Many students that I have worked with have created very good, technically correct images, but were still not pleased with their work. They’re sure something is wrong with either their technique or their equipment, things they can “fix”. The basic and more fundamental issue that lies behind their dissatisfaction, more basic than a change of filters or lens, is that they have not yet matched their inner vision with the scene that they are viewing. They have not quite communicated what they wanted to say about the scene via the image because they have not released their inner vision.



Learning to visualize and appreciate our visual surroundings is an important first step in becoming a better photographer. In order to overcome the limits of the photographic process, which diminishes a three-dimensional, five-sensory experience into a two dimensional, one-sensory experience (in a very small size to boot), we need to know how to first create a mental image and then translate that visual expression photographically.

Our ability to visualize and be creative can be both influenced and hindered by a number of factors, some of which have previously been discussed.  The first and biggest barrier to visualization I have talked about earlier. It is the way that we process visual information into symbols and labels thereby blinding us from really experiencing a subject. It is important to the creative process to “stop and smell the roses” when it comes to developing an inner vision of the scene in front of us. Incorporating the information we derive from sight, sound, touch, smell and (at times even) taste, allows us to obtain a better understanding (and mental image) of the true nature of a subject or scene that we had originally simply just put a label to. 

Above:  Celtic Cross and Sunburst.  This is an image that could not be viewed with the naked eye. This started as a visualized image created as I began to understand the possible relationships between the cross, the noon day sun, and an extreme perspective. With the creation of a visualized image and the abstraction of the scene down to two key elements (cross and sun), it was then a matter of finding the right spot to stand so that the sun was nestled in one of the arms of the cross. I then compared the image in the viewfinder with my mental image. When they matched, the rest was a matter of metering and exposure to create the right mood. The sunburst was created using f/22 stetting to produce the rays.

Wolf Sleeping.jpg

Being preoccupied with “self” is another major barrier to visualization and, due to the modern society in which we live, probably the hardest to overcome. You may have worries about your job, family, a trip coming up, needing to return a phone call, using a new camera, trying to master a tripod for the first time, and on and on and on and on. Too many such distractions restrict our inner artist from being able to have any direct sensory contact with the things around us.

Creative visualization requires both a relaxed mind and body. It cannot be one or the other: it must be both. It takes practice and time to remove the worries out of your mind and the tenseness out of your body, but, if you are successful, the quality of your photographs will improve dramatically.


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