2013, I had my first intentional conceptual shoot and entitled it “Our Lives”. I don’t even remember how it happened exactly. It was just a small idea I had, and the concept meant something to me. But from that point on, I knew that I had found something I loved. To me it was something wild, something that just happened, like a storm. It felt like magic.
Since the photo-shoot, the concept, and the editing came easy to me, I figured that the next one would be just as natural. But it wasn’t. The creating process was still fun, but in the end, I knew that the concept was drawn out for the sake of having a concept, and I couldn’t personally relate.
What went wrong? I didn’t know, but I would keep trying.
It wasn’t until not long after, I ran into a problem in my life. And while that was still going on, despite not being emotionally strong, I was still committed to going out and shooting.
I clearly remember the day of the photo-shoot that changed my whole view on photography. That day I had no idea what I wanted to shoot, and the model was going to arrive soon. I was sitting on my sofa, becoming slightly more depressed by the minute. I had no clue as to what what I wanted for the concept and everything seemed to be falling apart before my eyes. And in that instant, I saw an image of a young girl, cutting a string and cutting the problem away from her life. In my head, it was so beautiful and peaceful, a stark comparison to how I was feeling inside. I had the idea, and I literally jumped up and down from excitement; this was my ray of sunshine.
The shoot itself was perfect. Simple, fun, and besides the set up, it probably took less than 30 minutes. And when I put it into the computer, I began to see how I felt inside become a picture.
What I didn’t know before was that I can’t just take concepts with emotions that I’ve never felt. I can experiment with them, but until they come to me, I can’t fully know them, thus limiting my expression. I realized that I needed to photograph what I felt and loved, and KNOW what they were. I also discovered that finding beauty beneath the rubble is not only possible, it sometimes even calls for you to pull it out.
I hope you also will learn to find beauty as well.
Things To Keep in Mind When Starting Conceptual Photography:
1. Color is EVERYTHING. That is why I love Photoshop; it’s so easy to manipulate color. Take advantage of the tool. Another tool you can use is textures. Textures really help give a conceptual photograph a dimension that can help you tell the story.
2. Framing is EVERYTHING. See it as clearly as you can in your mind before the actual shoot takes place.
3. The pose is EVERYTHING. Try to familiarize yourself with what poses are associated with what nuance of emotion. Watch dancers, they are very familiar with it. Better yet, model dancers.
4. The outfit is EVERYTHING. It doesn’t have to be a 200 dollar dress, but it does have to fit the theme of your concept. If you have a wonderful concept but the model is wearing a T-shirt, it won’t exactly cut it. Try shopping at your local thrift store, they could have hundreds of untouched vintage goodies.
5. The location is EVERYTHING. Though it is possible to take an ordinary place and turn it into something spectacular.
6. The prop or subject is EVERYTHING. For props, I personally like using large objects that people don’t really see on a day-to-day basis. That helps people become instantly drawn to the photo. Or turning simple day-to-day objects and make them work for the concept. The latter is especially satisfying.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when you begin conceptual photography is the story. Make sure that your vision comes across in the entire process – from concept development to the shoot to post processing so that your message is conveyed in your one powerful and imaginative image.
Conceptual photography is a wonderful way to express yourself creatively and step outside of the box to try something new. My theory is that anything can be beautiful if you look hard enough. Take some time today to look.
How did you get started in conceptual photography? Please share your stories below.