3 Tips to Develop Your Photographic Intentionality

In this article, I want to share some tips on how to develop your photographic intentionality. This concept will allow you to build and create photos that will be better noticed by an audience.

Photographic intentionality will be an additional tool to develop and channel your photographic creativity.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

Amar Guillen, photographer walking in the desert under the sun at sunset.
In the desert, at sunset. The cold is starting to set in.

The Story Behind This Article

A friend, Pascale L., gave me Gaëlle Josse's book about Vivian Maier. Une femme en contre-jour, which is written in French, is the novel of the life of a street portrait photographer. I know Vivian Maier's photos well, even though this is not my field of activity at all. Indeed, she has photographed all her life, focusing on the deprived, the poor, and the forgotten people seeking out the American dream.

The particularity of Vivian Maier, even if she is now world-famous and adored, is that she lived in the greatest anonymity. She never developed the film she took. She never saw the results of her photographs.

She died in total destitution with no one interested in her photographic activity. The story is absolutely edifying. By reading this book, which is fascinating, I think I understood an essential concept in photography: photographic intentionality.

I have always wondered why some photographers are more noticed than others, even if they have a well-defined photographic and artist statement. I have always wondered why some photographers are more successful than others for the same creative and technical qualities.

You are going to tell me that there is marketing and communication. You are right. I totally agree with you. But these two elements are not enough. One question that has also nagged at me for years is that of the very average photos of certain well-known photographers. They are also successful, even if they are banal. How do you explain that a photo that anyone could have taken can be so enthusiastically received.

I realized that to find answers to these essential questions, all I had to do was look at.photographic intentionality.

Definition of Intent

Intention is the act of proposing a certain goal to oneself.

As you can see, we all have ideas for making photographs. It is easy to have photographic intentions. But often, these ideas remain projects well hidden in our memory. The intention rarely becomes a photo project. It remains a vague idea. It is not an immensely powerful concept.

Definition of Intentionality

Intentionality is the active psychological relationship of consciousness to an existing goal adapted to a project.

Intentionality is the fact that consciousness gives itself a goal, an object.

These two definitions may seem a bit vague. You may be wondering what this has to do with photography, which is a material-based activity.

In the following paragraph, you will understand and discover an immensely powerful intellectual tool to improve your photos.

Application to Photography

Photographic intentionality is when you make a psychological connection between your photographic awareness and a photographic goal you are trying to achieve.

For example, you may be aware that you are a wildlife photographer who shoots like many other photographers do. You may not stand out from the crowd, although your goal is to make wildlife photos that are different. You might condition yourself to achieve this goal.

However, having the intention or desire to do so o is not enough. Indeed, proposing to do so is not enough.

You must develop a relationship between your goal and your mental state: this is intentionality.

Intentionality can be much more powerful than the goal itself.

But why is it important to make interesting, meaningful, and attention-grabbing photos?

The answer is simple. Because when you know exactly what you want to do and how you are going to do it, then you can write the story of your project. When you talk about it, everyone who listens to you will fully understand your goal and the objectives you have set for yourself. Your passion and desire inspires others to talk about your project to those around them.

They will become your apostles. Word-of-mouth will make your photos echo. You will create an audience that will find your photos interesting. You will enter the virtuous circle of photography.

Finally, having developed your photographic intentionality will have allowed you to better understand your photographic process. You will remain consistent with your photographic why.

I often say that the concept of photographic intentionality is the camshaft between your photographic why and your photographic process.

By developing your photographic intentionality, you will further refine your approach and define the road on which you wish to travel.

Photographic intentionality is an additional tool in your photographic bag.

Always remember that the goal is to create a solid photographic foundation on which to build your photographic edifice to better create interesting plates that are unique to you.

The Lent Photographic Intentionality

In the previous paragraph, I explained that photographic intentionality can come from you. You can build it by talking about your own system of values and thoughts.

But there is another way to define it. It is the intentionality that others define for you. This is what I call "lent intentionality."

Did you ever lend any words to another photographer? I'm sure the answer is yes. I've done that many times myself.

