To Give Meaning to your Photos, Define the Message You Want to Convey

Landscape of the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia in black and white.
Landscape of the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia in black and white.

The 2 Ways at Your Disposal to Give Meaning to Your Photos

To give meaning to your photographs, it is simple. You have two choices:

  • Either you tell a story.
  • Either you create aesthetic images.

To tell a story, you must make a strong photo, a collection, or a series. A story is always symbolic. Its meaning is evoked through your photos.

For your story to appeal to an audience, you must have experienced it. Above all, it must be personal. It will allow the viewer to freeze your image or images in his memory. The story and the photos will become inseparable.

The different elements that you can use to tell a story are:

  • Emotions.
  • Feelings.
  • Messages.

I will not detail these points in this article because they are relevant enough for you to understand them. In addition, each of them will be the subject of articles in the coming weeks.

In my opinion, choosing one of these three elements to give meaning to your photographs is a guarantee of success.

Remember that a story must be alive, short, and easily understandable. It can also be the subject of a few written lines that will accompany your photographic achievements.

You can also choose not to tell a story but to take aesthetic photographs. This is a great solution for giving meaning to your photos.

Aesthetic photographs often have a very strong impact. They are not easy to build.

I recommend the method used in ACANP, which consists of assembling photographic elements.

An aesthetic photograph allows the viewer to escape, dream, imagine, and dive into introspection within his own universe.

When he finds and contemplates an aesthetic photo, the viewer creates his own story. You do not create it for him, rather you support his imagination. While he looks at your photo, he gains elements that can be used to invent his own story.

In this way, you impart meaning without creating the story. You simply accomplish this by harmoniously organizing photographic elements.

The 3 Steps to Create Meaningful Photographs

Whether it is a single, a collection, or a series, the method is always the same. Regardless of the number of photographs you may take, the steps are chronological

Step 1: Find a Reason for Taking Photos

In my opinion, this is the most important step. If you do not have a great reason to take your photos, you cannot give meaning to them.

Flattering your ego by wanting to post uninteresting photos of you or your trip on social media makes absolutely no sense. You are wasting your time.

Indeed, many photographers act in this way. They think that posting photos where they brag about their lives may interest others. This is a monumental mistake. No one is interested in self-centered images of pride.

The human being revolves around himself. If someone chooses to look at a photo, it is most likely to learn something that may help him.

It is boring to see the photos of a photographer who only works to flatter his own ego.

Before starting a photo project, I record all my ideas in a special notebook. I list all the points I would like to address. This exhaustive list helps me to define the precise objectives of my project as well as my goals.

Listing my reasons for a project is like planning for an essay, a dissertation, or an oral presentation. It guides me throughout my project. Of course, it is not set in stone. This plan may change depending on the shooting conditions, nevertheless, the main outline remains.

Step 2: Define the Message Delivered in Your Photos

The previous step leads you to a synopsis of your story. Once you have listed all the points that you want to develop in your photo project, you now need to define the message that you want to deliver.

This message should be in one sentence. It is a condensed summary of what you wish to do. It is the same approach you take when finding an answer to the question of why you practice photography.

This message will become a mantra throughout the life of your project. You should always think about it so as not to get lost on different creative paths. The creative paths that you take only serve to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself.

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In my professional life, I meet dozens of photographers who show me their photos. When I ask them what message they want to deliver, they are unable to give me an answer. It is not that I want to put them in default, but I cannot see a clear message in what they show me. Most of them, however, share their projects carried out by passion and desire, but lack purpose because they did not think about the message. This is bad.

Step 3: Build Your Photographs to Better Deliver Your Message

Once you know why you want to create a photo, a collection, or a series, and once you have precisely defined your message, you must write photographically.

You will use the photographic language to assemble the various photographic elements for your message.

On the field, you must scrupulously analyze your scene by looking for strong elements and by avoiding disturbing elements. I advise you to use the technique of photographic elements that I describe in my ACANP method. This method allows you to compose and frame your image better so that your photographic message is clear, predicted, and direct.

Never forget that a simple change from a photographic point of view can completely transform the nature of the message delivered. As I described previously, the choice of your elements will condition the way your express your emotions, translate your feelings, transmit your messages, and even illuminate that which you find beautiful in this world.


If you want to give meaning to your photographs, you must complete these important steps before you begin your project.

You have to be very methodical. If you choose improvisation in the field, you are unlikely to be heard and understood.

My 3-step method will allow you to create interesting photos that make sense.


I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos