How To Get An Eye For Photography :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To Get An Eye For Photography

by David Peterson 5 comments

Ah, the elusive photographic eye. Is it something you’re born with, or is it something you develop over the years? I’m inclined to believe the latter. I know that with enough practice and understanding of what makes a good photo “good,” you will soon start hearing that coveted compliment from your friends too. It’s not hard to get an eye for photography. You just have to start paying attention to the photographic opportunities around you.

The four things that need to be on your mind at all times.

What is an eye for photography but the ability to locate all of the things that can make a photo wonderful? Now some of those things occur out there in the real world, and some of them are a byproduct of all that activity going on inside of your head. In any case, these are four things you can’t afford to miss if you want to develop an eye for photography.

Composition. Arguably the most important aspect of any kind of art. Composition refers to the visual arrangement of the different elements in your scene. Basically, it means asking yourself “where am I placing my subject/foreground/background and why?” Having an eye for photography has a lot to do with learning the rules of composition. One of them is the rule of thirds, but there are others that can help you see the beauty in a scene in front of you.

The rule of thirds is a good one for beginners to learn because it will get you ready to understand some of the more complex things you can do with composition. It’s pretty simple too. Always place your main subject in a part of the frame where the top, bottom, left, or right thirds meet. It won’t always create a photo that’s visually interesting, but it will do so more often than not.

Your subject. People with “the eye” also spend a lot of time thinking about what to include and what to exclude in a photo. You’ve got to ask yourself what the most important part of the scene is. Do you want to include the traffic light in the background, or is it simply too distracting for your viewers?

This photo is excellent because the photographer includes
enough of the background to keep it interesting without losing focus on the subject.

I’ll tell you the quickest way to get your friends to tell you that you’ve got an eye for photography. Just get a little closer on every shot. If you’re taking a portrait, only include the face of your subject. Don’t include your subject’s friends, the dining room table, the neighborhood dog, or the T.V. in the background. Find a focus and emphasize it by keeping everything else out. Think of your photo like it’s the V.I.P. lounge of an expensive nightclub. Only allow the most important elements in.

The lighting. The most beautifully composed photo of the most interesting subject in the world will never look good if it’s not properly lit. To get an eye for photography, you need to get an eye for light. That means understanding the difference between harsh light, soft light, twilight, side light, overhead light, and all of the shades of light in between.

It’s pretty easy to visualize a photo when you know what you’re working with. If it’s overcast outside, I know my options are limited to closeups and macro photography. I also know it’s not the best day to be doing landscape photography. So I pick and choose my shots based on the available lighting. I go with the ones I know I can get.

Having an eye for light also means you’ll know exactly what to do in a studio situation. When you’ve got all the lighting equipment, you’re free to create shots however you please. Being able to see a photo coming together means understanding the interplay between light and shadows. Once you know how to get rid of harsh and distracting shadows, it’s simply a matter of troubleshooting until you get the result you want.

Color. Seeing color, or more importantly, seeing the contrast between two or more colors can give you that photographic eye. Not every subject is colorful, so this part of “having the eye” often comes down to doing your research beforehand and picking subjects that present a nice color contrast. Adding to this, you have to learn to see how different colors interact in the same scene. Notice how the placement of colors can determine where your attention goes as you view the image.

Light determines color too. Early in the morning, the light tends to make colors a lot more intense and high contrast. But as you get towards noon, the light gets so intense that you have to shoot everything close up in order to get the same brightness of color. You can try to take a landscape photo, but you’ll end up with whitewashed skies or very dark subjects. Having an eye sometimes means knowing what you can get at certain times of the day.

It’s also comes down to post-processing. Most people believe I just have some “knack” for photography, but I use programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements to make my photos a little more colorful than they are in real life. When compared to unprocessed photos, these color corrected ones truly stand out. It’s a small difference that, to some, amounts to having an eye for photography.

Hopefully you’ll realize that nobody is born with an eye for photography. It’s developed over the years as you practice with composition, lighting, color, and subject selection. Keep all four of these on your mind, and you’ll have the eye.

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  1. padmakumar.s.nair says:

    Thank you for your wonderful article.

  2. Louise says:

    Thank you for your helpful articles.

  3. Nadine Lindsay says:

    Your articles are always very helpful to helping me improve my photography. Lots of pearls. Thank you

  4. Lonnie McIntyre says:

    Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  5. Mitali says:

    Beautiful piece you have written.

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