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13 Cool Photography Themes to Inspire Your Work

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Sometimes it takes a little inspiration to get going with photography. Here are 13 of the coolest photography themes to inspire your photographic practice.

What Is a Photography Theme?

In photography, a theme is an overarching concept that a photographer adheres to. From black and white photography to night or aerial photography.

Using photography themes is a great way to inspire creativity.

For any artist, working within a theme can change your artistic perspective. It’ll show you new possibilities and solutions to creative problems.

Choosing photography themes also sets you in a decisive direction. It adds authenticity and depth to your body of work and allows you to focus your creative energy.

1. Black and White

Black and white photography (whether it be film or digital) has a unique beauty. It is one of the oldest and broadest photographic themes out there.

Highlighting form and shape, a black and white theme removes the distraction of color. It reinforces the subject matter and the photographic process.

You could focus on a particular subject or photograph a range of different genres.

Either way, black and white photography unites a succession of photographic images. It ties them together in a visual narrative that emphasizes the building blocks of photographic practice.

A black and white close up of a flower - photography themes
Black and white photography amplifies form, adding a distinctive depth to an image. Photo by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash

2. Colour

Through evolution and culture, color has developed strong ties with our emotions.

Red is linked with passion and love. Blue is the color associated with sadness.

Colour photography speaks to our visual understanding of the world.

By focusing on color as a theme, you are appealing to our innate sense of the visible spectrum.

A line of coloring pencils on a white background - photography themes
Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

3. Texture

Texture describes the touchability of the environment we live in. We can instinctively develop a sense of how textural something is just by looking at it.

Think of old walls, stones, grass, textiles. Capturing texture cultivates an exchange of information that crosses the boundaries of verbal communication.

A dirty textured pink wall - photography themes
Photo by Mark Eder on Unsplash

4. Aerial

Sometimes, to tease out inspiration, a new perspective is needed.

Aerial photography involves the use of an aircraft or drone. You want to capture the world from a bird’s eye view.

We spend most of our lives on the ground, looking up. Aerial photography as a photographic theme provides an interesting approach to depicting the world around us.

An aerial photo of trees in a forest - photography themes
Photo by Layne Lawson on Unsplash

5. Line

It may not sound exciting, but the possibilities of lines are endless once you start to look.

Curved, straight, coloured, jagged, leading, broken. Lines behave in a multitude of ways, providing the eye with a path to follow throughout the image.

Try capturing jerky lines to provoke an energetic reading or cool curves to denote a sense of fluidity.

An overhead shot of a persons feet standing over a yellow line on the road
We encounter lines on a daily basis, providing interesting photographic opportunities. Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

6. Nature

If you are feeling stuck in a rut, adopting a photographic theme based around nature can be really beneficial.

Not only is a nature walk good for your mental health, but it can reveal captivating photographic opportunities too.

A natural theme encompasses a wide range of subject matter and techniques. This means there is plenty of room for creativity.

Set a goal to go for a walk in nature for an hour or two with your camera and see what the natural world has in store.

Atmospheric view of trees in a forest - photography themes
Photo by Elke Karin Lugert on Unsplash

7. Pattern

Defined by the repetition of elements in a photograph, pattern can be found both in nature and in man-made forms.

Photographing patterns draws attention to the fascinating similarities and juxtapositions that make up our world.

Even a group of images based on disrupted patterns cultivates a theme through the subversion of repetition.

Keep an eye out for repetitious details (colors, shapes, specific subjects) that can tie an image together.

It’s amazing how much of our environment is ordered and disordered by pattern.

A multi windowed building covered by scaffolding and plastic
Disrupted patterns create and reinforce patterns within themselves. Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

8. Macro

Macro photography centers around revealing the intricate beauty of our surroundings.

Whether you have a macro lens, a set of extension tubes or reversing rings, you can do macro photography. Use it to explore the make-up of the natural and urban environment.

Try restricting your macro theme to a specific subject. Use insects, flowers or eyes to create a visual study of the unnoticed or unseen.

Beautiful macro photo of dew drops on a leaf - photography themes
Photo by dan carlson on Unsplash

9. Food

Food provides us with the energy to go about our daily lives. It also makes for tasty photography themes.

Food can be photographed in a studio, at home or out and about. This makes it a great photographic subject.

It’s also a good excuse to cook/bake/buy yourself some delicious (and visually appealing) chow.

You could even try flat lay photography. Document the ingredients going into your meal. Bon appetit!

Beautiful food photography flat lay on a rustic background - photography themes
Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

10. Self Portraits

As photographers, we take a lot of photos of people, places and things. But it’s rare that we’ll take the time to turn the lens on ourselves.

Self portraits are a great theme to adopt if you’re looking to work on your portraiture technique. You’ll be able to apply practical skills to a readily available model.

What better excuse to let your light shine both in front and behind the camera?

A male photographer talking a self portrait of himself through the mirror - photography themes
Self portraits make for a fascinating photographic theme. Photo by John Sting on Unsplash

11. Abstraction

Abstract photography lacks an immediate association with the visual world.

Instead of photographing figurative subject matter, abstract photographers rely on things like light, color, and texture to impart an emotional impression.

Abstraction is a great theme because it’s free from the tethers of the literal.

This means that there is plenty of room to experiment. You can boundaries and capture something unique and visually engaging.

Abstract photo of smoke or fog - photography themes
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

12. Street

Street photography as a theme can be a challenging but rewarding experience.

Master photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier and Saul Leiter have all worked predominantly in the field of street photography.

Offering insight into everyday life, street photography will hone your reflexes, as well as your photographic eye.

Street portrait of an elderly couple chatting - photography themes
Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

13. Night

Night time photography covers a wealth of photographic techniques and methodologies.

Light trail, star trail, or even street photography can come under the heading of night photography.

Ramp up your ISO, lower your shutter speed, open your aperture, bring a flash, or embrace ambient light. There are numerous ways to combat or embrace dark conditions.

Night time photography makes use of the darkness as a tool to articulate the properties of light.

Street portrait of people at an outdoor food stall at night - photography themes
Combining night and street photography creates an intimate ambience. Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

Conclusion

If you’re ever in need of creative inspiration, or you want to change up your photographic practice, themes are a great way to get things started.

You may re-discover old photographic methods or learn something completely new.

Either way, photography themes are great fun. Pick something from this list and get shooting!

looking for more photography inspiration? Why not check out these articles on how to make a Photography Zine or starting a photography club next!

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