Monday, November 15, 2010

The Most Important Photography Tip

There are many composition tips recommended by photographers, books, courses, workshops, blogs, etc.  Everyone talks about them and they are certainly important and basic to create images that are not boring and that have a WOW factor.  We also mention them in our blog and in our Photo-Tip-of-the-Day simply because they are important and secondly because the more you hear about them you will eventually learn how to apply them.

Composition rules are basic guides that tell you how an image will go from dull to exciting.  Rules are also meant to be broken, but you have to learn why and when to do so.  Some of the composition rules are even difficult to understand, you need a scientific mind to do so and I will not go into those.  For me photography is an art so why complicate it even more. 

Photographers already have to deal with color, light, contrast, detail, depth-of-field, modes and many other technicalities.  At the end of the day you might be able to learn and apply all the tips and techniques but your images might still not be the ones that win photo contests, that get published, that get exhibit or that simply make you sigh.

The most important tip that hardly anyone talks about is ‘Train Your Eye’.  The eye of a photographer is his or her most important tool.  Train your eyes to see light and you are on your way to creating awesome images.  Train your eyes to differentiate 2D from 3D and your pictures will suddenly have volume.  Teach them what is contrast and they will identify detail.  You will create amazing images as long as your eyes make decisions on what to include in your photograph and what to eliminate, the choice of angles and light.

First tip to training your eyes – look at a scene, close your eyes and open them again.  Does the scene cause the same effect as when you first saw it, in other words, did you sigh after re-opening your eyes.  If you did maybe you have a great shot in hand.  Go for walks and practice framing in your mind different scenes, open and close your eyes.  When you are able to look at a scene and continue to be amazed you will have trained your eyes to actually see great shots.

Our eyes see the world in 3-D, photos are a piece of paper in 2-D.  What sometimes feels like an excellent shot when printed it turns out to be a photo without interest.  Train your eye, go for walks, frame your scene and then close one of your eyes.  If the composition looses spark and now looks chaotic, then you do not have a good image, if you still sigh, see detail and perspective then you have a great shot. 

Now squint with the open eye, suddenly contrast and detail will seem more obvious and things will pop out.  If they do, you still have a great shot if they don’t then you are missing shadows and details.  The more you exercise your eyes the more you will train them to see a great image.

Cameras have certain advantages and certain disadvantages compared to your eyes.  Use them.  Cameras can focus and see details that your naked eye will not see, so train your eyes by closing and squinting.  Your camera will frame your subject and block the rest, your eyes won’t, train them to do so.  Your camera only sees with one eye and your camera cannot read the balance between highlights and shadows.  Train your eyes to see changes and different light angles.  Walk again early morning and late afternoon and see how light goes through the leafs of the trees, how it reflects on water and on windows, move around, go up, go down and train your eye to see how light changes as you move around.

Train your eye to frame as your camera does.  Take another walk but know with a frame made out of carton and pick your scenes.  Soon your eye will be trained as your camera to see what the frame allows you too and block the rest.  Practice a lot using this simple and cheap tool.  Your frame can be a small 1” x 1/5” cut on a 5 x 7 photo paper or as large as a 4” x 6” on an 8 x 10 photo paper, as long as you can see your composition and block the rest.

Train your eyes to see color.  Walk around pick a color and focus on it.  Walk some more and you will see that color popping out.  Continue walking and focus on a different color, suddenly you will now see this other color.  Practice makes perfect.

Train your eye and capture amazing breathtaking images.


  1. Good tip...learning to work with what we have is a challenge. Many just go out and get a zoom and what not...I've been eager to take just one lens for an extended period and shoot only with that to learn to frame properly and see what that lens allows me to see without worrying about what I would like to see.

  2. Experiment not only with one lens but with different settings, the more you learn how your camera works and what changes as you change lenses and settings the better image you will come up with. But I do believe that your eye is what has to be trained the most. Different lenses are capable of doing different things, does not mean that you cannot go out and get great shots using only one. Doing so will force you to experiment with other settings and different angles.