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Thread: Learning to SEE like a photographer

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Learning to SEE like a photographer

    Learning to See

    As photographers, we tend to see the world a bit differently to most. Learning how to see the world as a photographer is a skill that comes with experience. The more you learn about photography and the art of taking photos, the more you learn how to see, or visualise a particular event happening in front of you, as a photo.

    Portrait photographers learn how to setup lighting to achieve a whole range of effects, and as their experience grows they spend less time setting up, as they have learnt to ‘see’ how the light works and how it is going to result in the photo they have anticipated, in their head. Landscape photographers learn to see things like the movement of the water on the beach and predict when to press the shutter based on when the lapping water is going to be in the best position for their shot.

    Sport photographers learn to anticipate the play, they get to predict where the action is going to be next, and thus, have their camera at the ready for when that action occurs. They can predict where the ball is going, or what line a race-car is going to take through a bend. So this thread is for those that probably have not learned the skill of ‘seeing’ yet, and hopefully it will give you some food for thought, and help you along the way to anticipating and achieving a great photo, by seeing your scene as a photographer.

    Firstly, the bane of digital photography: Digital photography has made it easy to snap off 200 photos, with the hope that one or two will be good, and they probably will be. But this method is time consuming (you have to go through 200 photos to find that one or two) and it doesn’t teach you to be a photographer, just a happy snapper, who gets lucky and probably has no idea why these one or two photos look better than the rest. Learn to slow down. Forget all the myriad of features your camera offers and get back to the basics of understanding ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. Ignore all the other settings, buttons, and options. A good photo is not determined by how much exposure compensation you dialed in, a good photo is determined by the actual image. What the viewer gets to look at.

    Look at other people’s photography. Look at it from a heap of different aspects. Don’t just take a glance and think ‘that’s nice’. Look at why it is nice. Where is the light coming from (above, below, the side, behind), look at the shadows, they give you hints as to light direction. Where are the elements of the photo positioned, in the centre, off centre? The more you look at photos you like, the more you will understand why you like them. Then when taking your own photos, consider all these.

    One way to learn to see creatively is to look for a photo within a photo. So you stop on the side of the road to take a sunset photo. You get your camera out, hold it up, take the shot. Now stop. Look at the scene in front of you. Not just the sunset, but the fences, the cows, the trees. The back-lit cows might make a great photo. Learn to look at things in detail, not just the sweeping vista in front of you. Take a portrait of an elderly person, you might get the first shot, showing all the character in their face, but then explore with your eyes. They might have a lovely ruby ring on, with weather-beaten hands. Get then to rest their head in those hands, with the ring showing. See the idea? Don’t just look at the whole; explore the detail when you are shooting.

    Learning to see as a photographer is also different depending on your chosen genre. A sport photographer doesn’t necessarily make a good macro photographer. The skill set to ‘seeing’ sport action moments is completely different to spotting an insect on a leaf in the garden, and then the way you take the sport photo is entirely different to how you photograph the insect. Not just different lenses, but composition and more. Learning to see is genre/subject specific.

    Don’t be concerned about taking bad photos. A bad photo is a great learning tool. It can teach you what not to do next time. So when you are looking through your photos from a shoot, don’t just think “oh that one is bad’ and delete it. Study it, why is it bad? Learn from your mistakes. Spend a couple of minutes looking at the ‘bad’ photo and see what you did wrong. Knowing what doesn’t work, is as important as knowing what does.

    Three basic guidelines to help you on your way:

    1. What is the main subject of the photograph?
    2. How do I highlight the main subject of the photograph?
    3. What do I leave out?


    There are also several composition guidelines that can be applied to all photography to assist you:

    1. Learn about the ‘rule of thirds’.
    2. Leading lines (imaginary or real) that lead the viewer to your subject
    3. Symmetry and patterns.
    4. The background.
    5. Viewpoint (should you be higher up, lower down, closer, further away, more to the left)


    The above dot points are just to start your thought processes on learning to see like a photographer. The more you study photography, the more you take photos, the more you will learn to see. No one ever has the vision to get the perfect photo every time. Don’t be discouraged by your ‘bad’ photos, use them as a learning tool.


    You will not learn to see in a day, a week or a month, but you will learn and your photos will improve by day, week and month. Each and every day you apply yourself to seeing like a photographer will help your photography improve. People can be photographers for 60 years and still learn stuff about ‘seeing’. But with a bit of effort and lots of practice, we can all do it, and our photography is better off for it.

    *any other member who wants to add to this, with ideas about 'seeing' are most welcome to*
    Last edited by ricktas; 16-06-2012 at 9:28am.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
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    RICK
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    Great advice, Rick! Another useful piece of advice, this time from Scott Kelby, is to trust your instincts for "seeing" the shot. If there was something that attracted you to a scene, don't give up because you couldn't capture it in the first few frames. In his words "work the scene" until you discover what it was you originally "saw" and then capture that.

