Developing a photographic eye

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by luis_bascones, Aug 29, 2003.

  1. So here is a question that I know has no simple answer but
    experience. Still, I have it and find myself constantly struggling
    wit it. The question is: How can I develop a photographic eye?

    I have done a lot of reading on photography, and have taken (and keep
    taking) a good share of pictures. I understand and apply fairly well
    the important photographic techniques, and most of the time I get
    them right. I also spend a good time looking at photographs and
    asking myself what it is that made the shot, what I would have done
    differently, etc. But invariantly I run into photographs where I end
    up asking myself over and over again "How did the photographer manage
    to SEE the picture before deciding to take it". I ask this because I
    know that I would have missed the shot - I would not have noticed
    that it was there in the first place. I am humbled - almost
    humiliated - when I see pictures with such simplicity and such an
    everyday quality, knowing that I have the technical skills to take it
    but that I would and will not see the photographic opportunity in
    front of me. Occasionally, I will step in my backyard, camera in
    hand, looking for something that catches my eye - something that I
    would find worth photographing. Most of the time, I come back with
    either nothing or shots so uninteresting that they end up thrown away
    and forgotten before they even make it back from the lab (or deleted
    if digital).

    So, how can I learn to "SEE" with the right side of my brain? What
    can I do to train my eye to recognize objects that, in appropriate
    light and perspective, and composed correctly within a frame, will
    generate a photograph worth keeping, remembering, and looking at
    occasionally or maybe, just maybe, frequently?

    Eagerly awaiting the light,

  2. Photography is like formulating ideas. They might work in your head but they need to be challanged to prove their merit. The challenge comes from the feedback. However, on this site, most feedback is garbage. A response like "great shot" tells you nothing. A rating of 2s or 3s without comment is also worthless. Occasionally, a reviewer will give you excellent commentary with suggestions for improvement. These are the treasures. Read them carefully and weigh them against your own ideas. You do not have to accept the opinions of others.
    Secondly, I have learned that sometimes you take a picture to capture a scene or event that attracts you. If you stumble into this that you are not really expressing yourself, just capturing the image. You don't have to explain this just do it. If you set out to express yourself you should explain that when you ask for critique. Then weigh the responses.
  3. For me the best way to get a good shot is just to burn a lot of film, and hopefully get something that works. I am the first to admit that I am a shooter and not a setup guy. However lots of times I go out with a specific shot in mind and take 15 pictures of 'the' shot and one offhand shot of something else along the way, and guess what, the offhand shot ends up being the good one. So is serendipity bad? Not for me. My work is about experimentation and chance and searching for the indefinable poetic moment.

    I think that taking a lot of shots looking for one good one also leads to learning to have a better eye. Getting out looking for shots also puts you in a position to get yourself in front of a good photographic moment. So burn lots of sneaker tread.

    One other thing; I dont think it hurts to have a passion for whatever it is you are trying to photograph.

    Aesthetics is the one part of the equation that cannot be taught or book learned per se, you have to find it on your own.

    Don't be too hard on yourself either, take the good shots you have made and put them up on the wall and enjoy them. I am sure you will find more merit in them as time passes. The grass is always greener on the other guy's wall. But your vision is your vision, right?
  4. I read Fremman Patterson's book at it did a lot for me, but then, I was sort of ready to recieve this instruction. My interest for nature also helped, as it is Patterson's primary interest.
  5. First: it is a state of mind. Good support from my experience is having time, no worrys, wear cheap non spot sensitive trousers, go slow, by bicycle instead of fast car, take light gear or lugguage. Be courious about your surrounding. Going to work by car I would miss anything.
    There are times nearly nothing can touch you and places where you won't find anything.
    Look at your throw away shots. Analyze them. Try to find out why they are bad and do it better. Outdoors there is most times the wrong time, because light doesn't come from the right direction. Learn to find out the right times.
    Maybe you should start some studio work, but it is very hard, especially shooting people.
    Damned; I don't know too, but I 'll go on.
  6. Luis... get closer to your subject and fill the frame. Remember that the small parts of your subject can be more interesting than the whole. Get on an "eyeball to eyeball" level with your subject. REALLY LOOK at what is in your viewfinder. <p>
    With hard work and practice you may develop a photographic eye as good as mine, and get a decent picture every 500 or 600 exposures. -Dave
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    First: it is a state of mind
    This is a very good point.
    It takes a desire to photograph something, something specific, that will make you successful. You have to want to shoot whatever it is, and you have to have something to say about it. Otherwise, it's, as you have discovered, difficult to find anything to shoot.
    And that is why it can be simple. Instead of going out looking and burning a lot of film, figure out what matters to you. When I work with teenagers who are just starting with photography, I always start them with their friends and environment, since it is always something they care about, and have specific feelings about. The same applies to you.
  8. Given the nature of your question, I was surprised to see you've
    been here for three years, but have no images uploaded. You've
    got the attention of several experienced shooters right now.
    There's no time like the present.

    If you don't have a scanner, or time, or whatever, look for
    photographers here who have commmented a lot, read what
    they've said, and check out the image. I know it sounds
    backwards, but it might help.
  9. So, how can I learn to "SEE" with the right side of my brain? What can I do to train my eye to recognize objects that, in appropriate light and perspective, and composed correctly within a frame, will generate a photograph worth keeping, remembering, and looking at occasionally or maybe, just maybe, frequently?
    The same way you develop any skill - practice. If someone asks how you learn to play the piano well the answer is the same. You practice and you practice until you get it right. There's no easy way and no magic formula. Most of it is hard work. Musicians practice for hours every day. How often do you take pictures? There are no excuses, you do it or you don't.
    Of course some people are lousy pianists and always will be, no matter how much they practice. Not everyone can be great, but all the great ones work hard at it
  10. Even after 30+ years of fooling with this hobby/craft, my percentage of keepers is fairly low. I'll never be an "artist", just a competent craftsman. Doesn't bother me a whole lot since I shoot purely for enjoyment. If you're thinking too much, try a somewhat mechanical approach for a while. Step 1- look at a huge number of photographs and other artwork to develop a sense of composition (don't work from rules, just know it when you see it). Step 2- find things that interest *you* and get them in front of the camera (if you're not interested in peppers, don't put them in front of the camera). Step 3- move you or the subject until what you see in the finder has some balance, i.e., evokes the same feelings as the stuff you looked at in step 1. Don't forget to experiment with lighting via position, reflectors, time of day, or fill. A really corny old book that taught me a lot is The Fun of Photography from about 1938. A book search might turn up a copy. Finally, the camera has nothing to do with any of this, but I find it easier to judge what I've got in the dull 2d finder of a TLR or MF SLR, than the bright picture window of many 35mm SLRs and RFs.
  11. Luis: Your question could easily be mine. I too am in awe of the beautiful photographs I see on this site. Many of the scenery photos are more beautiful than anything I've seen in person. This makes me wonder if the beauty takes place outside the area where I live, if it's enhanced with filters or made "better" with Photoshop.
    <p>I've spent the last year trying to see the bigger picture. Are there light poles in the way? Does the person have a flower pot growing out of their head? Is the background color distracting? Now, I think it's time for me to start looking at the smaller picture. How can I make a good photograph that shows only a part of the wheel instead of the whole car or a curtained portion of a window instead of the whole house. While this comes naturally to some people, it's almost abstract to me. I'm sure I'll have a 1,000 failures before I click a decent shot. But I believe that looking at good examples and following that photographers lead is a good place to start.
  12. First, find your subject. What is it that 'moves' you? What do you
    want to say about it ? This will drive your photography and your
    'eye' will develop. Aim first for a small portfoio, then aim for an
  13. 1. Taking a look at a single look wont help. You have to go thru hundreds of books; photography, design, paintings books -- all that can help you to understand what looks good and what is beautiful.<p>
    2. You need to practice a lot. Thinking while taking a photo helps!<p>
    3. Better equipment is not going to help you too much.<p>
    4. Reading comments of photographers that "comment a lot" is not going to help you too much; contrary to the common believe...
  14. I was a fine artist (painting) before being a photographer.

    I approach pictures like this.. I look through the view finder and if what I see is not something I would choose to paint (speaking of composition and lighting NOT esoterics/subject matter) I don't press the shutter button.

    I suggest you choose a subject you want to photograph and look at how others have gone before you who are successful. Start out by copying in your view finder what they did. As you practice this you will start to see for yourself what makes a photograph (and more importantly, what does not).

    Take good notes so you can attain repeatability. Think before you press that shutter release...

