This Trick Will Teach You How to Create, Not Capture A Photo

All photos by Gretchen Robinette.

In a recent photography workshop that I was teaching, I encountered a problem with an attendee as far as a creative vision is concerned. And that’s when I really started to think about how I can teach someone how to even start developing a creative vision of any sort. For the uninitiated, a creative vision is an idea that you have which you try to translate into a visual masterpiece on camera. It involves light, framing, depth of field, and creative freedom.

No, this isn’t hipster: it’s something that photographers have been doing for years now.

So here’s an introductory tip on how to start:

  • Take your camera and pick one focal length
  • Look through the viewfinder or LCD screen to see what “the camera sees.”
  • Put the camera down.
  • Move back, forward, to the left or to the right. In fact, move in any direction and try to predict what the camera will see based on the framing that you just saw in the viewfinder.
  • Now look through the camera again.
  • How close were you?
  • Move again, and try to predict
  • Look through the viewfinder, how close were you?
  • Repeat this process one more time.

What this teaches you is framing based on your focal length. Now let’s continue:

  • Pick one more spot and take a look at the scene without your camera.
  • Now think about whether you want a shallow or narrow depth of field.
  • And now observe where the lights in the room are coming from. Consider how it’s affecting the scene.
  • Now shoot.

How close were you? If you’re really off, keep trying again. Most people see the world in the 35mm full frame equivalent. But those people also initially really focus on what’s in front of them: which is 50mm.

Keep visualizing the framing of the scene, where the borders are, the depth of field, and the lighting. Then you’ll learn to see the way that the camera sees. After this, build on it by imagining you moving an object or something else in the scene. Then do it, pick the camera up and shoot.

Congrats, you’ve started to develop a creative vision.