Developing your photographer’s eye

How do I develop my vision?

Photography is a highly visual form of communication. In a sense your lens is your third eye, but how do you learn to see better and translate your visual skills to your camera? Having good eyesight helps, but understanding eyesight can help even more. Remember that lenses and senors are based on the design of the eye, while the intelligent camera is designed on the brain.


What is your visual interest? I think it is important to start with what you are visually interested in. If we all saw the same, there would be no point in photography. Think about what catches your eye enough to say “look” to passing strangers. Some people like colours, others like shapes and some go mad for textures.

Start studying these things that catch your eye and ask;

  • is it better in a certain light?
  • is it high or low contrast?
  • what conditions make it more attractive?
  • what makes it less appealing?

Plastic Brains

I believe in brain plasticity. The part of the brain that deals with vision is called the occipital lobe (or visual cortex). Brain plasticity means that if you exercise your vision, this part of the brain will grow, even in an adult brain.

Change of Scenery

What this suggests is that your entire visual process from eye to brain is only as good as the visual environment you have experienced. I grew up in a concrete jungle in Rowner, Gosport, Hants. The entire landscape was flat, except for right-angles and concrete. Now this doesn’t mean that my brain could only see flat horizons and right angles because my environment contained other shapes, images, tv etc. But it was clear that if I wanted to develop my eye as a landscape photographer, a change of scenery was required.

Reflected mountain

Travel Broadens the Eye

Just like the wonderful mind expanding side-effect of travel, being visually challenged has it’s benefits. Putting yourself in a strange environment will really make your visual senses work hard. Consider an endless beach compared to a busy street in India and how these 2 environments will work your eyes in different ways.

Make my photos work

How do you apply your newly expanded visual brain to your photography? In light of the concepts raised in this posts, the conclusion would be to study the photography you aspire to create. For example, if you want to photograph faces, study portrait images and if you want to be a scenic photographer, study some landscape photos. But above all explore with your lens as much as you do with your eyes.

Treasure Iceland

If you catch the glacier ice beach at the right time, you can photograph the incredible colours of a sunset or sunrise.

Tiny Comet Aurora

This night photograph, from Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland, captured a comet disappearing into the North sky over Iceland.

Hali Milkyway

For Iceland based photographers, photographing the Milky Way is generally something we do while we are waiting for the Northern Lights to appear.

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