    Good luck and have fun!
  15. Moderator: Please archive this thread.
  16. I have a binder of keepers, either planned or serendipitous, but the binder that I refer to more often is my "almost good shots". The classic tree growing out of a head, or someone's arm sticking into the frame are there. These keep me fresh on basic avoidables. Creative eye? Learn to critique yourself. I also have a bunch of shots that make me say "There's a great picture in there. I didn't get it. What could I have done better?" I believe this has helped me.
  17. mjd


    One common mistake among us photography aficionados is to not be ruthless enough in the editing stage. We seem to grow attached to our pictures, the good and the not-so-good ones. I think this is partly because we don't shoot as much, both quantity- and variety-wise, as say, a working photojournalist who by definition has to move on quickly from one assignment to the next. I have come to terms myself with the fact that to be able to take good photographs, you need to know what a good photograph looks like in the first place. This comes with practive as discussed before, but there obviously are other issues such as natural talent and opportunity. Concerning natural talent, there isn't much we can do it about it, alright. Opportunity has to do with location and lifestyle. Where you live and hang out can clearly determine what you shoot and how you shoot it. Many of us spend too much energy and time juggling a busy day job, family responsibilities, etc., for us to be able to practice photography and truly develop a creative vision. That being said, if one really loves the craft, it's up to us to come to terms with these contraints and overcome them. I am not solving your dilemma by any means, but I hope these thoughts can help you to find out who you are photographically speaking.
  18. Luis-

    I feel exactly the same about my own photography. Thanks for asking the question. Thinking about how to answer it has me thinking about if I take my own advice (no) and if I think it would help me (yes), so here goes:

    I know that we all learn more from our failures than from our successes, so don't be so fast to pitch the bad shots. Ellis has advised people on this forum to edit ruthlessly, and I agree with that, but before you throw the rejects in the trash, study them for anything they can tell you about why they don't work. It's more fun to look at your successes and ask yourself why they work, but not nearly as instructive.

  19. Photography is like music: one can read, shoot, and practice.

    But, unlike a Mozart, not everyone can produce a symphony, even though aspiring musicians read music, practice, and try to create a masterwork.
  20. Its my belief that you have to enjoy what you're doing to be good at it. Take photos
    you enjoy making. Now, if you're working hard at that, be critical of yourself to the
    point that its almost not enjoyable anymore. I believe its combination of love and
    perfection that makes great photographers.

    Surround yourself with photographs that inspire you. Include some of your best work
    in this group. Try copying some of your favorite photographs.

    You also seem to emphasize spontaneous photography. Maybe you're not that kind of
    photographer. Try setting up and photographing a still life.

    Also, remember that luck is a function of commitment. I don't necessarily see my best
    shots when i'm taking them. I'll get all excited about something and it will be nothing.
    Many of my favorite shots where when I just tried something.

    It might be good for you to take a class - you'll be surrounded by people facing the
    same problems.
  21. I absolutely relate to where you're at. By trade I'm I tax CPA; about as left brain as one can get. I have the same feeling when I go through and critique images on this site: would I have seen this shot? I've taken a couple art classes and photography classes, and here's what I've concluded: there are artists and there are technicians. I'm a technician. I can learn as much as anyone about negative densities, mixing my own chemicals, lighting ratios and setups, etc. But I'm weak as an artist; I probably always will be. So I'm going to shoot, shoot and shoot.

    I've recently started putting some of my shots on this site for critique, which has been a very interesting experience. I love to shoot people, and my shots of people have been rated much better than anything else I've posted. So shoot what you love to shoot, and you'll probably have better success. Put on your thick skin, and post them on this site for critique. When you get a 2,2 that you don't understand and they made no comments, look at images that critiquer has posted; often times I look at their work, and immediately understand why they didn't like my shots: I think theirs are crap too: we have different taste, that's ok. I also agree with a couple of comments above that a 2-2 rating means nothing with out comments, and I am committed to make comments when I rate an image very high or very low so the photographer understands where I was coming from when I gave the rating.

    Great question. Thanks for asking it.
  22. Luis,

    Not that I'm a great photographer or anything but my goal is to portray my subjects with as much intensity as possible. I like intense music...intense moments...intense books...emotions...all these I'll be thinking about during my day...and I'll can I make THAT intense. How can I show the intensity of THAT. It's a mindset I go into much like my wife's when she paints. She can't just paint on demand...she needs to feel it. It might be months before she pulls the stuff out but when she does she is consumed by it...and then it goes away for a while. I operate much the same way. Think about it a to create. Create!

  23. If you can find a copy of "On Being a Photographer-A Practical Guide" By Bill Jay and
    David Hurn you will find that it addresses this question in a deep and fundamental
  24. photography is inherently technical. it is possible to learn how to capture an excellent photograph. to learn how to develope 35mm bw and print an 8x10 from that negative. the technical skills are learnable.

    but the mind of an artist is only his/her own. in the end there is no school or book. your eye is your eye. your thoughts your thoughts. honing those tools is within your reach but transforming them into something that they are not, is impossible.

    who are you trying to satisfy? the general public? art america? people who print calendars? your newspaper editor? what are you trying to say?

    perhaps none of the above? then, simply take more photographs, expose yourself to different photographers and artists, and eventually you will improve your technical skills. i would suggest a digital camera. the instant feedback offered by digital cameras is a wonderful learning tool. even stepping down into one of the "non-technical" arts, drawing/painting/sculpture/etc, might help you "see" better, at least it might give your artistic side a change of pace, let it play a little.
  25. It's a good idea to keep a binder of not only your own shots, but also shots you admire. If you see a photo you like in a magazine, tear it out and add it to your scrapbook. When you need inspiration, look to these photos and try to compose and shoot them yourself. They will also give you ideas for your own compositions.

    The music analogy is a good one. Like any musician, you'll start off by studying and performing the works of other musicians. As your skill increases, you'll begin to write your own music, until finally you're creating masterpieces. There's no easy way around it, but if you have a passion for photography, the work will definitely be enjoyable. Good luck!
  26. "The question is: How can I develop a photographic eye? "

    If you have enough talent, by looking at good photos, taking photos and growing you may get at the same level. To get better you need your own photographic vision and ideas.
  27. Luis, four things.
    1. For a long while, do not look at photo books or You do not need other people's ideas; you need to develop your own.
    2. Do a gut check. What do you care about? That's your subject, no matter how mundane or bizarre it may seem. What other people care about is irrelevant.
    3. When you compose, it's not just about the "subject." Take responsiblity for everything in the frame. SLR finders can be too much like a window. A camera with waist level finder or a view camera can help develop your ability to see the whole frame.
    4. Understand that your photographic vision will change. Be a tough self-editor, but hang on to anything that makes your inner voice whisper to you. Those are the photos that often contain clues for where you are headed.
  30. Luis,
    I don't have a perfect answer for you, but I do have some
    ideas that worked well for me.

    1. Get some good books and read them carefully. I have found
    a few books which have been great, "seeing landscapes" and
    "the making of landscape photographs" both by Charlie Waite
    are excellent. He is based in England, but you should be able to
    get them. "Composition in art" by Henry Poore is outstanding.
    Written for painters it is one of the best composition books you
    will find though.

    2. Join a camera club. The competitions they hold can provide a
    real incentive to improve yourself.

    3. Decide what it is you like in life. Having a *passion* for old
    motorbikes, landscapes, flowers ... is the real driver to
    making good photos. I find it almost impossible to shoot
    good images of things I have no interest in, but I can happlily
    spend a whole day photographing what I love.

    4. Get out with your camera as often as you can. Many of your
    early images will be rubbish - but its a learning experience
    and you will improve so long as you keep a careful eye on
    where you went wrong.

    5. Go easy on gear. I think we all go through the "I need a bigger,
    newer, shiny ..." camera. You can achieve a lot with very modest
    equipment. A simple SLR and a couple of zooms is fine
    to begin with.

    Good luck

  31. Most of the advise you get here is not new to you, you have done some of it : “I have done a lot of reading on photography, and have taken (and keep taking) a good share of pictures. I understand and apply fairly well the important photographic techniques, and most of the time I get them right. I also spend a good time looking at photographs and asking myself what it is that made the shot,…” some other in my opinion will help you, like getting comments and critical appraisal on your photos. As somebody said most comments here are crap, but you get very good ones as well. Perhaps a good talk with an experienced photographer will be of help as well. But I think a good idea would be to give yourself some assignment, or to participate in a photoclub, so that you have to focus on a subject. I think that to go out to find something worth photographing may be very frustrating if you don’t know why do you want to photograph. I mean, to make photographs is not the goal, but just a mean to express something. You will develop an eye for photographs when you learn to see, and you will learn to see when you know what are you seeing, what are you looking for. An example to make myself clear: you can take photo from landscapes, but a landscape is not just stones, trees and maybe some water nicely arranged, a true landscape is a vision, is an idea. The same is with people, good candids entail an idea of what people is. I think a way to start could be to photograph some specific more abstract subject, like for instance, bizarre people, or working people, or desolate landscapes or whatever you like. That will make you think in the subject, perhaps to read over it, or to study it, lo learn where to find it, to have an opinion on it, to connect you to the subject emotionally and intellectually. Photographing is not only shooting, it is a complex process.
  32. Wonderful responses to your inquiry Luis! Thank You for starting this discussion. <P>Kudos!<P>Keep positive about yourself, your abilities, your talents, with anything you do with your life. A person's attitude shows in s(he's) photography. Or anything else for that matter.<P>We all have times when we feel worthless. Find a way to pick yourself up or get picked up when you're down. Have a circle of close friends, family, who will sense this and will say to you, "you know you're a terrific person and I like what you do!" <P>Love life. Try to do better. And better. And better. It'll go on til the day you leave this earth. <P>Get to a point where you can help other people in some way. They may not appreciate it but it's the desire to give that counts. <P>Follow the advice others ideas as expressed in this forum that fit you. Join a club or organization. Spend a lot of time looking over, examining, formulating, getting your thoughts organized before taking pictures. Take pictures. And some more. Then more. Keep thinking, working on how to do better. Look at other photographer's works. Talk to them. Take classes, photography, art, classes on what you like, maybe it's portraits, macro, nature, sports.<P>Have fun at what you do. Smile and be happy.
  33. I suggest to you that you would concentrate on one quality of a good photograph at a time. Spend a week just looking for this one quality, and take about 40 pictures of things or events that have this one quality.

