The Eye and the Mind

When photographing and posing people, there are three main variables that need to be taken into consideration: The light, the subject and the photographer.

To some photographers, this is not so obvious, particularly at the beginning. Have we perhaps stopped seeing with our eyes and seeing only what advertising and commercials subtly directs, and wants us, to see?

I meet so many hopefuls wishing they have this or that camera and this or that lens, thinking that high end equipment will make them great photographers. Alas it is not the case. Granted, top notch kit will make your life easier, and yes, for some genres of photography, like macro, sports, underwater, one does need particular equipment and gear. Yet, when one studies the history of photography, as well as great photographers, there is usually one thing in common which binds the majority of them – and that is that they all based their photography not on their equipment, but on their mind and vision.

In this day and age, with everybody rushing around, not unlike headless chickens, trying to keep up with everything, some of us are missing the forest for the trees. Is it not time to take stock and try and organize ourselves? Is it not time to think of our priorities and work towards them? Is it not time to perhaps review our progress to date and try and analyze how to improve our work and lifestyle?

Coming back to photography, and the three main variables, it is time for those taking up photography seriously to try and grasp and better understand the effects of light. One thing we have to acknowledge is that light is actually invisible. What the photographer sees is the effect of light on his subject. What the photographer tries to do is capture that light in the most suitable way that fits the subject.

We must really look at the light on our subjects and then adjust maybe our subject or our own position, to fit and mold to the light we have. Many “photographers” are not even looking at the way light is affecting their subject, at the transition between highlights and shadows. Look at your subjects and decide what is the main focus of your image and work towards lighting that part of the photograph and leaving the rest of the image in more subdued lighting (quite like a spot lit effect).  A lot of images are today spoilt with over lighting, particularly people pictures.

Look at what the great masters did in painting and you will see the way they “lit” up their subjects by knowing the direction and quality of light. Study the work of Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, Michelangelo. What better tutors could one wish for!!? The more we hear today that photographers are portraying themselves as “artists”, the more, alas, it seems they are not behaving like artists!

Technology has made it so easy to churn out an “image” that most are just not thinking and our brains and eyes have become sluggish and untrained.

We must study the history of art, we must be aware of the evolution of photography, we must keep in touch with the breakneck pace of photography’s technology, we need to know the rules before we attempt to break them, we need to network and view other photographers’ work, we need to introduce concepts and meaning in our imagery, we need to learn how to best direct and manage our subjects, we need to learn the classical before attempting the abstract, we need to keep our minds open and receptive to all forms of art. The list is endless. . .

Technology has given Photography to the masses and the masses have taken it on in a huge manner. It is now up to the masses to use their new found creative tool to the best of its ability and not to abuse and reduce it to mere gimmickry.

Let us all strive to learn more and more on this wonderful art.

Increasing our passion for photography is bound to increase the level and purpose of our images. The way forward is to never think you have arrived but to keep learning and discovering.

8 thoughts on “The Eye and the Mind

  1. Very interesting reading. To think that light is ‘invisible’ yet it ‘lights’ up a photo and a flash is needed when there is none. All pretty complex but the eye behind the camera can instantly capture moments of joy, sadness and grandeur. A picture is memory ~ an occasion ~ a place ~ and people ~ a truly beautiful

  2. Thanks for your comments, Suz.
    I love the line “to think outside the box, one must fully understand the box”. Can’t agree more on this!

  3. Art in whatever form is a never ending process of the language of expression ….. each image, in whatever form it is executed represents the bringing out of light from darkness … just like the dawning of a new day …. the creative road is long and winding and endless but also always exciting and innovative …. mainly so if the rules handed down by our Masters like Carravagio, da Vinci, Rembrant , etc ..are appreciated …. t o think outside the box, one must fully understand the box and be creatively courageous enough to break out….not an easy task….Kevin, you r words are wise and these words are reflected through the images you share with us and through the genuine time you give us ……yes technology seems to be battling with technique and creativity ……however, nothing can change the physics or the physical properties of darkness and light or the individual soul searching of a creative mind

  4. The ‘passion for photography’ is not what most feel. The general feeling is that photography has become a commodity, you do it because you can because its easy. This is seen in most photos posted online. Shoot 100 images in 30minutes, choose 1, fix it up in photoshop, add filters and its called ‘photography art’.

  5. Kevin, thanks for this article. Its an eye opener and it surely help us as photographers to keep abreast and keep on checking on how the light falls on the subject being captured.
    Btw prosit for your blog

    Keep it up


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