We often talk about cameras, lenses and lighting but rarely do we talk about what’s behind them–your eye. Not the organ, no, the part of your mind that actually helps you see the world and share it with others. This is what inspires you to capture the world with your lens, what drives you. To me, photography is a person showing how they see their world and capturing moments in time. A person’s “photographic eye” is something that is developed over time with training.
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Things to Consider
No matter what camera you shoot with – it can be an iPhone, a Nikon D600 or a Nikon EM – it is suggested you have a good working knowledge of it. The less you have to think about settings and technical details, the better. If you don’t want to remember everything, it’s easy to keep a manual on a smart phone of a device like an iPad. It is also good to have discipline. Keep a camera with you as much as possible. Developing your eye requires that you practice the craft. Repetition builds up confidence and helps you think quickly.
Rules are Rules
Once you understand the rules, they can be broken to suit your needs. For example, there is the rule of thirds, which I will always say is one of the most important. It may sound childish but even the most seasoned photographers sometimes need to be reminded of the basics. You want to keep leading lines in mind and know how to place them into your composition, helping the viewer journey through the scene. Patterns and symmetry, no matter the source are a great way to help draw people into your photo. Sometimes simply framing the subject with something natural or unnatural can help isolate your main subject. There is a wealth of information out there on the fundamentals of photography, study them, never forget them.
Focus on You
Create images that you like. For example, I love coffee. I find myself a unique cup and a unique place to create the image. Do you like landscapes? Find your spot in the world and use it. Explore all the angles you can. Many people will suggest what you should shoot. That’s cool, take the recommendations politely. In the end it’s all about your vision. If you focus on others and their photographic styles, yours will never surface. No one sees the world as you do, even with the same exact camera equipment. The way we see the world is developed by our life experience. This being said, never try to copy other people’s work.
Finding that great image, unique to you, will take time. Just thinking you’re going to get a great image, every time you pull out your camera is laughable. Sometimes you have to be willing to wait for an image or not get one. You may also have to set up your shot, wait for the right light or even use artificial light to get the results you want. If you just rush a shot, while it may be technically correct, it can be uninteresting. Don’t be afraid to fail either, learn from your mistakes and keep working.
Don’t Worry About Your Gear, Work With It
Your gear can play into how you see and share your view of the world however do not let the lack of expensive gear stop you. The newest gear is not needed to develop your eye. While it is nice to have a Zeiss 50mm f1.4 sometimes, you can settle for a nifty 50mm f1.8 and still produce great things. Sometimes limits and boundaries help create art. You do not need a lot of money to develop your eye. You just need to get out there and create images.
Sometimes it appears and other times you have to seek it out. Inspiration is always there though. A good way to find inspiration is in books or magazines. Sometimes inspiration comes from movies or even comic books. It all depends on how you lead your life. You just have to be open to seeing things, no matter their form. It never hurts to look to the past to see what photographers of old have done. They worked with equipment that was a pain at the time and produced wonderful things.
Experiment and Share
Just don’t box yourself in to the rules, experiment. Get out there and shoot. Try as many new things as possible. Developing your eye will help you cultivate you own unique photographic style in the long run. Use a wide lens for a portrait. Use a zoom lens for a landscape. Get your flash off the camera. There are many things you can do get your photography to grow. Share your work with others and get feedback. Do not be afraid to learn from others. Share what you have learned also. Developing your eye is not difficult. It just requires time and patience.
In the End
Seeing, in the broadest sense, means taking everything about you and integrating it into how you show the world through your lens. In photography, you are sharing your unique view of your subjects. It’s not about how others say it should be done either. It’s about you going out there and seeing the world, capturing some moments and maybe sharing them. Creating photographs is a way of making art out of observation, you just have to take the time to see things around you.
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