How to develop the photographer eye #1 – Composition

This is the first of a series of posts to learn how to develop the eye to take photographs.
There is no technical explanation to understand this. It’s like “how to understand art” or “how to understand beauty” It’s personal, subjective and any attempt to just create rules to understand it, is a waste of time.

So with these HowTo’s posts I want to explain how to develop that eye, and not how to understand that eye.
This makes a huge difference. Teaching how to develop something is nothing more than teaching one, of several paths, to reach the same point. So you don’t have to follow any path, you just have to see how other people feel and walk that path to get what you like for your own path. That’s why it’s not possible to explain the photographer eye, it’s only possible to show how people feel it. From that experience we can wake up our own one.

Let’s start with Composition. How important is to find the proportions and distance relationship between the elements in a photograph? There are some common rules called: Golden Rules If you don’t know them, please read about that first! Please don’t blame me because I told you before that no rule can explain how to develop the photography eye. These rules are related with the way humans perceive visual information. Of course, these rules can be broken to achieve the unachievable.

How can we put together the elements to have a good looking picture?

Every person, when seeing an image, has a different approach to it. Some people just see it as a whole, other people from one angle, because something called their attention, whatever.
So first of all, remember that it’s impossible to take a picture that everybody will love. Some people will consider it a crap and some of them may consider it a visual masterpiece.
Anyway, independently what people could think about the image, remember what a picture is, or one of it’s multiple definitions. It’s the art that captures that static moment in time, the real present. It can tell you a story.

Don’t try to think about this in the few instants before you shot it! Instead of that, try to get out with the proper attitude. You will notice how after some time, you will develop a better capacity to observe and see details that before just passed out unnoticed to your view. Take your time, see the things that surround you. Do those things tell something to you? Do you feel something when you see that moment that you thing it’s worth taking?

Lonely Street

I got a good acceptance with this picture in flickr. It was taken with a Nikon D70, just a normal, entry level, old digital camera.
It was near one of the first places I lived in Tokyo, in Higashi Nakano.
To be honest, I didn’t feel really good that day. I started to live for a long term in Japan at the end of 2006, and at that time I was new here with almost no friends. I felt sometimes really alone.
So I decided to get out at night and do some photowalks until dawn was breaking in my lens.
So that picture tells a story, I still had a long path to do, starting my life in a new country, discover a new culture… It was dark, like my feelings of loneliness, and nobody was there, as my life was at that time.

So what I want to say is: if you shot your pictures and you just forget that you have a camera, try to feel the environment, smell the air, look at the simple things, like a street or a window, or a traffic light, or a taxi, whatever. Walk, see, feel, think, let yourself go… And in that moment, as an impulse, you will feel the need to share the whole moment with others. The only way to do it is using that camera in your hands!

So what about the composition???

So the secret is, when you see your story, when you feel that, when you are synchronized with the things you are seeing, in that moment try to see through the lens the same thing you are seeing with your eyes. Remember the basic rules and try, practice. After several shots you will realize the technical differences between the camera and your eyes. As a technical thing, you will be able to overdue these differences quickly and you will concentrate to develop that feeling, set your mind to the exploration and the harmony between you and the environment. You won’t have to worry what composition is anymore.

Try it and let me know your experience. Send me links of your pictures if you try to do this :)