Using Photography to Communicate

Every day, you take pictures with your camera or your mobile device.

Taking pictures has become second nature to you. It is a reflex, an automatic response to an emotion or an experience. But have you ever wondered why you photograph? Have you ever wondered what the purpose of photography is?

I will try to answer you by sharing my idea on this essential question.

Black and white photo of Castle Valley in Utah near Moab
When I developed this photo in black and white of a landscape in Castle Valley, Utah, I wanted to show what was going on in my brain ath this moment. The clouds represent my mind and the mesas my body. I wanted to communicate my restless and churning state of mind.

The Story Behind This Article

After writing my article on the impact of social networks on photography, I asked myself again the fundamental question of the interest of photography in our lives.

While sharing with you my thoughts on photographic genre rankings and photographer genre rankings, I felt that there was one missing element to complete this series of articles.

I kept thinking about the role that photography has had in my life. I realized that I had been ruminating on pieces of thoughts and ideas regarding this concept through my writings in previous articles.

On a Sunday morning in February, I thought it was time to share my synthesis, even if I know I will still evolve it in the future.

In the rest of this article, I will share with you my thoughts on the meaning and definition of the word photography.

As always, in these columns of the photographic approach blog, this article commits only me. If you feel my words are insufficient for your use, feel free to give me your sense of photography and share it with me.

Back to the Basics: Defining "Photography"

Let us first clarify the etymology of the word "photography". Proposed by John Herschel in March 1839, this word comes from two roots of Greek origin:

  • the prefix "photo" meaning "to use light"..
  • The suffix "graphy" meaning "to write".

Literally, the word photography means writing with light.

Let's move on to the definition of the word "photography".

"A process that uses light and chemicals to record the image of an object". Nowadays, digital cameras must be added.

You can see that the etymology of the word photography is very different from its definition.

In the rest of the article, I will use the etymology which is much more accurate and poetic than the definition.

Definition of the Verb "To Write"

One of the definitions of the verb "to write" is:

Telling, asserting, expounding, saying in writing in a work, article, etc.

Another definition of the verb write is:

Tracing the signs of a writing system or graphic representation below a language or speech.

To write is to leave a trace in time, unlike words that fly away in the wind. A written word will last through the years and be remembered.

For me, the verb "to write" implies sharing, explaining, expressing, transmitting, and relating. Writing allows us to communicate with others.

One of my goals of photography is simply to communicate with others.

My Photographic Postulate

I am going to assume that:

« photography is writing with light by telling, affirming, exposing, saying with photographs. To do this, a photographer uses the signs of the photographic writing system to graphically represent what he has to say or express. »

Since it is a postulate, it is unprovable.

I am fully aware that this postulate may not correspond to the way you want to practice photography. In this case, feel free to determine your own postulate and share it with the community.

Some words have several definitions. This is the case of the word photography. Why shouldn't there be several postulates to explain what photography is for? For the rest of this article, this postulate is the one I will use. It perfectly defines my photographic mindset.

That is why the title of this article states that one of the purposes of photography is to communicate with others. If your purpose is different, please specify it. The important thing, finally, is that you define that purpose of photography according to how you perceive it.

Why Ask the Question of the Interest or Usefulness of Photography

At this stage of the article, you probably better understand how I envisage photography. This is my photographic postulate.

You may be asking yourself why you should question the interest or usefulness of photography.

That is a legitimate question. I've been asking myself this same question for years.

The answer is simple. If you want your photos to be interesting or to make sense to your audience, you should identify what photography means to you. What is its purpose in your life?

It is exactly like your photographic why, your photographic awareness, or the definition of your own photographic identity. It is one of the elements that will allow you to become better in your photographic activity.

If you understand the value of photography, you will be able to use it well to create a deeper impact on your photos.

How to Communicate Well with Photography?

If, like me, you choose photography as a means to share, to exchange, to show your emotions, to transmit messages, you must do so with full knowledge of the facts.

Communicating involves two parties exchanging ideas and messages. If you are not on the same page as your audience, you may come to have the impression that your photos are useless, or that they are bad. As I explained in a previous article, there is no such thing as bad photos. They are just photos that didn't find their audience.

Likewise, if you do not create photos that match you and express what is deep inside you, you will not be satisfied.

In both cases, you may give up photography because you will not find any interest in it. That would be a real shame.

Communicating implies exchanging with other people. To exchange, I believe that the main quality is to be altruistic. You have to understand what other people want in order to offer them answers.

If you want to communicate photographically with your audience by telling them stories, expressing emotions or conveying messages, you need to know the expectations of your audience, which I call viewers.

To communicate well photographically you need to know and understand what affects the people who will look at your photos. If you do not listen to them, you won't meet their expectations. Your photos will not have the impact you were hoping for. To create interesting photos, it is essential to know the desires and expectations of your viewers.

Of course, I don't advise you to make photos only because your public expects them or only to please them. You must also create photos that correspond to you, that translate your moral and ethical values.

Communication is an exchange between two parties. Communication never occurs in only one direction.

That is why you should always address a small group of people, focusing on a group will shares your values and interests. If you try to communicate with as many people as possible, you will be just another average, mundane voice in the hubbub and chaos in this world. When we communicate as an average voice, we are no longer audible. We become part of the general overwhelming noise.

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Communicating photographically with an audience or with viewers is about empathizing with them and understanding what they want from you. If their questions are similar to yours, then you can answer them sincerely through your photos. You will be heard and understood. You will create interesting and meaningful photos that leave a lasting impact.

In my job as a professional photographer, this is what I do every day. I create fine art photography to answer my clients' questions, while respecting my values and my choices. It is as simple as that.

For me, creating fine art photography is about making pictures that will be displayed on the walls of the living and working environments of people who share my passion for nature. I want my clients to relive or feel the emotions that they have experienced in the past. I also want them to dream or to escape from their daily life. This is my photographic why.


I hope this article has helped you understand that one of the purposes of photography is to communicate with others.

If you were to remember only one thing, it is that to create interesting, meaningful photos that shows who you are, you need to be selfless and develop your empathic qualities.

You need to understand your viewers to communicate well with them. But the most important thing is to understand yourself, so you know what you want to say and how you are going to say it.

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

I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos