What is meant by "meaning" here? One can think of several different “Levels” ["Depths" or "Layers"] to photography. We can use photography to: 1) Copy, 2) Enhance, and 3) Connect/Communicate.
The basic "Copy" level involves trying to capture a subject or scene pretty much the way it looks to the viewer at the time. In this copying mode, the photographer strives to capture colors as they appear, an image that is not too light nor too dark compared to the perceived scene, and so on. At first, this sounds like there's no creativity involved,and for many folks there is none. But in fact there's still a lot of room for variation and creativity... in choosing which subject to shoot, what vantage point(s) to shoot from, what type of lens and focal length to use, how close to get, what's to be included in the image, and how the included subjects will be arranged in the viewfinder ("composition"). Backing up a bit, there were choices as to which camera to bring, where to go, what time of day to be there, and so on.
So even in "Copying", there are lots of choices. But when these fundamental "setup" parameters are established, copying is fairly straightforward with minor variations among shooters. Now, the goal of capturing a copy of a scene is an imperfect science if for no other reason than because the camera "sees" differently than we do. Nevertheless, at the "Copy" level the goal is to capture an "authentic" view of the scene... nothing more, nothing less, and variations among photographers at the same scene will be smaller than for other "Levels," if for no other reason than the commonplace use of "automatic" camera settings. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a good copy of a scene. But it is also possible to enhance the scene.
Enhance - Beyond the goal of copying a subject, the next level is to use photography to "Enhance." The concept is simple: the photographer wants to add or subtract or in some way, to change his photographic result in order to "improve" it beyond what a point and shoot picture would offer. Examples: Adjust the exposure in order to change the range of light and dark tones, perhaps narrower the range of light & dark tones to "High Key"(mostly light values), or "Low Key" (darker values). Colors may be made more vivid (saturated) , either because it was a dull day or because the photographer wants to "boost" the reds and oranges in a Fall scene or to deepen the blues of the sky... or, when the situation warrants, convert what is a color scene to black and white in the print, perhaps to bring out the subject's form and texture.. Still another example of Enhancement is found in many treatises on portrait photography: soften the light in a portrait in order to reduce or remove what some may consider to be 'blemishes,' and/or make the the focal point the eyes, even if other features are not crisp, in order t emphasize them ...and so on.
Connect - Beyond wanting to Copy or Enhance, there's a third broad category: to "Connect." The idea here is to go beyond producing an image, whether enhanced or not, to communicate a message of some kind to others, such as a story, mood, puzzle, message, feeling, an emotion.... well, it's your choice!
Ask yourself: what am I trying to do or be in this particular shot, or even as a general style for your photography? Of course, you can mix them up - one shot could be "just" the usual capture photo; in the next you might wish to enhance some aspects of the subject and/or communicate a feeling.
. So when you are shooting something, anything, ask yourself what you might do differently if you were to shift from "Copy mode" to "Enhance mode" or "Connect" mode. Are there aspects of subject or scene at that moment or in general the world around you that you would like to emphasize, and/or share with or tell to or surprise others?
If, as we described in Essay #1, you begin to see more and to see more deeply, then you are ready for exploring and using photography's different modes. Then your photos will have more variety, more meaning, and you will be communicating to others your perceptions, insights, values and personality....
Next: Essay #3. Exploring further your full Potential