    A good picture usually has 4-5 good qualities. However, there may be 100 good qualities out there to choose from.

    The rule of 1/3rds is one quality. Another, is "diagonals". Another quality is "near and far". Another quality is "shadows".

    The way I started, my first picture was of stairs. I pictured the stairs diagonally across my frame. And wlith that, I learned the first quality.

    You must spend one week on your assignement to learn about each quality. Then after a month or so, you can combine qualities.

    Qualities may be graphical concepts like above, or color harmony, or human symbolism as is used in cults and religions. Each one is a quality like music. To learn how to play music, you must start at the first in a simple manner and add more tones or notes as you go along.

    There are photographic books that will direct you to these concepts or qualities.

    Master photographers are aware of many qualities.
    Amateurs photographers hardly know any.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  34. Another way to find qualities is to gather a number of magazines together.

    Decide on one or two qualities that you will search for. Perhaps that quality is "symetry". Find all the photographs that use symetry as a dominate quality. Churches are often symetrical. People can be symetrical. The ocean can be symetrical. A car can be symetrical. So, spend a day just looking for this one quality. That is alot cheaper than spending money on taking pictures, at first!

    When you use your camera, try to emulate or use this quality of "symetry". After looking at symetrical objects in magazines, go outside and find an object, like a sign or a newspaper rack or a telephone, or an apple, and make a symetrical photograph of it.

    Is that exciting? Nope. But either is playing on a piano with 1 note. But now you really know where that 1 note is. You can pull it out and use it anytime you need to in the future.

    I took a course in photography for 3 weeks. This is how I learned. We were given assignments like: "shadows", "near and far". We did about 5 different qualities. As a result, I was somewhat equipped to do assignments for the college newspaper and I did PR for the college as well. Therefore, I became professionally almost immediately. All I knew was 4-5 qualities. But I knew the qualities that would help me as a beginning professional, and I didn't fail.

    Therefore, I am giving to you a method that works. I am not going to spend time telling you to feel good and keep going, etc. This is very well covered by the others above.

    Everyone else seemed to miss the methods to learn to gain a photographer's eye. Therefore, i posted it for you.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  35. I forgot a couple of things. 1) Taking a lot of photograph is necessary, no doubt about, but take it easy, because taking photos indiscriminately don’t lead you to good results, you will only have a lot of frustrations. 2) Getting involved with your subject is as important, if not more. 3) Did you know that all good painters read a lot? I don’t know about photographers, but my guess is that it is so too.
  36. Wow, Luis, you really began an emotional discussion! This seems to be a topic that most everyone has considered at some point in his/her photography journey but that not all of us have been brave enough to ask outloud.

    Here's my idea: I liked what Bruce Thee said in his response about there being artists and technicians and that he feels weak as an artist. I'm an artist who is weak as a technician. My college piano teacher once told me that he'd never heard anyone mess up so musically! I don't have to spend much time to bring forth emotion or beauty, but I have to practice forever to master the technical aspects of a piece. In contrast, my friend was a technical wizard and could easily reproduce all the notes and chords without much practice, however, she spent hours trying to learn how to make it sound pleasant. And she had to do this by very methodically and left-brainedly slowing the tempo here and pausing there and following step by step instructions to make her music art. That part did not come naturally to her, but she was able to learn many qualities that made her piano playing take on emotion and she became a performer who acknowledged her weaknesses by performing fewer romantic pieces and capitalizing on her strengths by performing more classical pieces. So it IS possible for natural technicians to learn to be better artists.

    In Will Wilson's response, he said that photography is inherently technical (as is music which is all about math) and that the technical skills are learnable but that the mind of an artist is only his/her own. My interpretation is that he's saying we will all see the same thing differently. I won't see something the same way someone else will see it. I agree with that, but I don't think that means my way of seeing something can't be BROADENED or ENHANCED by understanding how other people see things. All of our ideas, philosophies, and beliefs are combinations of others' ideas, philosophies, and beliefs that we've mixed in with our own to develop our individual and unique systems of thought. So how can you enhance the artistry of your eye? How can you begin to see musically?

    I think Timber Borcherding gave some great technical advice which III will try, and I'm sure the other suggestions to look at and evaluate many other people's work and taking many pictures yourself is a must, but I was thinking of how to give some right-brained advice that you could actually try - you know, a first step for your right brain. One thing is to get a book called "Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain" which is an excellent tool for learning how to really see what you're looking at, not just what you think you're supposed to be seeing. An example is that you KNOW a table leg is at a 90 degree angle to the table top, however, when you actually see what you're looking at, from where you're sitting a ways away from the leg, the angle between the table top and leg LOOKS to be less than 90 degrees. If you look at it and still see 90 degrees, you're using your left brain to tell you what you think you know about the relationship between the table top and the leg. When you see it looking like NOT 90 degrees, that's your right brain actually seeing what it really looks like from your angle. That book makes you so aware of how we go around seeing things the way we assume they're supposed to be, not how they really are. An application of this is when one person tries to draw that table with 90 degree angles for the legs and it looks like a kid's drawing, and another person draws the way the angles really look and his picture has perspective and looks like a real table. It's a real eye-opener if you try some of the activities it presents. And I find myself thinking about some of those principals when I'm photographing.

    And my other suggestion is to go back out in your back yard with your camera and find something that looks remotely interesting - maybe the leaves on the tree are starting to turn a little. Instead of taking a picture of the tree, or a group of the turning leaves, get even closer and take the picture of one turning leaf or half a turning leaf and half a green one. Doesn't that still tell the story of what's happening in your back yard? Only now, the story isn't about the tree, it's about how the leaves are starting to change. Find some pretty rocks then get really close so the whole frame is filled with the rocks. If you have an old shed out back that looks rustic and has charm, take a picture of it, of course, but also take a picture of only part of it. Get close and take a picture of the chipped wood on the corner of the window sill. Maybe a technique you can use is that when you see something that looks interesting, try taking a picture by filling up the frame with only part of it. Think "details" and get closer. The woodpile? Get close to see the grain on the ends of the logs. Fill up the whole frame with parts of a few logs. A tire on your car? Get close and fill up only 3/4 of your frame with the tire. Maybe put part of the bumper in there. I think an approach like that might help show you the beauty in details and you'll gradually start evaluating for some of those interesting details. Then when you go to shoot bigger scenes, your eye will notice the details of scene that will make it interesting.

    Ok, I apologize for the length of this, but I hope it's added another idea to the pot. Good luck Luis!
  37. Check out a book titled "Learning to see creatively" by Bryan Peterson. Beautiful and inspiring photographs plus some tips.
  38. It's funny, when you say that you don't have a photographic eye- the first step is the recognition of bad pictures, and it sounds like you have that down! With that skill alone you can do what so many say and just take a lot of pictures and by the sheer percentage come out with a few good ones, but that doesn't doesn't sound like what you want.

    I think that the key to getting the shots that you want- those that show ordinary things in an extraordinary way- is to find a new perspective. Get low to the ground, stand on top of something, back up and zoom in, take some macros, film it at night, siluette the sun behind it, take a long time exposure of it, put it on a mirror, put a sheet over it, etc, etc.

    Also get another set of eyes on things. I learned a lot about learning to see the different photographic opportunities by travelling with other photographers. It's amazing, any two photographers can go to the same spot, at the same time of day, and come back with completely different photos. The different perspectives make interesting photos.

    And as for those who say not to look at or listen to its contributors, I think it's a great tool, because you can see the variety of different photos and perspectives, and ask questions about the ones that you like. When you do get advice, you can look at his or her portfolio, if you like what you see, listen to them, if you don't, ignore them.
  39. Having spent the past 20 minutes browsing over all the thoughtful responses above, I'd like to echo Vesa and Waldo's comments above. While many of the posters have given good advice on improving the aesthetics of a photograph, aesthetics serves as a medium to communicate your message. The aesthetics "rules" of composition can either be used to reinforce or challenge socially accepted norms. A good photograph is one that successfully uses aesthetics to its advantage, either consciously or subconsciously, to make an insightful statement about its subject matter. For this reason, by photographing subjects that you are sympathetic to (i.e. for which you have a developed opinion), you'll have a greater chance of producing a good photograph. In the absence of a prior relationship with your subject, let your curiosity drive your vision. A good photographer combines subject knowledge with creative spontaneity (e.g. a child's wonderment). Spontaneous capture, photography’s ability to freeze a moment in time and place, is what distinguishes photography from the other visual arts, so use it to your advantage.
  40. Luis,

    Appologies for potentially repeating some of the above - I did not have the time to read all through, but felt like commenting. You have put forward potentially THE question every more or less serious photographer has asked him or herself at some point in there "career".

