It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if you haven’t got a good photographic eye. You have to know what to point the camera at in the first place. Here are five quick tips for developing and improving your photographic eye.
a. Get serious about photography. If you want to develop your eye you need to look at thousands (yes thousands) of published pictures. You need to eat, sleep and drink photography – not just on vacation, but every week. The old saying “practice makes perfect” is true. Look at lots of pictures, and throw yourself into it. Don’t just pretend. Dig in. Really apply yourself. Study other shooters’ work and ask yourself why does that picture work?
b. Start trying to see things in a new light. If you’re used to doing x, y and then z to get a shot, change it up. Vary the order. Throw something new into your routine. Start earlier, stay out later, go somewhere new, set goals, challenge yourself and experiment. Experimentation and refusing to fear failure are two big keys to developing a great photographic eye.
c. Know your gear backwards and forwards. While this doesn’t seem to be related it is. Here’s why…if you know your gear like the back of your hand, you can use all of its features without thinking. Remember when you first learned how to drive a car and how much concentration you had to muster to keep from crashing? You really didn’t have time to enjoy the scenery back then did you? Well the same goes for photography. If you don’t know your gear, your mind won’t be free to explore and create. You’ll be too busy trying to remember how to format your memory card!
d. Go out shooting without your camera! Yes I know it sounds crazy, but freed from the confines of worrying about your gear, your mind opens up to new possibilities. You have the ability to see things you might otherwise miss. Carry a GPS and/or a notebook and take notes. You can always go back and get the shot of that mountain later. It’s not going anywhere. Ansel Adams went scouting and kept extensive journals sometimes before actually making a photo. Learn from the master.
e. Finally, stick with it. Persistence and patience count when you’re trying to develop your photographic eye. You must dedicate yourself to improving, even when it’s hard.
These are all pretty ethereal concepts. If you’d like to chime in with some more concrete examples, feel free to leave comments below.