Idea Exercises

Learning to See Objectively

Our vision is a simulacrum of reality. We see what we want to see. The camera is more objective. Many pictures are ruined by the natural desire to capture the breadth of a scene’s attractions.

In the final frame the desired subjects, highlighted by the mind’s attention, are lost in an unseen clutter of distractions. Therefore we will learn to see as the camera sees; objectively. With your camera, stroll through nature or walk like a Flaneur through the City.

When you feel the urge to make a photograph, stop. Look around and listen. Identify exactly what it is that attracted you to the scene. Be pedantically precise. Is it a certain shade of colour? A shadow-drawn texture? The expression on a face? Keep simplifying.

What supports or contrasts with the main subject? Ask yourself why. At a more advanced level, you can notice which thoughts and emotions arise when you watch your subject. Rothko’s paintings can create a visceral reaction with blocks of colour, for example.

Now, consider any distractions that your mind may have blocked out. Distant white vans, neon signs, telegraph poles and areas of patchy lighting are all prime suspects. Consider how you can omit them from the final photograph.

Change your position until your composition is at its strongest, devoid of unrequired distraction. And only then create the photograph.