    The answer I found for my own question is time and careful observation, even and especially when you do not have a camera at hand. Train your attentiveness to details, expressions of faces, changes in light and colour, unusual objects at normal places and vice versa. If you allow time for that, pictures will come to you. Accept humbly that you will not be able to capture most of all that and enjoy your captures of moments and/or discoveries.

    Not all pictures work for all people, so feedback is very helpful, if done with care and the interest to help the other grow. Show your work to family, friends and strangers (like here on and try to find out, how often you managed to transport your view of the world to someone´s mind. Be surprised how well that works, if you really like the picture.

    To cut this long comment short, don't search for the holy grail, but practise - share and do again. It is a never ending cycle - and fun.

    Good luck


    PS: I have not yet uploaded pictures, will do as soon as I had time to scan.
  41. tao


    Occasionally, I will step in my backyard, camera in hand, looking for something that catches my eye - something that I would find worth photographing. Most of the time, I come back with either nothing or shots so uninteresting that they end up thrown away and forgotten before they even make it back from the lab (or deleted if digital).
    Luis, my personal experience is that the more I want to take good pictures the less successful I am... somehow. It is more like a question of "presence" and "disponibility". The picture comes to you, not the opposiye (I don't go out hunting for it)... This is a reason why I became more and more interested in asian religions and philosophy. It's about overcoming your inner resistances and "lacher prise".
    BTW - if other readers share a similar point of view/experiences I would be interested in hearing from you.
  42. But invariantly I run into photographs where I end up asking myself over and over again "How did the photographer manage to SEE the picture before deciding to take it".
    Here are some exercises that I found useful in helping me to see things in a different way...
    I believe that I got this one from a Freeman Patterson book I read many years ago: Go into a small space like your bathroom and shoot 36 exposures, try and make each as unique as possible from the others...
    I like to walk around my block maybe once a month and take 36 photos I've never taken before...I tend to quickly notice what's changed or new and I'm always suprised at the images I get...
    Another exercise was given to me by a commercial photographer in Toronto, he told me it did the most to open his eyes to seeing things for him...
    Five part assignment, the first four the idea is to isolate each of the following elements using full frame shots, and then the fifth is to combine them all into one shot...
    1) Dominant feature 2) Rythm 3) Balance 4) Perspective
    To get a better idea of what these things were I typed them into google and found a lot of sites talking about graphic design and art...
    Turns out I loved shooting rythm and perspective and had a hard time with balance, so the exercise quickly pointed out my weakness...
    I'm also lucky enough to know a few award winning art directors, and they tell me to learn from the masters...copy a few of the photographs that you say you would have missed and you'll most likely learn a little something. But your copy must be worthy of the original, no use simply picking the same angle when it was the detail and the light that made the original a great shot...
    That's all I know about the subject, not that I really know anything ;)
  43. For me, there are two fronts - the emotional one and the technical one.

    (1) Technical one -- the camera lens doesn't register the same view as my naked eyes do. I need to learn how/where/what my camera sees. How it is different from what I see. This is a craft that one can and should learn. It takes practices and practices. Like housework, no one will notice it unless you don't do it right.

    (2) Emotional one -- a powerful image triggers something in the viewer's heart. To be a truly successful artist, one will need to communicate "it" to the audience. Hence, I need to first know what makes my heart jumps. This takes a lot of self-discovery to know not just what I like, but why. Consequently, it's said that each photo is a self-portrait. I am afraid this is an art that cannot be taught.

    A great photo talks to you loud and clear (point 2) but you don't necessarily know why it's so effective/successful because Point 1 is working silently in the background.

    I think the interesting partnership between Pt.1 and Pt.2 keeps many of us totally passioned about this art form regardless how long we have been in it. Just my 2 cents.
  44. When you go out to take photos, do not try to get "the shot". Clear your mind of all preconceptions on what you think you should be capturing. Shoot 10 rolls of film in 1 day without any concern for the outcome. Try to be intensely aware while at the same time having an empty mind. When you develop the film post all the photos on a wall and study them. If you continue to shoot in this mannor you own way of seeing will emerge. Your goal here is not to develop the eye that someone else has. There is no reason you should be able to see "the shot" that someone else saw. You need to learn to see your shot.
  45. Most of the contributors on this site have given you great advice. It comes from artists and dedicated professionals. However, I am going to offer some advice from a photojournalist rather than an artist.
    Burn film. Lots of it. I have shot in excess of 1500 images since June, and I am not currently working in still photography. As many people have said this is something that can come only with practice. The more you shoot the more you see.
    Secondly, despite all the beautiful single shots on shoot photo essays. Pictorial stories are difficult but will sharpen the impact and power of every shot you take. When you make yourself weave together a complete story using images you have taken you will start seeing more powerful, and more explanatory images.

    This style of shooting is not for everyone. It's harsh, it's raw, and it can be extremely difficult; but it will make you a better photographer in all styles. Art shots, still lives, studio photography, and of course photojournalism
  46. There is nothing wrong with the right side of your brain because you are able to enjoy beautiful photographs taken by somebody else. There is nothing wrong with your left side either because you know exactly how to use a camera and you know what's technically involved in taking a photo. So the problem, I think, is that there is a disconnect between the hemispheres of your brain. The two sides are linked with something called corpus callosum and you may have not enough "bandwith" to transfer all the required information between the hemisperes and therefore you don't push the shutter button correctly. I don't know if there is any way to improve corpus callostrum connection. I don't think it's a mussle you can train. As many have said you can take 1500 pictures and may be one will be good, but that would be solving the prblem by brute force... Good luck. BTW, my corpus callostrum works like crap too, so I just stopped wanting to become an artist. Instead I just take very good (technically) pictures of my family, that's as far as I can go. Best regards
  47. Shooting lots of film is great practice, but for non-professionals, it can be pretty expensive. Looking at photos (yours and others') and critiquing them is great, but I think instinct is the most important thing. Start taking your camera everywhere, not necessarily to burn film, but to look through the viewfinder for interesting shots. Or, if you don't feel like lugging your camera around everywhere, hold up your fingers in front of your eye like a square, and pretend it's your viewfinder (it might look dorky, but it helps). Sometimes, to get the best shot, you don't have time to think of every rule you've learned and every photo you've seen, so just go for it!

    Oh, and get close - don't just be a bystander, get in on whatever you're photographing, it'll probably make a big difference!
  48. whow this is a lot of response,

    What I tend to recognise in the different posts is the way the photografer aproaches things.

    simply said: do it the thinking way, or do it the feeling way.

    This is very personal I find. My experience is that when I'm thinking too much, I miss the moment, the vibes and I don't see my unique angle of view.
    To find My Unique Angle of Vieuw (aka my way of seeing/I can see "photografically") I need my feelings. or instinct, I need to clear my mind to be exeptionally present and be able to catch the moment.

    By the moment I mean the moment that means something to me.

    Find out what moves you, experience what it is that moves you, be there, take the picture your way.

    Ok well hopefully this helps, have a worthwhile time doing your photography!
  49. I too go out looking for subjects and have days when nothing inspires me. So I try to keep aware at all times for subjects which inspire me. When I find one (such as a specific tree which awes me with its shape and presence) I go back and photograph it. I take many, many photos of that one subject from every angle and from every distance. I go back at different times to catch different qualities of light. Back at home I compare all the photos over and over. I try different cropping and different Photoshop adjustments. I keep trying and trying until I finally capture the quality which initially interested me in this particular subject. I am still a long, long way from where I want to be, but I am getting better at capturing what moves me.
  50. I enjoy reading LensWork magazine. In all of the issues that I have read (about 6 after buying some back issues) they have had one or two good articles about seeing complete with advice. When I started photographing in Jan of 2003, I took pictures of about everything that I saw. Most of the pictures were garbage. Now I am more calm and just take pictures when I "see" the photo. Most of the pictures are still garbage, but there are not as many. Hehe. Seriously, I think that the latter technique works best for me.
  51. Hi Luis,

    I just wanted to thank you for starting this thread. I feel pretty much the same way about my photography and have just spent the better part on an hour reading all the responses with great interest.

    My 2 cents would be to try not to worry about the technical aspects but focus on what you want to say. Once the eye is trained to "see" the picture, then you are more than half way there. I might even take the advise to heart
  52. The book "On Being a Photographer" by Magnum Photographer David Hurn and Bill Jay helped me more than any other book about photography I have read. One of the main things I learned is the importance of picking a project rather than just walking around looking for pictures. And it is important that the subject matter you choose be continuosly accessible. This translates for most people into picking a subject close to home. It is harder photographing your own day to day life. You don't need exotic places -- and often they are deterrent because the photographer does not know the exotic place well enough to capture its essence. Showing what is beautiful (or not beautiful) in your day-to-day environment is infinitely more interesting.

