How To Develop an “Eye” as a Photographer

Youv’e seen them, those simple yet hauntingly fascinating photographs that you can stop and stare at for hours. I have spent many hours looking at other people’s photographs and instantly judging the aesthetic value that I perceive from them and either browsing for awhile, or clicking off immediately to find more “edible” fare.  Most times I am bored with the content of an image and sometimes I am enchanted with the content. What makes the difference in these two photographs? The ingredients of enchantment for me are, one, that the photograph is technically perfect, such as sharpness, color and exposure. Next there needs to be a quality to the photograph that “communicates” something back to me and evokes some emotion in me, the stronger the better. If the photograph makes me feel good, I want it. I want it near me to get that good feeling every time I look at it. Its a piece of art that pours out its soul on a constant basis and I want to be near it.  When someone makes an image like this, it is commonly said that they have the “eye” for photography. Well what exactly is the definition of this elusive “eye” that all photographers want and need to have? It is defined in the dictionary as:
  1. the power of seeing; appreciative or discriminating visual perception

But this definition doesn’t cover it and doesn’t make it translatable to actions. What do you have to do to get this “eye”?

To get the “eye” you have to develop it. It is a talent, no doubt, but like any talent must be developed through practice. And this is what I did to develop that talent: I took hundreds of shots of certain subjects, then studied each one for its merits and flaws. Then I went back and took more shots and repeated the process over the years to become better and better at discerning what is g0ing to be worth taking and what is not. 

Secondly I brushed up on some photographic laws and camera basics that you must have just to begin to take good photographs. Some of these included the Rule of Thirds, depth of field and exposure values, to name a few.  As I practiced, I began to act using these basics without thinking about it. They became a part of the process every time I did a shoot.

Third and most important I create a passion in myself for the subject. I will commune with the subject in a way to permeate its essence and then try in every way I can to capture that essence using all my tools. I fall in love with the subject! It seems odd, but whenever I do a portrait session I have a great affinity for the person and they can feel it. That affinity and care comes across and it reflects in the images. It has to be real. In doing landscapes or other subjects I find that I only want to photograph those things that make me fall in love with them – a beautiful sunset, a laughing child, a stolen moment of humor. You have to take your camera with you to at all times so you don’t miss capturing that fleeting moment that will be forever gone.

Realize a good photographer does not just capture light and be damned what it looks like. A good photographer always deeply cares about his subject and will go to great lengths to get  the essence to shine through in the final image.

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