An online book of Common Sense Photography, by Rhett Stuart

What is Visualization?


Visualization is the most important part of photography! Visualization is the part the photographer plays in photography. It is what makes one photographer unique and different from another.

Visualization is having a desire to be creative, being observant and be able to "SEE" a photograph in your mind, to really think about the image, and then make the effort to express it. All the theories of lighting, understanding photographic principles, and how to use camera equipment and their settings is to just allow the photographer to properly express what they visualized and want to communicate to others.

Looking is just casually observing. Seeing is observing your environment, giving careful thought to what you have observed, and understanding thoroughly what you are observing. Some people just look and move on. Others carefully observe, think, and understand what they see.

Being able to really SEE something is to form the photograph in your mind before taking the picture. That is the important part, just recognizing a good opportunity for a good photograph in your mind and how the photograph will look all the way to its completion before you even reach for the camera. Visualize the photograph all the way to completion before it is even taken.

It is important to choose the center of interest carefully. Sometimes I hold up my hands with my thumbs out to help me compose the photograph. Carefully consider the Depth of Field, shutter speed, and what you want to communicate to others. Look for anything that might distract from your center of interest.

Our eye is very selective in what it observes. Our brain alters what we observe. The camera simply records what is actually there. Our left brain is logical; it is connected to the right side of our body. It wants to be logical and dismiss any abstract or artistic thoughts about picture composition. "Just take the picture and move on, get it over with," says our left brain loudly. Our right brain whispers, "time isn't important, relax, take it all in." Do you remember doing art while in school and how the time just slipped away? Our right brain was at work, it forgot about the time, time is not important to it. Trying to relax and taking time to SEE is a key for getting good photographs. It is also very relaxing and rewarding.

Being able to recognize a potential picture is very difficult to write about. The pictures present themselves as we SEE. There is no best way to take photographs, just like there is no best person. We each see things differently and our photographs reflect that. I have seen an excellent photograph in my mind (at least excellent to me), and other photographers have not. It has happened the other way around also. Somebody takes a photograph and I think, that was a dumb one. But afterwards when I see their photograph I understand what they had visualized.

Creating the photograph is work. It takes time to learn how cameras work, their limitations and what the results will likely be, depending on the settings that are selected. I need to get the right angle, get in the right location, and carefully compose the picture. Afterwards the image sometimes needs to be worked with computer software to help complete our visualization.

This process of Visualization leads to expressing what we want to communicate to others. Submerse yourself in the area you are in, let it impact you! Carefully analyze what you are seeing. Look for objects that might distract from what you want the center of interest to be.

Be willing to delete a lot of your photographs! Don't try and keep that many. Most professional photographers take a lot of pictures but later delete most of them, just selecting a choice few. But also don't rely on just taking a bunch of pictures hoping you will get a few good ones. That would be like trying to pitch a baseball, but wildly throwing the ball everywhere hoping it goes in the right direction once in a while. Digital cameras can be useful in learning photography, but they can also just take a lot of bad pictures also if we aren't careful to Visualize.

Everything worthwhile in life takes effort to make it go right; relationships, jobs, a building project. Photography is no different. Take your time, relax, give the composure some thought, and concentrate on getting that photograph right!

Getting the image right at the time the picture is taken can mean less time trying to fix it later with the computer. The more skill I develop as a photographer, the less time I need to spend on the computer later. Sometimes software like Photoshop® is needed and very useful. Use your creative Visualization skills and forget about the rat race for awhile!

Later, go back and review those photographs critically. Don't be discouraged. I don't know of anybody that has gotten the "perfect" photograph. I haven't. I always see something in my photographs that I would have liked to do differently. Next time around you will have a little more experience with the composition and exposure to get better results with your photographs.