Photography 101: Not What but How You See

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photography is not what you see but how you see. As photographers we sometimes lose sight of that truism. I am fortunate that I get to visit many exotic locations that others can only dream of—but to others your location might be exotic.

Exotic could easily be a synonym for different—anything different can seem to be exotic. Locals often catch me photographing old doors, windows, padlocks and even park benches. They think I’m nuts, and maybe I am, but it’s all exotic to me.

So it’s not the destination or even the gear we shoot with that makes good photography, it’s our vision—the way we view the world around us. Exotic (different) locations and the latest gear can serve to inspire our photography but they’re not the keys to great photography. Great photography is a derivative of creative vision, education, experience, and persistence. Do you want to improve your photography? Then spend more time studying the work of master painters and less time reviewing the latest spec sheets for camera bodies and lenses. Spec sheets teach you nothing about ambience: lighting, composition, and mood.

There are tons of photography pundits on YouTube who wax eloquent about the latest & greatest photography kit. That can be helpful if you’re researching a new camera body or lens to buy but it doesn’t really help you with your photography. Unless you’re a total tech-nerd switching out your camera system every year is just way too expensive. I’ve been tempted to experiment with Sony mirrorless camera systems (there are almost daily posts on YouTube shouting I’ve switched to Sony) but I’ve been heavily invested in the Canon ecosystem since 2009 so I won’t change systems anytime soon: What’s in My Bag.

River Aire – Leeds, England

Technical Field Notes: To improve your photography focus less on gear and destinations and more on vision. Try to look at your immediate surroundings as a total stranger might view them—find the exotic in the mundane. I am often surprised at what draws my attention and stirs my creative imagination. I’ve included a photo of the underside of a pedestrian bridge, spanning the Aire River, in Leeds, England—mundane to the locals but exotic to me. Seeing differently. Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens. Settings: 1/30s handheld @ f/8 ISO 125 @ 16mm. SFD

5 responses to “Photography 101: Not What but How You See

  1. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust was right, wasn’t he? Your photos are better than his, though. 🙂

  2. Heide, you strike me as an exceedingly intelligent, educated, and well read woman. There’s hardly a subject I write about that you don’t have knowledge of, and informed opinion about. You impress the hell outta me. Just say’n. Thanks, for always being ready and able to add a positive comment to my ramblings. Steve

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