Visualisation – a world-class skill anyone can learn.
Photographers are distinguished from “snappers” by consistently and deliberately making images rather than capturing by good fortune. World-class photographers have a detailed image in their mind before the button is pressed.
Anyone can learn it…
Back in the early 1930′s Ansel Adams, a world-class landscape photographer, applied this technique to his photography. He said that the control of a photograph:
…lies in the selection by the photographer and in his understanding of the photographic processes at his command. The photographer visualizes his conception of the subject as presented in the final print. He achieves the expression of his visualization through his technique – aesthetic, intellectual, and mechanical.
Ansel Adams; “The Studio Annual of Camera Art”, 1934
Adams correspondence of the time showed that others were aware too. Today we all recognise the value of learning to visualise great outcomes for our work, or sports and our future success. So, why not our photography?
Visualisation in photography
What is visualisation? Simple. It is a detailed image in your minds-eye of how you want your final picture to look. A successful picture will recreate the detailed image in your mind as a picture on-screen or print.
Creating the mind-image? It takes a little practice. As we all have images in our heads the trick is to make the image a good one. Once you have an idea for your picture, plan it out – fill out the details. Keep the image in your head by constantly referring to it. You learn to develop that detailed image by learning to observe the outside world. When you look at someone’s hair look at the texture and how the light falls on it. Check the way the shadows fall on their face. Observe sitting positions that flatter their body shape. You see a million details of the world around you every day. Learning to create an image in your head is about visualising those details.
When you see a scene? The “snapper” will point and shoot. The visualising photographer will consider the details. Look at the colour and quality of the light. Understand relationships between light and dark, shadow and brightness. Look at the lines and edges in the scene. Want to raise the impact? Change the scene in your head until you are happy with it. Then, go make the changes. Alternatively, picture the best composition. Exclude the distractions, consider the elements of composition and how you want them to catch the viewers eye in the final photograph. Figure out how you want the depth of field, motion blur, brightness and so on…
Taking the picture… When you have created an exciting image in your minds-eye you have already got your picture. Next create it in-camera. Command the digital processes to recreate what you want for the final image. NOW, and not before, set up your camera. Then take the picture.
Camera control is essential, auto-mode will definitely not recreate what is in your head. Your technical skills are essential. What you will find is that as your minds-eye image-making gets better, your technical skills increase to match it. Work at it and images on-screen will flow from images in your mind.
…flow from great images in your mind. If you make a great picture from your visualisation of the scene you will in turn create a great image in the mind of the viewer. The great photographer gets excited and passionate about this translation because it is a unique and powerful communication with the viewer. You can learn this… you just need to see the details in your mind. Practice, and you will make great images.
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