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Photography Themes

For hobbyist photographers, especially those who spend much of their time in the same place, it’s not uncommon to feel like there’s not much to go out and shoot after a while.

The reality is, that’s never true.

It’s also quite easy, after learning a lot in a short time after first buying a ‘good’ camera, for the skill level to plateau.

Choosing one or more photography themes before you go out shooting is a surefire way to get out of either, or both, of these slumps.

What is a photography theme?

A photography theme is something that links the single pictures that make up a set. What that is is entirely up to you, and it could be almost anything.

Your theme could be something physical, like:

  • leaves
  • water
  • hats
  • shadows
  • eyes

It could also be based on a more abstract concept, such as:

  • a shape
  • things in twos, or threes
  • old & new
  • a colour
  • a feeling

The technical composition of your shots could also be your theme:

  • black and white
  • natural frames
  • diagonal lines
  • negative space
  • repeating patterns

vintage ferris wheel in monochrome

Why choose photography themes?

Photography themes focus the mind.

I guarantee, if you choose circles as your theme, you will see circles everywhere. Hundreds of them, in places you probably would never have looked at twice, and in objects you never would have thought of shooting before.

There’s an instant injection of motivation, and a reason to shoot what before was probably nondescript.

That doesn’t mean shooting anything and everything that fits your theme though.

You still need the pictures to be good, and so still need to be selective and think about composition, but this is what helps you to refine your eye and improve your standalone shots too.

shop front on east nanjing road shanghai china

How to shoot a good set of photographs 

Consistency is key, but so is variety.

Mixing monochrome with colour isn’t a good idea, and neither is having both daytime and nighttime shots; unless of course your theme is based on this premise.

Your theme shouldn’t be the main subject in every photograph either. Mix it up. Make it the centrepiece of one image and in the background of another.

Another piece of advice: if you’re struggling to think of a theme that interests you, choose a theme that interests you.

You might be into classic cars, or street fashion, or Asian typography.

Choosing a theme that people know is connected to you will help you to connect with your photographs, and for your audience to later connect them to you too.

A good set of photographs, with a common theme running through them, is greater than the sum of its parts. A good set of photographs also needs every single image to work by itself as well as in the group.

Giving yourself a theme and trying to achieve this can only make you a better photographer.

And that’s what we all want really, isn’t it?

When can I give myself a theme photography?

Today, and you can keep it for life, or give it up tomorrow.

Once you have one ingrained in your mind, you’ll never stop noticing scenes that could go into your set. You could limit yourself to a single day out with your theme, or you could build your set for years, or forever.

It’s really up to you.

But if you’re struggling to find inspiration, want to develop a keener eye for specific details, or just come up with a set of connected pictures rather than a collection of unrelated ones, the next time you go out shooting… just give yourself a theme.

My themes so far:


Behind Bars

(I know. I need more 🙂 )

What about you, though?

Do you have any pictures sets centred on a theme?

Let us know in the comments below. 🙂

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