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  • Writer's pictureAndrei Tanase

Photography Themes

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

As easy as it might sound, finding interesting subjects to photograph can be at times a challenging task.

Weather it being due to a creative rut, an unfamiliar environment, or an abundance of distracting or conflicting subjects, there are moments when we make no sense of what stories we are to tell through our photos. These are moments when we need to drop anchor.

Focus on recurrent patterns, colors, subjects, weather conditions, type of environment. These can relate into themes that can help find clarity, sense, and spark our imagination!

On an early walk I took a few weeks ago, lacking any sort of inspiration or set plan, I took the photo camera with me, in hope I would find distractions to an otherwise discouraging morning. It was cold, silent and misty. Just me and the frozen trees. And that was my anchor, a theme for a set of photos that could together tell a story.


Why Use Themes?

Sparking our imagination is only one benefit of using themes. There are a few more cases where they come in useful:

  • Challenge ourselves out of the comfort zone. Finding photo themes that will allow us to learn new creative notions is essential for our development.

  • Develop new interests. I have learnt so much through photography, topics I could have never found myself be interested in, like writing a blog or learning how to administer a website. I am certain we all have something new to learn in connection to our passion for photography, and in time the newly developed knowledge can develop itself into a hobby as well.

  • Practice to focus on routines. Learning to focus on and be creative based on themes might come in very handy if we decide to develop our passion for photography into a successful business.

Portrait and lifestyle photography was a topic I knew very little of in 2019, and still have lots more to learn about today. Encouraged to give it a try by a dear friend, I had the opportunity to photograph him at work. During the entire photo shoot session I have learnt so many interesting facts about sewing machines, needles, types of threads and sewing patterns. It was an amazing experience to witness him at work. Jazz music in the background, smell of freshly ground coffee and warm strudels.

What I have learnt was how much the mood influenced me in creative decisions, and how it sparked an interest for an area of photography I knew so little of.


Challenging Ourselves Out of the Comfort Zone!

Disregarding the genre of photography we enjoy, whether be it nature, portrait, lifestyle, etc. there are many photography themes that can greatly improve our understanding of photography notions we know and use, and also allow us to develop new ones!

Here are a few:

  • Choose a color. A color theme representative of a season, location or event, can help challenge us look for unusual compositions that focus on the emotion a certain color binds us to.

The color red represents safety and good luck in Chinese culture. On a cold winter day, for me it represents warmth and shelter. It's also the second most advancing color (after yellow), so it has a high chance of being noticed in a sea of white.

  • Find certain textures. Graphical depictions of certain surfaces help us associate feelings to memories of touch.

Touching the crispy crust of a warm loaf of bread reminds me of breakfast with family, the harsh, yet delicate structure on the birch tree makes me feel close to home, and the cold, rough feel of this old church wall makes me feel contemplative and respectful to the strength of nature.

  • Look for patterns. Looking for repetition of elements or shapes can help us understand how they lead the viewer's eye throughout the frame and what sort of dynamic they bring to the composition.

Diagonal lines convey a sense of energy and strengthen the composition (first image), triangles (shaped by the branches of the tree, second image) help maintain focus . Pairs of elements offer balance, and the vertical lines convey strength (third image).


Going Forward

I hope sharing from my experience offered you useful insight regarding photography themes, and you will be interested in creating a list of themes you would like to try for the next three months.

Actually, why not use this thought as an exercise? Build a list of photo themes you would like to pursue for the first three months. Next to each theme you can make a note mentioning what skills you believe it will help you broaden your understanding of, or develop anew.

Thank you for reading, and please do feel free to leave a comment or contact me for questions, feedback, ideas and requests:

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