Seeing and photographing

All the world's cameras, sensors, desktop printers, scanners, films, enlargers and other photographic paraphernalia are no more than tools for making pictures. They may be very sophisticated technically, but they cannot see or think for themselves. Of course, it's quite enjoyable playing around with the machinery and testing it out, but this is like polishing up your bicycle and only ever riding it around the block to see how well it goes. Bicycles enable you to get out and explore the world; cameras challenge you to make successful pictures out of what you see around you, in perceptive and interesting ways.

Anyone who starts photography seriously quickly discovers how it develops their ability to see. In other words, not just taking familiar scenes for granted but noticing with much greater intensity all the visual elements - shapes, textures, colors and human situations - they contain. This is an exciting and rewarding activity in itself. The second challenge is how to put that mindless machine (the camera) in the right place at the right time, to make a really effective photographic image out of any of these subjects. Seeing and organizing your picture making is just as important as technical 'know-how' and it comes with practice.

To begin with, it is helpful to consider the ways seeing differs from photographing. You don't necessarily have to regard differences as a barrier. The point is that by understanding how the scene in front of you will appear on a final print you will start to 'pre-visualize' your results. This makes it much easier to work through your camera.

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