    I too am enjoying this thread.
  53. Well, this is quite a thread. I did not expect to get such a number and variety of responses.

    First, I would like to thank all who have taken the time to read my question and participate with recommendations and opinions. They have helped me greatly not only in thinking a way to re-approach my photographic interests, but also in understanding the different meaning and interpretations people give to the practice of photography in general.

    The question I posted here is one of many that I have been asking myself from a few months back, when I realized there was something fundamentally wrong in the way I was approaching photography. I had been reading a few articles here and there, and a common underlying thread started to form. It all came together when I read an article in Lens Work in which the author mentioned that novice photographers spent more time talking about equipment than about prints. I realized that I was doing a lot of exactly that – talking with other fellow photographer wannabes about the merits of one lens vs. the other, one brand vs. the other, or about mega-pixels vs. sensor size. All of these based on the more technical aspects of photography: MTF curves, groups and elements, diffraction, singal-to-noise ratios, you name it. But when it came down to it, I haven’t taken that many photos that I love, and neither do many of my fellow wannabes.

    I have spent a decent amount of money on equipment – maybe not pro, but definitely prosumer-grade. And some of these guys are gear slaves – they gotta have whatever is out there that gets good reviews. After all “it’s the only way to capture that elusive photo. Be ready and have the gear.” It just didn’t sound right.

    So, thinking about it, it dawned on me that this is not being a photographer – this is simply being a consumer. Some people in have posted amazing images that they have captured with an old, medium quality, all-manual cameras – some of them even P&S’s. Clearly, gear is important, but it’s not the driving force. As posted around here so many times – it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.

    The basic problem I was having was that I had been concentrating on the aspects of photography that come easier to me – they technical side, with its gauges, graphs, formulas, clear explanations, and certain repeatability. After all, I am an engineer. I do love art, but still my formal education is definitely a quantitative one. Clearly, I have been doing this to avoid the bigger questions: What is it about photography that draws me to it? What is it about a photo that can whisper to my soul? It certainly isn’t gear, because I normally see the photo and not the equipment it was taken with.

    These thoughts plus others not worth mentioning here have led me to my own quest of creating a personal interpretation of the gestalt of photography. I’m not certain that I will get there, but I can say right now that I am enjoying the path I’m following. I am reading about photography under a different light, and I am ready to start re-training myself now that I have switched frames of mind. As I mentioned before, I understand well the basic photographic techniques. I execute fairly well in photographing what I see, but I’m not seeing that much. I take pictures of what‘s in the viewfinder, but I fail to give them an interpretation. I believe I understand my problem. This is what brought me here and lead me to ask the question.

    The range of answers that have been posted cover quite a bit of ground. Most people agree that practice will allow me to learn to SEE within the limits of my talent. They emphasize feedback, self and expert constructive criticism, and the development of themes (mostly on things are care for and know a lot about). Then some more practice. I will follow this advice plus a more personal approach for getting there within the limits of what my current lifestyle allows. I will use as one of the places to get feedback from. There is a lot of talent here and, most of all, a good bunch of people willing to help those of us who (foolishly or not) believe that somewhere deep we have an eye just waiting to see.

    Thanks to all,

  54. I have been taking photographs for almost 35 years and I don't think I have an artist "eye." But I can and do see photographs, mostly without my camera. I used to teach photography and the rule was if you got a photo published in a magazine during the course you got an A. My assignments included making something ugly look pretty, photographing the crowd and making masterpieces on Polaroid film. All these assignments are self explanatory and as one student said, "harder than hell at high water!" The idea is to think about what you are seeing and capturing it for others to see. Another thing that most posters missed is knowing your equipment. You have to know what your camera is capable of doing. If you push it beyond the physical limits, you won't get the desired results. However, knowing and using its capabilites to work for you is half the battle. I used to photograph pro and college basketball in Chicago during the 1980's (prior to the championship years). One day I was shooting at the Chicago Bulls, and some of the other photographers came over to me and started slapping me on the back and saying I was a real photographer! Dumbfounded, I ask what was going on, and one of them said, "You unloaded and loaded your camera (a Canon T90) without even looking down at it once! Only a true camera man could do that! i looked down and they were right, I had changed film and had not realized it. I truely loved the T90 and actually had two of them. They were great tools and did their jobs wonderfully. But they were tools. I could see photos in dimly lit gyms, but I couldn't capture the images because of their limitations. I did overcome some of that with darkroom work, but you still have to know your tools. You are right about reading magazines and books on the subject, but I would caution you to be aware that you are not copying someone else's style. You already have a style, just make it work for you. Lastly, take a lot of photos, then go take some more. As a rule I think a photograph should tell one story. Make one point. Clarify one idea. Either with strong emotion or subtle inferences, but just one point. And when you look through the viewfinder and see that one point--push the button!
  55. Forget the books. Forget people tryng to tell you how to see. Just go out there and
    use what the good lord gave ya. Don't over-complicate. If you have such an interest in
    photography, it seems to me that you're already on the right track. You must have
    certain tastes already. Do you like landscapes, portraits, architecture, abstract, etc?
    My best advice is to learn about the great photographers and find the ones you like
    and study them. But don't go imitating anyone. Allow their influence upon you but
    follow your instincts. Just please - put that book down!
  56. Marcus --

    I want to thank you for your post, It is not only based on 35 years of experience but
    is also well written and comes from the heart. I learn here in ways I never imagined
    when I registered with
  57. Perception & Imaging by Richard Zakia (Focal Press, 2002, 2nd ed.)
  58. Is it possible that it's not a lack of photographic talent, but something else? Consider the following check list:

    1-Complexity can obstruct creativity! Do you have too much equipment?

    2-Boredom/job burnout! Have you had a chance to unwind?

    3-Your place and you! Where are you that your surroundings don't inspire wonder? If they don't, travel to new ones!
  59. I'm very new in the field and had taken quite a large number of worthless pictures as well, so I don't intend to tell you anything new but just my own experience. Personally, I find that:

    1. Camera's images and our brain images are quite different in the level of details, the colour, and especially the feeling. When we faced the reality, we gathered information about the surrounding using all our senses, that include temperature, the blowing of the wind, the transition of the feeling between what we have recorded (say a minute ago) and the current one and yet the camera only recorded light/dark/colour (which forms the images). Because of this we could never translate the entire feeling we have to other people by just the limited image that was taken by the mechanical facilities.

    2. When we see other people's images, the brain is then reconstruct the environment using the past experience that we have, or it has recorded, to give definitions and meanings to the picture. The amount of definitions recorded in our brain are vastly different between person to person, for various reasons ei. background culture, the amount of travels, opportunities etc.. which bring about differences in opinion to the same picture.

    Personally I don't think there is such thing as a best photo, although there are photos that were liked by a large group of people, and certainly copying others won't make you a good photographer either. By copying, you will learn the "wining formular" of one group and will be liked (if you're a good copier) by that group of people, but it doesn't necessarily make you a winer in another group. Find something that make you feel butterfly in your stomach, stick to it, mess about with it, turn it upside down, inside out and don't care about what people say, but care about what you've learned and improved and oneday you might be there. I certainly do so myself. These are just some of my humble thoughts.
  60. i think like all things it comes naturally to some, some develop it, and some can never achieve it. experimenting is the key to inspiration. you must really look at things. and differently. a professor once told me that in order to define something you must think of everything is not. like a dog- a dog is not a cat, it does not fly, etc etc. in defining it by what it is not, you are seeing it differently like in drawing studio they teach you about positive and negative space.

    the way to see things differently begins by observing-staring... treating yourself like an maybe somebody that is not from this earth and when you take notice in this way, you see the wonderful opportunities. a plant in your backyard may not look interesting but dont look at it through your eyes, look through your camera, frame your shot..take your camera and put a macro lens on it and capture the texture, shape, etc of the leaves.

    and another piece of advice...try leaving your backyard to take shots. maybe its too familiar for you to see its treasures.
  61. Some photographers have used emulation: They simply re-take the photograph of
    another photographer. Painters do this; paint a copy of a work.

    This may give some confidence, but will it impart knowledge of qualities? I doubt it.
    A picture must be analyzed for its parts.

    After learning the "qualities" one must understand the "cliches", and the "generally
    accepted" styles or technical qualities of a print. This is like adding an additional

    But you start with qualities. And you should start with giving yourself assignments to
    find these qualities around you. For example, go find shadows (1 quality) that create
    diagonals (2nd quality) across your frame. Find shadows that "creep" (3rd quality).
    find shadows that add texture (4th quality) or confusion/energy (5th quality). Place a
    symbol (6th quality) in the picture.

    If this sounds alittle like writing a composition, you are right. You have alot of
    freedom, but you must adhere to a few disciplines, a few qualities.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherdng
  62. You will gain the "photographic eye" by talking about it. Many posters here are
    romanticising the process, intellectualizing it. Others are talking all around it. Still
    others are leaving "feel good" messages so that you won't quit. The only way to get
    there is to stare at your subjects like Zen and find those qualities.
  63. Correction above: "by not talking about it".