    Working the scene means doing exactly what you said, Rick; looking around the composition for features - what is the main one; what do you leave out, etc. Try different angles - remember there are 3 dimensions; up-down, left-right, in-back. When you've discovered the image that originally attracted you and captured it, only then should you move on.
    Waz
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    Also dont just walk to a spot and plonk the tripod down and start shooting , Look through the camera's view finder and also work the scene camera off tripod when you've found the right comp you were after then fit your camera to the tripod if needed, Other than longish shots early morning I dont use a tripod , I think they hinder sometimes
    Last edited by William; 16-06-2012 at 9:54am. Reason: Speeling
    Canon : 30D, and sometimes the 5D mkIII , Sigma 10-20, 50mm 1.8, Canon 24-105 f4 L , On loan Sigma 120-400 DG and Canon 17 - 40 f4 L , Cokin Filters




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    I have a step daughter in law and she has just got a dslr and real keen to take better photos. I will send her this link Rick as I`m sure it will help her.....also (as I have suggested) if she can find time she can get on the site and be a participant.
    Graeme
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    Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch jim's Avatar
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    Very good Rick. The Three "basic guidelines" should be memorised.

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    Even if you get a modicum of this skill, you'll never see the world the same way again. You'll be driving along, and everything you see, you'll be thinking how you'd compose the shot, where in the scene would be the best place to shoot from, how you'd use that lone tree against the background, how good it would look to come back here first thing in the morning, or late in the evening, etc. etc. It's a bit of a curse ... but a good one. I just wish I was "cursed" a bit more than I am, but I'm getting there.
    Canon EOS 60D ..... EFS 18-200mm f/3.5 - 5.6 IS - 430 EXII Speedlite - "eBay special" Remote Control Unit - Manfrotto 190XPROB w 804RC2 head.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ezookiel View Post
    ...You'll be driving along, and everything you see, you'll be thinking how you'd compose the shot...It's a bit of a curse...but I'm getting there...
    Driving along, but not erratically, one would hope

    What a curse! You'll have to add a "hair shirt" to the "hessian" undergarment, and maybe that penance will help you get there.

    Anyway, I can't see much wrong with your photographic sight, Ezookiel.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    @ Ezookiel, I walk around everywhere seeing photo's as well , Not so much driving , But always in every day things , Once you get there the world does'nt look the same again I agree

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    Hi great advice for me to take onboard as I continue with my photographic learning endeavours.
    I am enjoying working my way through the New To Photography Learning Plan I have found it most helpful.
    Iam enjoying the challenge and can't wait till I get my 50 posts up and can send in some photos to the forum for constructive critiscym.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by wangara View Post
    Hi great advice for me to take onboard as I continue with my photographic learning endeavours.
    I am enjoying working my way through the New To Photography Learning Plan I have found it most helpful.
    Iam enjoying the challenge and can't wait till I get my 50 posts up and can send in some photos to the forum for constructive critiscym.
    You can post photos now! see my PM to you

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    Pretty sure you can post images for CC after 1hr of joining up on AP Wangara

    I'm to slow at replying , Rick beat me to it , Sorry Rick
    Last edited by William; 16-06-2012 at 6:07pm.

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    Thanks so much for this Rick, it's really got me thinking about my photos!

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Good article Rick and thank you. It could be a sticky in the New To Photography forum.

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    Thanks so much, Rick, for this thread! I def like that part about seeing a photograph within a photograph. Good advice. I have actually looked back on my photos I took about a 1 1/2 years ago, when I first found AP, and I am pleased to see an improvement in my photography. Before, it was more a luck of the draw, and I didn't know why those good shots worked... now I can see why. Still got a looong way to go, but at least I am improving.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ezookiel View Post
    You'll be driving along, and everything you see, you'll be thinking how you'd compose the shot, where in the scene would be the best place to shoot from, how you'd use that lone tree against the background, how good it would look to come back here first thing in the morning, or late in the evening, etc. etc. It's a bit of a curse ... but a good one. I just wish I was "cursed" a bit more than I am, but I'm getting there.
    Oh, I know that curse! I may not be that good yet, but I see photos EVERYWHERE! I sometimes feel I am obsessed. There is even times when I am driving past a great photo opportunity, can't do anything about it, check the time so I know what time of the day I should get back there to make it mine.
    Monika
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    Check out my Flickr photos ... http://www.flickr.com/photos/missmonny/
    ... and then you can like me on www.facebook.com/PhotoByMB or see my shop on http://www.redbubble.com/people/msmonny



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    One rule I can think of that might also apply, and I unfortunately have failed on this rule way too often, is ... Once you see the photo - TAKE - the photo! Don't tell yourself you'll get it on the way back, that you'll come back another time, or justify not stopping because you're running too late, etc etc. There's every chance you WON'T get it on the way back, or the light will then be wrong, or the next day it will be raining, or you won't get around to making the time to get back there, or... or... or.... So if it's at all possible, carry your camera (I've started taking mine in the car anytime I'm driving anywhere, even if it's just to work) and if you see a photo, take it NOW.
    I've only once managed to get back to something I saw that I really wanted to photograph, and found it exactly the way it was the day I saw it, but I can think of hundreds of times, some of them several hundred kms drive from here, that I will never realistically ever get back to, and so now SERIOUSLY regret not taking the few minutes that it would have taken at the time to pull over and grab the shot at the time.

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