Ever wonder how you too could develop an eye for photography like the pros? An eye that can walk into any situation, bad light and all, and find photo opportunities all the other camera junkies completely look right over.
After reading countless photo books, attending numerous courses, and practicing my heart out, I can tell you wholeheartedly that practice and perseverance are not the answer.
So what’s the secret to developing an impeccable sight for great shots? There are actually seven of them…
#1: Awaken Your Senses
I’ll admit, when I first got into photography I thought it was a pretty technical hobby. You’ve got exposure settings, reading light, and a slew of other concepts with mind-numbing physics and optical equations behind them.
The more I’ve practiced the craft, however, the more I’ve realized otherwise.
Photography is simply the process of sharing with others what you see. If you don’t see much when you open your eyes besides the same stuff everyone else sees, do you really expect to take great photos?
To have an eye for photography you must see differently than the rest. This means you must use your eyes – your vision – in a totally new way.
Next time you’re walking down the street, pay close attention to others. They’ll either look at the ground, straight where they’re going, or at their phone.
Do you do the same?
If so, know this. You’re closing up your eyes, your ears, your sense of touch to the world around you. You’re missing out on beauty all around you. Lights. Colors. Nuances.
Awakening your senses to what’s around you is the easiest way to come back down to earth and out of your mind spaceship.
For you must be on earth to capture earth.
#2: Gobble Up Beauty Every Chance You Get
Those with an eye for photography tend to be those that view and analyze beauty on a daily basis.
It allows you to see how the beauty was made and structured. And whether you realize it or not, this act of observing the structure of beauty will have a strong influence on how structure things yourself – aka how you compose your shots.
For this reason it’s imperative that you immerse yourself in art on a daily basis. Find and collect great images. Sign up for a monthly photo magazine. Visit art galleries.
Any and all art is fair game.
Often times I’ve gotten great composition ideas from art far outside of photography. Keep your mind open to all the beauty around. Whether you feel it or not, it will have an influence on how you use your photographic eye.
#3. Learn and Understand the Psychology of Vision
You’d be surprised how much of what you see is governed not but your choice, but something more powerful.
Thousands upon thousands of years of survival have rigged us to follow certain visual cues and ignore others. And right from birth, we are trained and wired to view the world one way and not another.
Luckily for us a handful of genius psychologists and anthropologists have pinpointed exactly what these visual triggers are.
By understanding the psychology of vision, you will get a solid understanding of why some photos work and others don’t. Not just mere opinion like most photo books give.
Some artists just naturally get how to manipulate a work of art to generate attention, awe, and excitement. For those that don’t, learning the psychology of visual communication is a great way to get it. What’s more, you’ll come out knowing and understanding more than any “talented” artist ever will.
Our thoughts have a way of blocking our creative abilities. This is especially true when us photographers must balance creativity with technicality.
Top that with fear of not finding a good shot, stress over finding the right exposure, and technology malfunctions and you’ll find it very hard to stay focused on being aware of your surroundings.
This is why it’s essential that you work to free your mind from this mental baggage.
Make it a point to take at least five minutes out of each day just to breath.
Focus on your breath. Notice how oxygen feels to enter your lungs. And the sensation of exhalation.
Feel the wind and temperature on your skin. Smell the air.
As thoughts come into your mind, gently remind yourself to focus back onto your breathe.
Meditating every day will develop your ability to drop all your mental clutter and focus on just one thing. This focus is key for developing your eyes.It will strengthen your resolve to search and find the beauty around you without letting nonsense jarble throw you off.
#5: Learn How to Turn Coal to Gold
Mindset and what you expect dictate what you’ll get out of every photo shoot you encounter. If you expect to find no great shots with mid-day lighting (as many photographers believe), you won’t.
To transform your eyes to see great photo opportunities, you must develop the belief that beauty is all around you. And, most important, you must believe it.
When you truly believe it, you won’t stop looking until you find a great shot.
As you first try this mental trick, you’ll likely take much longer than usual to find a great shot. It’s ok. You don’t really believe yet. Your eyes are listening to your subconscious, not what you consciously tell yourself.
That’s ok. Keep telling yourself the beauty’s there. You just need to look harder. Eventually you’ll find something magnificent.
And next time you go out to shoot, fueled by your past success, your eyes will find beauty a little faster. And you’ll really start believing it.
#6: Make Detailed Observation A Daily Habit
How often can you realistically go out and shoot? Once every week? Or a month?
Let’s be honest. We have lives. Work. A family. While we’d love to spend every waking out shooting (well at least I would…), we’ve got other things we gotta do.
Making shooting time the only time for us to use our skills of observation is a guaranteed way to limit our growth.
The fact is that you use your eyes from when you wake up to when you fall asleep. Why not make efficient use of this?
Why not, while driving to work, look at the lines, colors, and light around you?
Imagine you have a camera with you at all times and are scouting for the perfect shot. It’ll do wonders.
#7: Open Your Eyes
Beauty is all around you. It’s on the floor. The walls. In your backyard.
You may have been unable to see all of this before. There’s no excuse now.
Make it a point to keep your eyes open to the beauty around you throughout your daily life. In fact, I challenge you to do it right now!
Look away from the screen, observe the textures around you. The arrangement of objects. The light and how it illuminates your environment.
Isn’t it spectacular?