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There are really only two requirements for a conceptual image - it should convey a clear message and do so in an aesthetically pleasing manner. How these two requirements are satisfied is a matter for the photographer. Everyone looks at the world in the light of their own experience, prejudices and environment, so we all see things differently. Conceptual work is an area where individual views and ideas can be used to create a personal style which, if successful, may in time come to be recognized by others.

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Image by kind permission of Christian Ferrari

Clear messages are often best conveyed in a simple manner. Minimalism is consequently often used to create conceptual images. Simple, easily recognized props juxtaposed against a clean featureless background leave no room for any misunderstanding or distraction. More complicated images require greater exploration by the eye and may lead the viewer away from the intended subject and message. However, they can be used to convey successfully more complex issues which no simple message or set of symbols seems to encapsulate.

Successful conceptual images should also be aesthetically pleasing. As in any genre of photography, a beautifully composed image attracts the eye of the viewer and holds attention. Walk around a book shop and look at a wide range of book covers, particularly in the fiction section. Each cover is designed to catch the eye of passing customers and encourage them to pick up the book - the first step in achieving a sale. Front covers are often heavily symbolic, perhaps showing a silver dagger plunged in to a wooden table amid a pool of blood. The background might be dominated by a beautiful woman or a church altar. The viewer immediately understands that the book deals with some aspect of a cold-blooded murder in mysterious circumstances, probably involving a passionate relationship and/or religion. Images of this sort are composed with great care and are beautifully lit to achieve maximum impact.


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