The Most Powerful Tool of a Photographer


The Concept

“Kill your Darlings”

This little sentence has always been the best advice and guideline for me, definitely. I belong to those people who develop an immediate passion for things they see and find beautiful. When I get inspired I also get quite excited visualising new ideas. There is so much aesthetic around everywhere, so I’m always collecting details passively. Then I get curious and start making inquiries that create more ideas. The list in my head has no end for sure. When I was studying my professors always told me to dismiss everything unnecessary from my drafts. I always got frustrated, because I loved my ideas and I wanted to add too many of them to one single project. But I knew that they were right and they had years-long experience in what they did. So I reluctantly took their advice realising every time, that the result was better than before. With every new student project, I more and more learned how to decide by myself what to drop from my layouts, movies, or photos because I trained my vision to good and effective designs and compositions.

Here are some of my thoughts about conception. When planning something (visual) the most important thing is to bring it on paper, or perhaps into a digital layout. As long as there is a long list of ideas in your head, they will always mix and even make sense when doing so. But our heads are too dreamy and impossible things get possible inside there, as we all are abstract thinkers. You can prove that easily with a dream that you still remember – it’s even better when it has been recently dreamed. When you try drawing it or writing it down, you will always be unhappy with the result. There are just too many things in it and they can’t get together on a real medium like paper.

“There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept.” –  Ansel Adams (American Photographer, 19021984)

The funny thing is, that you can try and maybe even manage to add all details to the picture if you remember everything, but people will always be confused when looking at it. But as opposed to this will they get a feeling like you did while dreaming if you find the essential factors in it and expose them in the right way. To this end, you may use stylistic devices which will trigger certain reactions, if you are familiar with those. E.g. use colours and release the connotations you want to show.

Let’s leave our dreams behind and get real. You have to always keep in mind that no project can reinvent the wheel. But you certainly can combine different aspects to create something allegedly new. When you’ve gone through the process of dismissing the unnecessary factors, your idea is finally born in your head and maybe even on a draft already. Now fashion photography always happens in a greater team consisting of at least a model, stylist, make-up artist, and photographer. So you have to split the area of responsibilities and if you are the photographer, you need to hand off the probably most important or let’s say the visible parts. Someone who will later look at the picture will above all see the model’s expression, her clothes, and her hair for example. People will never think of the light setting or how it’s cropped, except if they are photographers themselves. So your chief aim is to inculcate your vision into the heads of your team members to get those pictures you want into your portfolio. Of course, you could get to sleep and enter the others’ dreams, or dreams in dreams and try to do an adventurous inception on them. But remember: They have difficulties to turn their dream visions into reality, just like you had. However seriously, there is a much easier way to make them know what you expect from them.

As I already said, you can take different aspects of existing pictures and decide to combine them in your own way. And here is why this is particularly useful: you can show your idea to your team by giving them concrete examples. You can show them collected pictures with hairstyles that match, fashion designs, etc., so each one in your team will know what to aim at for the shooting.

Here you can see the way I do my mood boards:

If you’ve done your job well creating a good mood board and pass your vision to your team-mates, a good shooting is ensured. You will be able to concentrate on YOUR job only and do it the best way possible. Besides, if you’re not a photographer, you can use this powerful tool too. Everyone can learn to structure his or her ideas and how to intelligibly show them to others. In fact, we are talking about art directing here. Great companies have their very own departments with several employees and executives to create perfect concepts and realize them. Of course, they must think of the entire image and brand the company embodies. You can read more about branding in my journal entry “The Story Behind THE ESSENCE” if that’s a field you are interested in. I think I’m going to create a greater concept soon. A mood board to my photographic goals to see how my portfolio is going to develop and be able to adjust its looks. I just hit on that idea while writing this post. I’m excited!

Wishing you good luck with your own concepts!


If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or the other, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!


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