As far as I know the great Ansel Adams coined the idea of pre-visualization. In it’s basic form, it is the idea of visualizing the final image at the moment you are clicking the shutter. Ansel mastered this practice to epic levels.
He is legendary for taking copious notes about the exposure and scene and then applying his complex development and printing techniques to achieve the image he carried around in his head. His mastering of the Zone System is the result of this practice.
Today we have many tools available to us to create and tweak images to levels Ansel never dreamt of. What would take him days or weeks to accomplish can done in a matter of minutes. But one of the reasons for his incredible body of work is the fact that he rarely clicked his shutter without having a clear idea in his head of what he wanted the outcome to be.
I think it is a practice worth implementing at a high level as we journey down our own creative paths. In the beginning of my career I shot 4X5 film and incorporated the use of the zone system. When shooting a 4X5 or even medium format film I was always aware that everytime I clicked my shutter it was costing me at least $1.35 just for the film processing and proof. Not to mention my time, travel expenses etc. So I chose my subjects and cropping carefully and exposed, developed and printed the image to create a certain feeling. In doing that I developed a strong ability to pre-visualize. My image success ratio grew the more I pondered the final outcome.
Taking the time to “observe” and truly encompass what lies within your viewfinder and what it will look like after post process will help you with the idea of creating an image that “feels” like the scene did when you made your photograph. Our grandest goal is to present the viewer with a insight of what it “felt” like to be there. In doing so, you create the compulsion within the viewer to linger and to move through your photograph emotionally.
If you see yourself working in the commercial advertising world like I do, the art of pre-visualization is a vital and integral step in your creative process. In advertising photography images are rarely created without a deep understanding of who we are trying to reach, what we are trying to say and why the viewer needs the products or services our clients represent.
By training yourself to see images in your mind prior to the “click” will give you one of the great skills needed to speak creatively and practically to your clients during the pre-production process. Your ability to bring genuine creative solutions to your clients will be invaluable and highly sought after.
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