Concept Development

Posted by on Dec 24, 2011 in Tips | 2 Comments

Hey guys, this is an article I wrote during my time as the Conceptual Gallery Moderator on,
and so I thought it might be useful for some of you who want to get into conceptual art.

Hope you will find it to be insightful!



Well basically it’s about an idea(s), thought(s) or feeling(s). Resolving or portraying them from your creative mind as best as you can make it your concept. An idea is only powerful unless it is expressed well and unless you wish to express a message. Without meaning or feeling it is not a concept. So just taking a snapshot photograph does not make it a conceptual piece or just making something because you felt like it. It’s when you put the concept to it that it becomes something more. The image alone should speak for itself, even though it can sometimes be ambiguous. That’s where you take that challenge to direct the message in the path that you would like it to go.

I will try my best to help you in ways to develop concepts and get rid of those artist blocks that we all encounter.

If you still don’t understand what conceptual means fully, take a look at this ARTICLE for a clearer understanding. There are the definitions by some deviants from deviantART.



When coming up with concepts or if an idea just sparked, write it down! And even sketch it if you can. Think and brainstorm till no more ideas come, and note all your ideas down. It may be useful for another idea or even if a client asks you to create something that’s nearly along the same thought process as yours. Before you jump into research, approach your idea from every angle possible, from a perspective you wouldn’t ever consider trying. Then do some background research into what you plan to do. The reason I said research after is, so that your first ideas are not influenced by things that you will discover, this could limit your thought process. Your creative juices will become boosted; it’ll help you develop your concept(s) even more. Maybe even give you another idea for creating a different piece. So do not discard it.



You must wonder what kind of question is this? Well it’s not so freaky when you think about it. I am certain you get your ideas at one or maybe more times during the day. When you’re waking up, going to sleep, doing the laundry, cooking, or even taking a shower, some ideas pop into your mind. Well if you know when those times are that you are most creative, take advantage of it. Keep a notebook with you and write those ideas down. Most likely if you don’t, you may never get the same idea again or it might never come back the same.



Do not just rush into creating something because it’s an idea – it may not be your best, not just yet, take your time to develop it, look for alternatives. Sometimes better ideas come when you develop them, it helps you better understand it yourself. The photos below show two concepts I developed trying to come up with a piece for a Love Contest.





Ask yourself these questions or rather, run the idea by someone who shares the same view
point as you do if you are comfortable sharing it.
Will people get your message or will they interpret it as something else? Is there enough clarity?
What is it that you want to get out of it?
For people to stop and think?
For people to be disgusted but drop their jaw at the reality of your idea?
To influence someone positively? Or to just express a feeling or thought inside your mind?
Who is your audience? Are you targeting the right audience?



There isn’t only one way of creating something and all styles and media may not well execute the idea you have in your mind. If you are trying to portray anger you aren’t going to use white or use a lady bug in your image. You would most likely use red or orange, you would use texture, and you would illustrate/photograph/paint/draw clenched teeth or destruction. So think about how best you can use elements to create that umph to making your concept strong.

If an idea is about you, you don’t necessarily have to make a self portrait but rather something that expresses you. If it is driving, take some element from driving. If it is about a passion you have for something then use colours, use bold shapes, take what you feel and throw it out, the exact words that come to your mind or the images you see, note that down, it could be the ‘silliest’ things that might just be enough to get your message across. It does not always have to be literal. What if you put a twist on it and look at it from a whole new perspective? Don’t think too complex either. Remember Simplicity is More.



Go over what you conceptualised, choose the best solution, even if it is a combination of more than one idea, if it’ll get your concept across then work with it. Included in this would be your subject/object, how you choose to portray it, colours you would use, would it be portraiture, landscape? A collage of elements in a location or setting? Will it be bright, high key, low key? Will it be saturated, de-saturated? You plan all that out and then you go create your piece. You should feel confident and learn how to plan, ideas flow better, they come better and time isn’t wasted.



When you have finally got your concept out and created and think to yourself, this is it, this is what I want to say. Then post it, upload it and share it! But your title is as important as the image if it is going to accompany it. How you title it could change the whole impact and change the concept entirely. So also be selective of how you title your conceptual images. Choose the correct words; even if it takes you an hour, your title highlights the entire work process and message.



Lastly say something about your piece, by now you must have tons of things you went through to get what you created. How was the discovery and conceptual development for you? You will also want to give the viewers a little idea about what it means to you and why you chose to do it. I am confident your explanation would draw viewers in even more, but do not over write or over explain. Keep it brief, 100 or even 50 words minimum. If you think the image is enough to get your message across then don’t say anything at all.



Yes I talked about planning but not all concepts are executed with so much thought like above as one might be on a spot where an idea just sparked and you jumped to go create an art piece – because many people do come up with ideas on the spot, I have. Coming up with ideas on the spot isn’t always successful, meaning it might not get your message across clearly, or it might lack something. If you have been developing concepts for quite some time this would be for you, because you will know what works and what wouldn’t work. If you are new to conceptual art, take some time to develop your ideas. If you are out in nature, or in a place where you feel inspired and you see something that would be great for a feeling or thought that you have, then by all means conceptualise your ideas. Just make sure it’s saying what you want it to say. Do not just look through old photos and artwork, title it and call it conceptual, conceptual art is much more than that. It is a PROCESS and the MESSAGE is key.



  1. Kawthar AK
    January 7, 2012

    Thanks for writing this!! I was just thinking the other day “What does conceptual photography really mean?”. Oftentimes I have a feeling or idea that I strongly want to express but Im just not sure how to make it come across correctly…. I think the tips you offered here will really help me the next time I want to develop an idea.

    • Faheema Patel
      January 7, 2012

      It’s a pleasure. I really hope it does, I look forward to seeing your conceptual work.


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