    I believe that people who practice ZEN have an advantage. Anything that can transfix your gaze to a subject should help you. If you could create the patience to look at a subject for 3 minutes straight should help you. As time goes along, you won't need 3 minutes, you will be able to do it in 6 seconds. Experience finding these qualities speeds up the process because you are organized and familiar.

    You will become more sensitive as you go along. Just as listening to music, you will become alittle "wow'd" by what you see. You must let go of your thinking; then you "drink it in". This process increases your intuition.

    To get new ideas, you will need to let go, then scan and feel. This is not how a beginner should do it. At first, you need to learn qualities. Then later, you can use more "fast track" ways to get to the completed composition, the completed picture.

    Don't look for "meaning" in the beginning. Look for an experience.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  64. The only way to "develop a photographic eye", IMHO, is to shoot something you care about, or something that is particularly striking to your mind & eye.

    For example: I am a very political person. Looking through my work, you see quite a few protest marches and rallys - 2, 3, 4, 5 rolls of them often. Are all the images "keepers"? No. Honestly, a good majority of them SUCK to the point where I won't even go beyond a contact print of the roll. Others are what I feel (and some others have told me) are excellent shots that really capture the experience of marching for those who could not be there to experience it personally.
    My view of what a good image is does not always coincide with what others like - for example: This Image happened to be my favorite of the set I took at the Feb. 14 NYC antiwar rally (the scan does not do it justice, and a lot of detail in the hat and the mask flass was lost). Other people have expressed a liking for this image, despite the out of focus foreground and the fact that my (intended) subject (the girl on her father's shoulders) happened to turn away as I tripped the shutter, because they feel it showed both the scope and the humanity of the event.

    Other things of interest to me are industrial or industrial-esque shots (brick & mortar facades, machinery, harsh/technical looking scenes) like this one, and scenes that capture motion or action (my favorites here are not scanned, one is by me - a shot of a parkway onramp with trees and bushes surrounding the streaks of light from cars and a shot of a factory smokestack pumping away in the background, the other is by a fellow student - a very lucky shot at a softball practice with the ball caught midway between the pitcher and catcher (with no motion blur), seemingly suspended in air and caught at just a perfect moment.)

    The short version of my answer is, your photographic eye may not develop at the camera, at least not right away. As time goes on you will get a sense for what will make a good image. For now, consider instead what you like in others' work and what aspects of your life make a significant impact on YOU PERSONALLY - Then try to unify those two aspects into your own style and subject matter. Lots of film will probably never pass the contact sheet stage -- I have about 20 rolls that I wouldn't print a blessed thing from, and I'm sure that number will only increase -- and while you may feel you've wasted money on the "worthless" images on the roll, you will be advancing your own skills and techniques, and you never know what someone will say one day browsing through your contact sheets ("That is such a cute picture of your dog! Why didn't you make an enlargement?" (one of my recent rolls - mostly snapshots of Puppy (it is a lot harder than it looks to make them pose))).

    Above all, try new things always. I enrolled in "basic photography" and now "intermediate photography" at my university, not to learn how to take and print pictures but for the challenges and assignments that force me to look at things in a new way (the "industrial" shot above was actually taken for the shadow under the utility light, it just happens to also fall into the stark and linear style of many of my building photographs). There are endless ideas for subjects and techniques here on - I find I am most creative when I am challenged and entertained by what I am shooting, or when I have some personal involvement with it.

    Hope this helps somewhat.
  65. I'm glad the book "Drawing on the Right of the Brain" was mentioned. I did the
    exercises from the book long ago and it really made aware of the artistic "zone" (I
    hate that word). Full awareness of time, words, analytical thought go out the door
    and you see things as shapes, or "blobs" that are really, for example, chairs or flowers
    or people. There's alot of pleasure trying to capture them on paper. I think those
    who become artists naturally fall into this "zone" and the development of their craft is
    a byproduct of them compelled to use this part of their brain. Just a thought from the
    left side of my brain.

    I read that film director David Fincher, noted for his visuals, likes to line up shots with
    with his left eye to the viewfinder. The idea being that the right side of the brain
    processes the left side of the body's input. The right eye is for setting focus, or even
    objectively identifying items within the frame. He said he was given this tip when he
    worked at ILM nearly 20 years ago.

    I've tried it a few times, going back and forth with my left eye and right. When I used
    my left eye quite alot, I got the same feeling as if I were drawing using the book's
    exercises. The image in the viewfinder seemed like a finished print I'm looking at,
    like I'm at the editing stage yet I still can change the composition and all the other
    variables. It became fun to juggle the blobs of shapes and forms to a pleasing layout.
    I think there's some truth to it.

    In addition to that and shooting lots of film, check out that book and give your right
    side a workout.
  66. Jim, the right side of the brain processes the left hemifield of vision of both eyes, and the left side of the brain processes the right visual hemifield, again from both the left and the right eye. The images of the two eyes are merged at an early stage, and I doubt that any higher functions can process the info separately.
  67. This thread has been great everyone. It has inspired me to upload some of my images. I am more on the artistic rather than technical side of the discussion. I have knowledge of the tools but am more interested in the end result (which for me is an image I can frame and hang on the wall). I am not a professional photographer but would like to attempt to earn some revenues to help pay for the massive amount of time and money I spend on this hobby. I would like for anyone interested to take a look at my folders and let me know what you think. I would appreciate any helpful insights on my images.
  68. To photograph architecture is to give you a headstart on gaining a "photographic eye"
    towards graphical concepts. The architects are arts themselves and they deliberately
    place these "pieces", these interactions, these graphical concepts in their buildings.
    Therefore, you will be presented with "graphical qualities" if you look at architecture.

    You won't learn anything about photographing people or nature. But you will be
    exposed to graphical "excitement". Architects work in 3D, and your assignment, if
    you wish to accept it, is to "convert" this 3D excitement into 2D photographs.

    You will notice that diagonals give more energy than simple verticals. Asymetry has
    more energy than symetry. Shadows can sometimes enhance the shape of the

    After you photograph architecture and parts of the building, like some stairs, you
    could graduate to placing a person in the picture. But when you do, you may want to
    make the person harmonious with the present staircase or diagonals or asymetry.
    This all adds complication. Then the next step is to make the person look
    "believable" in the picture, and this brings us to theatre and acting: We need to
    believe that this picture wasn't staged, even though we would bet money that it was,
    because it appears in an ad, for example. But we want to believe it.

    So, because you need to find backgrounds for people, it is a good idea to shoot
    architecture first. By the way, many famous architects actually became famous
    fashion designers, designing dresses for woman! So you see, the "qualities" that you
    learn placing your attention on buildings is "transferable" !

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  69. The problem with photographing with a 35mm camera and learning is that the
    viewfinder is too real. What we need is a viewfinder that more obviously converts the
    3D image to 2D. Twin lens cameras like the Yashica D and Rolleiflex do this.
    Therefore, in photographic classes everywhere, twin lens cameras are used in first
    year photographic courses. These cameras also slow the photographer down so that
    he/she contemplates alittle more.

    Just "taking alot of pictures" is like hitting alot of baseballs. You can do it with
    discipline, or you can do it mindlessly. In the beginning, spend a half a day just
    taking 12 pictures total. Architectural photographers oftentimes only take 5-6
    pictures with their 8x10 cameras over 1-2 hours length of time. What would you do
    if you only had 2 shots left? You would be very sure of everything. And that is how
    you must get to become better.

    For example, i may be able to take a picture that is 90% perfect with 2 shots. In order
    to get to 99%, I may need to take 20 more. To get to 100%, I may need 50 shots. I
    take more shots to get closer to perfection of the "idea", or the "experience."

    So, do not confuse the recommendations for "taking lots of pictures" with
    "advancement" towards a photographic eye. You can be scatterbrained about it, or
    you can be focused towards a goal.

    Timber Borcherding timberborcherding
  70. Some days, like yesterday, EVERYTHING I see - even something like a McDonald's playland - looks like a good picture to me and other days I don't see a picture in anything! Also, experimenting with a new lens, I went across the street to photograph this rusty, old-timey tractor-type piece of machinery. The late afternoon light was great and I got some great shots. The next day, I did it again to try other technical things and I looked at what I had taken pictures of the day before. I thought, I sure wouldn't have seen a picture in THAT today! But I found new angles the second day that I hadn't seen at all the first day and got good shots with them, too. I think it's interesting that one's photographic "eye" can change from day to day, hour to hour, etc. I'm realizing that I can't demand of myself to see great shots all the time, but when I do, GO for it!
  71. This is one of the best and most obvious questions ever posted. I think every artist has wrestled with this question. I my opinion it is a skill that can never be mastered. The path to that perfection is the reward. Check out the two different versions of "The Tao Of Photography". Two very good books on 'seeing' photos. Another excellent book I just picked up is called "Home Photography: Inspiration on Your Doorstep" by Andrew Sanderson. It's all about looking past the obvious and seeing some great pictures. It is very adaptable and thought provoking. Presonally, I look back to the old masters. Brassi, Sudek, Meatyard, Bullock, and Stiechen. See how they solved some of thier problems, what paths they took. Keep looking! The more you look the more you will find. Don't focus on just photography. Look to movies,paintings videos, and books. Lots of literature is very evokative vissually. This whole process may become a bit bewildering at times. It is then that you weed out what you need and toss the rest. Look back at some of your old negs and see just how much you have improved. Go to galleries museums and shows. Heck, bomb around the net and look at different websites. But remember the momment you can say "there, i've done it! I'm compleetely satisfied with myself as a photographer and have learned enough!!" That is the day to put the cameras up on e-bay and take up a new quest. Good luck and keep looking.
  72. Luis, I was so happy to see your question! After I had posted my own someone referred me to yours and it was very helpful. Helpful because I believe I am on the opposite side of the "dilemma".... I feel this great surge of creativity and see the shots and what them but feel ill equiped with the little technical knowledge I have. Truth is, I never really read any of the photography books. But after all the wonderful suggestions you received... I will be reading many books on the subject. And I will get up close and personal with my cameras. One in particular, is my Rolleiflex 2.8e that I purchased several months ago and was afraid to use! But I am now reading The Rollei Book by Dr. Herring and am feeling a bit more empowered.

