Learning to take meaningful photos (5 tips to help you grow)

Photography is a powerful art form. You can convey so much with just a single image.  One of the things I hear is that people want to take “meaningful” photos.  Learning to take meaningful photos is a lifelong process, one that I am still working on today.

When you ask Google to define “meaningful,” it comes up with several different options.  The one that I would apply most to photography is “communicating something that is not directly expressed.”  This is the beautiful part of photography.  We get a chance to say something through our images.  It is no wonder that people want to master the art of taking meaningful photos.

During my 20+ years of taking photos, I have continually sought ways to improve all aspects of my photography.  One of these is the area of “meaningful” photos.  I have come up with 5 tips to help you continually improve in making your photos more meaningful:

  1. Determine how you define “meaningful”
  2. Let Pinterest Inspire you
  3. Practice, practice, practice
  4. Incorporate objects that speak louder than words
  5. Take on a photography challenge, with a twist

Below I go into each of these in more detail

Determine how you define “meaningful”

Learning to take meaningful photos first starts with determining what “meaningful” means to you. I listed the Google definition, but there are so many interpretations of this definition.  Perhaps to you a meaningful photograph is one that showcases a cause that you are passionate about.  Or, it could be several generations of your family in one photo.  It could even be something very simple, but has a special meaning known only to you.

For me, a meaningful photograph coincides with sentiment.  While the photos I take of my family are always special, I wouldn’t necessarily define each one as meaningful.  Once the photo involves a favorite family activity or item, then the photo becomes meaningful.  When my daughter was born, I posed her with my old ranger uniform.  These photos hold a lot of meaning for me, because it incorporates a job that meant a lot to me, and my precious baby.

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Let Pinterest Inspire you

Learning to take meaningful photos is a goal of many photographers, but sometimes it is hard to define meaningful.  You know it when you see it, but you just can’t put it into words.  This is ok, because Pinterest is here to help!

Make a board on Pinterest and label it “Meaningful Photos.”  Then, start perusing through the myriad of photos posted to Pinterest.  Vary your searches to find different kinds of photos.  Warning: If you search “meaningful photos” or anything for that matter, you may come across some darker images.  So be prepared!

Only save the ones that you personally would consider meaningful.  When you look at this photo, does it strike a chord with you in some way?  Or would it be meaningful if the subjects were your family/friends?  If so, save it to your newly created board.

Once you have saved about forty to fifty photos, go back to your board.  Look at all the photos as a group.  Is there common theme among the photos?  It may not be just the subject matter either.  Coloring, lightings, and framing can all play powerful roles in a photograph. 

Once you have gone through this step, you may have a better idea of what makes a photograph meaningful to you.  Then, you can move on to the next step: Practicing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

These wise words were spoken by a French photographer back when the world still used film for photography.  In order to become better at anything, practice is important.  Photography is no exception to the rule.  The more pictures you take, the more you

An important piece of practicing is to analyze your photos as well.  You have to look at what you like and what you don’t, so you know what path to take with your photography journey.  Without analyzing your photos, you will be taking the same kind of photos over and over again.

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Incorporate objects that speak louder than words

When you are unable to communicate using words, objects can help convey a strong message.  The symbolism in props is powerful and can be used in a variety of ways.  During your next shoot, try to figure out what “story” you want to tell.  Then ask yourself if there are any props that would work well to help you out.  

For example, take an engagement photo for a bride and groom to be.  There are many options for posing and conveying the love they have for each other.  You can have them standing side-by-side, holding hands.  Now, take that same picture but put a large “&” symbol between them.  It adds something different to the photo and helps speak to the message you want to convey. 

Take on a photography challenge, with a twist

If you go onto Pinterest, you can find A LOT of different photography challenges. Some are pretty straightforward, others more abstract.  Go through the options and find one that calls to you, and take on the challenge!  However, add a twist to the subject each day: Find a way to make that particular subject and subsequent photo meaningful to you.  

For example, maybe the challenge for the day is “sunset.” You could do a basic sunset picture, or you could give yourself a challenge to make the photo more meaningful to you.  This could be having someone standing in front of the sunset, creating a silhouette.  Or you could get the rays of sunlight shooting out from behind your favorite building. 

This is a great way to expand your photography skills in general.  It is also fun to take a challenge, and then take it again a year later to see how much you have improved. 

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Learning to take meaningful photos takes some practice.  Having a plan in place to try and improve can help out with your goals. 

To recap the list:

  1. Determine how you define “meaningful”
  2. Let Pinterest Inspire you
  3. Practice, practice, practice
  4. Incorporate objects that speak louder than words
  5. Take on a photography challenge, with a twist

If you like this post, please check out some of my other articles:

Getting Good Pictures at the Pumpkin Patch (8 fun ideas)

How to Take Your Own Weekly Maternity Photos (5 Useful Tips)


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