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Take a moment and reflect on some of your favorite images that you’ve captured. Ask yourself how much of the success of any of those images is attributable to the gear you used.
The honest answer to that question should be something along the lines of, “Not much.”
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Every photographer will make at least one photo that they consider a winner, and since photographers can make insanely disparate gear choices — from 1950s manual focus 35mm film cameras to 100-megapixel medium format digital cameras — we shouldn’t be so quick to give credit to the camera.
Photographers make great photos mainly as a result of how they see the world around them. This ability to “see” creatively is independent of the camera, and anyone can learn to sharpen their creative vision.
Here are three things you can do to see more creatively.
Recognize That Everything Is Subjective
There is a quote of elusive attribution that says, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Don’t corner yourself into seeing things in a way that fulfils anyone’s expectations but your own. There is no right or wrong way to see the world around you. You will, as a rule, bring your perceptions and philosophies into everything you photograph.
The classic exercise of challenging any number of photographers to photograph the same subject exemplifies this point. Each of them will have a distinct way of seeing the subject, and this will be evident in the photos they make.
While it’s always good to work on developing and refining your vision, it’s equally important to accept your vision as your own.
Be An Observer
Don’t just look at something, snap a shot and then move on to the next thing. By taking the time to observe your subject — study its details and its relation to its surroundings — you’re training yourself to see the full potential of any given subject.
As a result, you will open up for yourself more possibilities for how you can shoot your subject. Vision and possibilities are ideas that go hand in hand.
Chase The Light
Light changes everything. The right light can transform a mundane subject into something extraordinary. It can reveal details otherwise obscured.
Light itself changes throughout a day, exuding different qualities and, thereby, imputing everything it touches with a unique allure.
Even when you don’t have a camera with you, you should be studying light, learning to see how light works and what impact light and its varied qualities have upon all that it touches.
Once you learn to see the transformative power of light, you can photograph anything and make it look good.
There are undoubtedly many more ideas you could employ to help you become better at seeing, but this is a great place to start. As you put these concepts to use and begin to gain a better grasp of your unique way of seeing, don’t fall into the trap of overthinking any of this.
Ultimately, you will create your best images when you learn to lose yourself in your craft.