    I am the sort of person that often skips the instruction manuals and throws herself in without any second thoughts, But I think I have made a huge mistake in my eagerness to shoot what I love and not learn how to do it 'properly'. I believe once I have more technical knowledge that I may feel that i am able to do what I want and not necessarily follow all the rules, but I think I should at least know what the rules are first! My next question here will be whether or not any of the online photography courses available are worth the money and if so, if anyone can recommend one. Any ideas? Luis, thanks again for your wise, thoughtful thread. I have learned much here on I can't believe that after visiting this site religiously for almost 2 years, this week was my first time to register and post a question!
  73. In my honest opinion, practice,practice,practice. When you become comfortable with the equipment and lighting, they will be second nature and allow you to concentrate on the creative aspect. Study other photos that you like,look at techniques, what angle looks good,what depth of field works, what was the message(if any). Don't be discouraged by not getting an interesting shot. Study your mistakes and go back and reshoot. The only way that you will fail is to give up. When your looking at other photographers work remember that your not seeing the work that hit the cutting room floor. All of the text and info in the world will not make you a better photographer, only you will and only if you shoot and shoot and shoot and so on and so forth. Growth,like mistakes,is inevitable.

  74. I have tried many times to develop an artistic flair in my photos, usually the results are not good. My best work comes when I stop thinking about taking pictures and start looking at my subject matter. Concentrate on the image you want to capture, take your time, and choose subjects that you find interesting, this will lead to better pictures, especially if you already have the required technical skills.

  75. I am by no means a "good" photographer, but I keep trying. What I found useful was having a small pocket digital, which I always had charged and ready to go whenever I went anywhere. Whenever I saw anything interesting I took its picture, often several. Most turn out not so well, but some were surprisingly good. Each failure helps to learn and produce a better next shot. <br>
    Having a cheap digital is an advantage because of the lack of processing time and costs and I left it in automatic mode to concentrate on composition. I didn't bother with the technical aspect when training my eye.
    <br> I feel my composition has improved a lot over the last year or so using this method, and I now try things that I wouldn't have tried before.
    <br>Practise makes perfect, and I still need a lot of practise!
  76. It's like anything else you wish to be good at: be consumed by it. It helps to be an intellectual, too, wanting and loving to study. It also helps to have natural talent. If you don't, move on to something else.
  77. Wow, lots of great advice to read and reread.

    I can only add from my experience as a part-time photographer, and only in the last 7-8 years of 34 years with a camera have I begun to practice my own advice. First, learn your strengths and weaknesses. How you see is important as what you see. Learn what you didn't see in others' photographs as your own. Second, learn your equipment and film, and how you can use it for the results you want. Third, focus on just a few themes and ideas. Since I don't have a lot of time for photography I borrowed advise from a Sam Abell essay and focus on 3 themes. And last, practice (shoot more than enough film) and understand mistakes are the norm (meaning lots of "ordinary" photos are ok, if you're shooting 35mm anyway).

    I not so enamored with getting lots criticism (suggestions ok), or posting photographs, only one so far, but I make photocards for friends and family. I photograph for personal interests and if folks like them, fine, and if folks can help improve them, fine, but I'm in it for the enjoyment of doing my best to capture the moment. After all it's what you enjoy that matters and expressing what's important to you.

    Good luck.
  78. I haven't read through the entire thread, only the firt 8 pages or so. But if it hasn't been said before, I'll say now: get a digital camera and just shoot! Find a good book on photographic composition and other techniques and get out and shoot what you like: people, nature, boats, animals, landscapes, whatever. But a digital camera will allow you to take risks without going into dept. I've had a digital camera for over a year and it has done wonders for my photographic skills. I have lots to learn, but also lots of confidence to keep learning because of my digital camera. My photoblog
  79. Well, i'd like this chance to counter the digital comments on this thread. It is important to go back to your own photograhic past and review. You will never be able to do this with digital. You will deleete any and all shots you don't instantly like. I cannot tell you how many times i've gone back and printed from negs 2 3 5 years old. I photography is your passion, your source, learn the craft. There is always time to go digital. You have to crawl before you can walk. Photoshop and such programs are based off of a basic knowlege of film. Technology is not always what it is cracked up to be. Just recently I went to a 4x5 rail camera...essentially a leap back in photographic time to the begininngs of our craft. Amazing how much can be learned when you strip away all the tecno-glitz and return to the fundementals. Don't short change yourself! Keep the digital for holliday pics and snaps of the kids!
  80. For six months I have been looking for the answer to this question. And now I have found it. I went to goolge and typed in "training a photographic eye", thats how desperate I was. My google results lead me here, right where I started a couple of months ago.
    The only conclusion I have come to is that I am not alone in my search and it seams an elusive concept. I beleive I am a left brainer as I work with computers, buy things based on technical merit and read technical junk. But then I am also a sceptic and don't beleive all that medicine and science tell us about left brain/right brain margaine or butter or what ever. So based on all the good comments, I will "press-on" (was Calvin Coolidge thinking of photography when he said that)knowing that photography is for anyone who wants to have a go and yes even good photographers burn lots of film.
  81. I am blessed with a life long intuitive ability to see. The ability has served me well in a
    career in architecture, as an easel artist, art instructor, and now—photographer. I am
    cursed by seeing many things I would prefer not :)

    My method is somewhat slow and studied rifle approach, practiced enough to
    shoot fast if necessary. I attempt to visualize those elements necessary for a
    successful print before lifting the camera. If those elements 'speak' to me, I carefully
    carve a 'full' frame around them, if not I walk on. I immerse myself into the scene
    looking for shapes, contrast, and line—the 'thing' is not important to me. Even on
    grab shots I anticipate where the action may occur and position myself for the best
    effect. Allowing for occasionally bracketing of difficult lighting, and always some
    experimentation, my success rate for keeper frames is above 50%, I am not snap
    happy—a roll will last me a session, if not a week. :) You may prefer a shotgun
    approach, it only takes one great frame.

    Over the years I have learned and practiced all of the fundamentals until they are no
    longer 'thought' about. I prefer the notion of fundamentals rather than rules—I always
    break the rules. :) The golden mean—closer to 5/8ths than 1/3—is effective—but
    static—lacking the dynamic of the subject being pulled back into the frame by it's
    contrasting elements.

    Slow down, look for the nuances of the light and the line—look for contrast. Shoot the
    elements rather than the things. Bend, kneel, lay down, climb, eliminate, move closer
    —use your sneakers. Be playful, have some fun! Walk to any single spot and find that
    frame—right there—waiting to be captured. They don't all have to be cover shots, but
    they all have that potential! ...jf
  82. Jerry

    Just read your post with interest. Would love to see some of your work and hope you
    will post some images on
  83. ok David...jf
  84. Years ago I read an interview with Jay Maisel in which he was asked (I'm paraphrasing from memory) "How do you learn to be a good photographer?", his reply was something like, "Most photographers don't take enough photographs".
  85. Norm:

    I've seen that sort of approach advocated before, but I have reservations. There are people who churn out hundreds of photographs and who never seem to improve. I believe competing and getting paid is the best reinforcement and test of your work. Competition does wonders.
  86. As Jeff (Spirer) said, first there has to be the desire to take photographs. That is the sine qua non. Then as Bob (Atkins) said, next comes the relentless practice - the desire to improve. There is the 'how?' of photography, which I can teach. Then there is the 'what?' and the 'why?' - these latter two I cannot teach. I can, at best, only guide people. Examine your reasons for taking photographs. Find your subject. The rest will follow.
  87. I believe competing and getting paid is the best reinforcement and test of your work. Competition does wonders.

    I can't agree with these statements. Publicly exhibiting yor work can motivate you to improve, but competing (as in for prizes at a camera club, or magazines) is far more problemmatic, because it is likely to lead one to produce work that meets certain criteria, rather than to explore and experiment. Such work, along with 99.99% of all commerical phoography, leans towards the slick and meretricious -- something to avoid if it can be at all helped.

