5 ways to improve your photographic vision

These days, with everybody wielding expensive professional photography gear it is easy to think that in order to make better images you’ve got to have better gear. If you think this way you would be far from the truth. For as long as photographers have been shooting, the eye for a great shot, the understanding of finer details as to what makes a shot stand out from the average ones has remained the benchmark of good photography. Better gear comes a long way after. You can replace expensive gear with cheap cameras and still manage to get good images. But if you don’t have photographic vision, you will never make great images; regardless of the gear you own.

So, how can one create better images? In other words how does one acquire the power to envision an image? Here are five tips that should help you – 

1.     Pick one lens and make it an extension of your eye


This is easier said than done and takes a considerable amount of practice. When you hear a professional photographer speak about developing your vision, what s/he invariably suggests is to know how to make unique images of a scene using your tools, until that becomes your signature style. Great photographers such as Ansel Adams, Josef Koudelka, Robert Capa and Fan Ho all have their own signature styles. A significant part of that style is attributed to using a single lens and seeing the world as it unfurls through it. When used over a period of time, like the memorable combination of a Leica 35mm and 50mm prime used by Henri Cartier-Bresson, the lens becomes an extension of your eyes.

2.     Use the element of negative space in your image


Look at the above image. The partially open window is placed towards one corner while the rest of the image is dominated by an empty space. This empty space is known as negative space. Invariably when you look at the image your eyes tend to roam around the vast emptiness and then come back to be fixated on the window. You may even start to look for details, the three potted plants, and the crochet work on the white curtains. This a clever way to focus attention of the viewer to the important aspect of an image which the photographer wants to highlight. Negative space simply helps him to achieve that more easily.

3.     Shoot or post-process in black & white


Some compositions are best expressed in monochrome. Devoid of colors an image lacks the elements that sometimes be distracting. You can shoot in color and then post-process in black and white which gives you a greater tonal range. Black and white compositions have often been found to be more powerful than color. Back in the early days of photography when film was the dominant format for shooting, everybody had to shoot in black and white. Color film came much later. Photographers in those days relied heavily on compositional aspects to convey depth and dimension. Sadly, these days, the brilliance of colors often hide poor compositions.

4.     Incorporate repeating patterns in your image


Repeating patterns and or shapes help you create a sort of order in an image. The human brain can perceive repeating patterns and shapes as something that makes sense. That is why repeating patterns in music create rhythm; and rhythm is harmony. In photography, when that same harmony is broken it becomes a point of interest in an image. 

5.     Incorporate lines in your images


Lines, be it straight, crooked or curved has an effect on your images. I have already discussed the importance of using leading lines in a previous article on this website. Leading lines tend to draw the attention of the viewer towards the main point of interest in an image. Diagonal lines, especially those which travel from the bottom left of the image to the top right add an interesting dynamics to an image. I had discussed perfectly straight horizon lines in an earlier image. Such perfectly straight horizon lines can induce a sense of tranquility to an image. Lines which seem to be falling over adds a bit of tension in a composition. E.g.; a tall building shot with a slight tilt induces tension in the image. Curved lines on the other hand are frequently used as leading lines in composition.

The above tips are just a few ways to improve your photographic vision. Photography, however, is more about the practice than theory. What you learn on the internet or at a workshop has to be put into use to refine and then to adapt. Your style evolves over time as you shoot more and learn to make better images.

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