This is a common phenomenon. Some photographers exist only by the intentionality they lend. They have never explained their photographic or artistic approach. They have never explained the foundations of their photographic approach. Yet, dozens of articles and even books have been devoted to them. It's absolutely astonishing and this is the observation I made.

I won't mention names of photographers, because it's not my habit and my way of doing things but do the test for yourself. Take the names of famous photographers and look for their writings. You will be surprised to read that most of what they said was written by other people.

We all tend to give our opinions about other photographers. These words will be taken up by others. Eventually, some photographers who have never said anything will have a photographic intentionality defined.

The most extraordinary thing is that these photographers, if they are alive, turn this lent intentionality into their own. Today, I have become overly cautious when I analyze a photographer's work. I judge the photos. I analyze them. But I don't go any further. If I want to form a more general opinion about the photographic process, I try to find personal statements, not loaned statements, or paraphrased "he said, she said" quotes by a secondary source.

Lending photographic intentionality, that is, the intentionality defined by others about your photographic activity, can serve as reinforcement for your personal photographic intentionality.

Do not neglect it, but do not overestimate it.

Tip #1 for Developing Your Photographic Intentionality: Develop Your Photographic Awareness

In a previous post on the blog post "Photography Approach," I defined photographic awareness as knowing how to situate oneself in relation to other photographers.

This knowledge is especially important for you to define because it allows you to create photos that are different from other photographers. You must understand why you practice photography as a means of expression, but above all you must analyze the photographic approach of others.

All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil to write down your photographic motivations.

Learn about other photographers or, more generally, about all existing art forms. You will understand other ways of seeing the world.

  • Visit museums.
  • Go see exhibitions.
  • Participate in photo contests. A last solution is to participate in photo workshops. You will meet other photographers. You will confront your ideas. You will discover other photographic sensibilities.

Tip #2 for Developing Your Photographic Intentionality: Define Your Photo Projects

If you want to develop your photographic intentionality, I advise you to clearly define the contours of your photo projects.

Whether it is a project for a book, an exhibition, a magazine, or a contest, I advise you to define well what you want to photograph, the methods and equipment you will use, and what your "photographic why" is. The clearer and more understandable your definition, the more interesting and understandable your photos will be to others.

If you're going to shoot in the field without a specific goal, you may create photos that are technically good, but which are photographically incoherent and cannot tell a story. In the end, you will have wasted your time, because no one will find them interesting.

Personally, when I take on a photo project, I think long and hard about why I want to do it. I look at what has already been done by others. I document myself. I take a step further. I think about whether these photos correspond to one of my photographic styles and whether they are consistent with my photographic approach. As a result of this analysis, I have often dropped ideas I had for photo projects and taken up other ones.

Whether you are a professional or amateur photographer, you need to define your photo projects in a precise and concise way. This method will keep you on track.

Tip #3 for Developing Your Photographic Intentionality: Look for Inspiration

If you reread the definition of photographic intentionality in a previous paragraph, you will find that it is the link between your photographic awareness and the purpose of your photo projects. To establish this link, you need to discover photographic inspiration.

Inspiration is an inner movement that leads one to do something, it is a suggestion for action. This is an essential question in photography. You must get out of your comfort zone. You must explore new worlds. I advise you to be in a serene state and forget the world around you.

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The idea is to try to create for another person by pleasing them or by imagining what they will think of your photos.

Be humble. Never think that you have done everything you can do in a picture. Never think that everything has already been done, but that there is so much left to discover.

The best advice I can give you to find inspiration is to disconnect from the world around you. Forget about the media noise and the problems of the world. They have nothing to do with you. You can't do anything about them. Never forget that for those who generate the media noise, you are just a product. They want to sell you something. Give yourself time. Isolate yourself. Think about the people you care about. Think about pleasing them. Be useful.

Look at the beautiful things. Inspiration will come. When it comes, you will make that connection between your consciousness and your projects. Everything will flow. Everything will become easy and fall into place.


If you should remember one thing about the essence of photographic intentionality, then remember this: It is the link between your photographic consciousness and your photo projects. It is a tool in your photographic toolbox which allows you to reinforce your photographic process.

Take the time to define it well to create photos that not only reflect your personality and style, but which will also captivate the interest of your audience.

Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.

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