    If you want to develop a gauge for what has already been achieved in photography that is of any significance, you aren't going to find it in the magazines or camera club shows. Go straight to the top: find out who the acknowledged masters of the medium are, and don't be surprised or disappointed to learn that they are mostly all ready dead. You can still learn a great deal from them.

    Spend a lot time looking at their stuff, and reading critical theories about what they did, why and how (though the how is less important). Evaluate your own work (and that of anyone else) in comparison. Find the ones whose work appeals to you, and says something to you, and ask yourself why.

    When you have a thorough grounding in the history of the medium, then you are ready to begin to explore and experiment, to find your own personal vocabulary in photography. This is the hardest part.
  88. I love this discussion. I'm a newbie to I have been doing photography on and off for about 40 years, strictly as a hobby. I developed an eye for composition and image, but I never really thought much about whether other people liked my work or not. In the past few years I have gone digital and discovered color printing. I was never interested in color, since I liked both shooting and printing and the process for developing and printing color seemed too onerous. I can't tell you how much I've saturated my photos for the sheer discovery of color. I loved the warm, orange cast of a portrait I shot at the dinner table. I didn't know about white balance. I didn't know that this was the result of an incorrect white balnce setting. When I found out, I "corrected" my white balance usage. Now I produce correct white balanced portraits, which I like, but I will never forget my naive pleasure at the warmth of the original shot. I think that developing a "photographic eye" has something to do with balancing your instinctual pleasure, with an image that you create, with an audience whom you wish to communicate and share the pleasure.

    Recently I find that I like to share my work, and in doing so, I am influenced by my audience. I have audiences of varying degrees of sophistication and some of my mundane shots--"another sunset" "another sleeping baby" etc.--I personally find special: I froze a moment in time that will never be duplcated in real time and space; I was there and I love this image to distraction. I have made it "readable" to someone other than myself. And you know what? There are people that these conventional photos speak to. The reality of professional aesthetics is that, like all modernist movements, they come from a smaller community with specialized codes and expectations, which moves further away from the popular culture. (Go ahead, call me a postmodernist)

    Don't get me wrong; I value growing and developing in my aesthetics, my technical abilities, and my place in a cultured community. I can only do that by engaging in the cultured community (yes, I will share my work for critique). I just want to make sure that, as Luis and I develop our "photographic eye," we don't forget why we take/make pictures. I believe that is part of how we keep our "photographic eye."

    Ken Johnson
  89. Luis,

    I'm writing late in this post, so you may not even get this far. But I would say this; just go out and look. What works for me is to go somewhere unfamiliar with a camera that easy to use and easy to carry. Go out and look. You don't need to burn through a lot of film. Wait until something catches your eye. When it does, start looking at it. Walk around. Focus on the light. Compose. Play with it. Keep looking until you respond to something. When you do, start taking pictures. Figure on a shooting ratio of 1:36. That means that you will likely get at least 1 good picture on each roll.

    Take pictures of things that interest or captivate you. Then look at them. Then look at them in context with accomplished photographers that you admire. First find what moves you. Then work to make it happen photographically. Then you will make the lasting images.
  90. It has taken me almost 2 days to read through this thread while appearing to be working - but it has been worth it! I'm going to take your advice to heart (even the conflicting bits) and give it a go. I confess to being of the right brain school of photography, I tend to set the camera to automatic and concentrate on composition most of the time, but I still need (want) to develop my photographic eye, so that eventually what the camera sees will approximate what I see.
    If you like the effect - go with the glow! My Dad's newest camera has a 'romantic portrait' setting or some other fancy name - all it does is turn off the flash on indoor shots to give the warm glow you mention - what a sneaky marketing idea :eek:>
  91. I used to wonder the same thing. How to develop a photographic eye? I started by looking at thousands of photos on this site. Then I started reading and understanding the elements of composition. Then I went out with minimal tools (either an Olympus OM4T, Canon Elan, Minolta X-700, and now, mainly my Canon G3). Usually carry no accessories other than a simple 28-105 equivalent lens. I took a lot of photos, did a lot of thinking of how I could make it look better. Framed, cropped, cut, moved, sliced, diced, and messed up plenty of pictures using Paintshop Pro. Learnt a lot from the digital editing process, since you've got your darkroom right there and changes are instantaneously visible. But my photographic eye is developing by walking around and just taking more and more time in noticing things. Actively noticing things, much like forcing yourself to pay attention to your breath. I learned that awareness is the fount of all reality and getting in touch with some basics and becoming aware...aware of surrounding, environment, people, moods, light, sounds, etc. really adds to the process of seeing the pictures. Eventually this leads me to take a few hundred photos of a given subject and then spend a week editing and understanding my intentions. I then select an image I feel best represents the essence of what I experienced or felt when I capture that image. This entire process is the rigor around my photographic eye. Developing a photographic eye is similar to developing any talent. You have to spend time developing a process, and then work that process to gain the discipline to achieve the skill you want. I still have so much to go to get to the level that many on this board are at, but the process is fasicinating and so rewarding to me. Here is a sample picture that was taken and edited digitally. It is an expression of a single evening spent on top of Bear Mountain in New York. I didn't see this picture until I first spent time at the location just observing. After 1.5 hours, I thought of what I could photograph and this tree and that sun came to mind. It was a chance occurance seeing them together like this, but it stirred an idea and I took the shot (shots, actually). I then went back and used my digital editing software to change the color cast of the picture to make it fit the mood I was in. One of solemnity and warmth. I think it worked. Pradeep
  92. Pleas don't be disapinted.
    "You can't see forest by watching the tres" is old sayings
    Pure art come from inspiration, Your iner whill to says something through thing like you work and in some case hard work to express you self.
    First try to expirience whole world that suround you. You don't nead camera for thet. Sit still in your suranding try to fill like some body else and don't think just observe. I'm for 100% shure that ther is at least one thing that can be photograph, and that it may become interesting to others.
  93. hi pradeep satyaprakash, this is pradeep raghunathan here i just saw your photos and they are awesome, i have a canon g2 and there are very few shots that i have taken which have come out anywhere near your photos how do you do them? are you basically from chennai?
  94. FIRST STEP: Learn how to sketch IN PENCIL. That will immediately teach you about SEEING THE DARK. Dark is good. It is the element that makes powerful images. It is the element that is most often overlooked by photographers. DARK is THE KEY and THE WAY to seeing THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. I HAVE YET TO MASTER THE DARK (as you can freely peruse through my own crappy photos).

    SECOND STEP: Get a book that shows nothing but pictures of OIL PAINTINGS. Thats right . . . . O I L P A I N T I N G S. W I T H O U T W O R D S I S G O O D. GET Andrew Wyeth. Look long and hard at his paintings. Flip through his books several times a month. This will form mental images in your technical head about what REALLY RIGHT BRAINED PEOPLE LOOK AT. An old chain hanging from a tree, a lonely house on a hill, a sweater hanging on the back of a door!!! A sweater??? YES! SEE FOR YOURSELF!

    The PURPOSE for THIS STEP is to generate a profound sense of solitude, of emptiness, of tranquil serenity, and even despair. These are senses that left brained people do not possess in quantity. Read things that depress you or disturb you. Subscribe to National Geographic and read about the pollution in China or about the last remaining herd of white rhinos. You need to become EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO EARTH.

    THIRD STEP: Learn the process of DUO-TONE and TRI-TONE SEPIA. Get a film scanner or a digital camera and import some shots of a fruit bowl or a wine glass. Change them into sepia shots in the computer. This will give you the knowledge that THOSE PRINTS YOU THREW AWAY MAY HAVE BEEN ART AT ITS BEST!! REALIZE that an image that looks yukky today in color, may look AWESOME tomorrow in sepia! REALIZE that in every shot you take, no matter what it looks like, that there is a way to edit it to make it look appealing. Sometimes, its just a simple cropping of a few edges. Other times, its a complete overhaul job. Take a look at David Carson's work. Photographic editing is HALF THE SKILL. Also, left-brained people really enjoy digital editing. Its VERY TECHNICAL. In fact, its almost COMPLETELY BORING!!

    FOURTH STEP: Learn the methods of MACRO-PHOTOGRAPHY. Closeup photography will instill the element of DETAIL into your head. Left brained people need to go to EXTREMES in order to learn what appears natural to a right brained person. You will not be able to SEE the half portion of a tire or a leaf until you IMMERSE YOURSELF into the actual FIBERS OF THE TIRE or the VEINS OF THE LEAF. PLUS, macro-photography is VERY TECHNICAL. You will enjoy it greatly. Some of the most stunning visual images ever taken are technical images such as a bullet being shot through a turbulence chamber, the Eagle Nebula taken from the Hubble, and a photomicrograph picture of thin sectioned shocked quartz crystals through an ordinary microscope.

    I was the most left brained lunatic in the world. I needed step by step instructions for EVERYTHING. E V E R Y T H I N G . Even to this day. These steps that I have outlined above will not give you the ability to shoot better photographs. They will give you something more. They will help you to see art, where before, you saw none.

    ~ Randy

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