The job of the photographer is first to see, to be observant. Our job is to see the scene but also the possibilities! Seeing is the first step to better compositions and stronger photographs!

You can't compose a photograph with elements you don't even see in the first place; it's one of the great struggles of photographers. But seeing is something that can be learned intentionally!

In this second video in the series of three,  I explore 3 ways you can begin to learn seeing photographically in stronger ways, so your compositions can  become more intentional and more captivating. Take a few minutes to watch this video and then I'd love to hear your questions about how we perceive, or see photographically - I’d love to hear from. What stands in the way of you seeing more creatively?  What's your big challenge or frustration?

For the Love of the Photograph,
David duChemin


  1. I enjoy enormously your posts, books, texts, and advices. You have managed to put in words tons of hidden ideas and practices that I now can understand and elaborate. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and mind for everything you do for the love of photograph. THANK YOU.

  2. Hi David. Another great video. I’m taking notes and saving them to my photography journal. Sometimes I find myself shooting without “intentionality”, and just clicking away at what I think is “pretty” or “colorful” as opposed to constructing the scene in my mind first and then trying to follow a plan. In my defense, I’m many times shooting flying birds, so THEY kind of dictate the scene. I can help a little in post, but I have to work with what they give me ;-). In landscape stuff, I AM going to try to think through it more prior to shooting, and start using more of the lenses I’ve bought over the years that just sit in the drawer. I also liked the idea of actually reading more material on specifics of camera settings (what it’s capable of) and contrast, exposure, depth of field so that I truly know in advance what’s being captured as the end product. Thanks.

  3. Hi David

    You have mentioned many times that it is important to practice intentional photography. You have also talked about the role of sketch images. I have followed your guidance by employing intentionality with sketch images. This process allows me to work the scene in an intentional manner. I’m not just firing as many images as possible, but working with possibilities in the present scene. After taking a photo, I routinely check for the exposure, composition and focus. This immediate feedback opens up visual design options and possible unique aspects of this particular scene. Working in the moment, and working with sketch images, often I am able to anticipate a special moment and uncover an unnoticed perspective and reveal a unique visual element. At times, I am gifted wth a compelling image or images of the same scene.

  4. Oh, David, I find your instruction so valuable and always right in your interpretation. Even after all these years, I still need to work on ‘what the camera sees’. I ‘see’ in f 2.8! When I review images, I’m often surprised by, “oh, I didn’t see that”. I think my brain filters out things that aren’t important to me, but the camera doesn’t. So, I usually start with f 2.8 and go from there… still working on that! Thank you, this is a great lesson.

    1. Thanks, Donna. The camera sees so differently than we do and I think this is one of the lifelong lessons we learn as photographers. I’m batting around an idea for my next book that is exactly about this. Thanks for confirming this as an interesting possible direction (and for the encouragement). Much appreciated.

  5. It’s amazing how much overlap there is in photography and painting…… to make a truly personal painting, I have to know what moves ME in art….line, shape, color to recognize it as I am working and getting that “that’s It” feeling…’s hard to explain, but it boils down to knowing yourself and what lights YOU up….
    Thanks David…love your books and Podcast

    1. I have followed you for some time now and have purchased your lessons. This short video on How Do I Learn to See, is one of your very best. Describing how to see and composition is so much built on our past views and our own perceptions of what makes a photography great for each individual person. You did a great job of distilling this to essential elements.

      1. Thanks so much, David. Means the world to me to know that what I teach is helpful to you. 🙏

    2. YES! There is so much common ground when we get past the tools and focus on the graphic qualities of line, shape and colour. And yes, then to knowing what lights us up on the inside and chasing that. Some people spend a lifetime just looking for permission to do exactly that and to ignore everything that doesn’t create a spark for them. Thanks for the kind words, Chantal. 🙏

  6. Thanks David good lesson. I have been learning to see for 45 years and I am still learning. Will never stop either.
    My intention with my photographs is what has empowered me. It is this: everyone knows the old story of when you were someplace, saw and experienced something visually beautiful, took a picture, then later told everyone how great it was but when you showed them the picture the conclusion become ‘Well, you hadda be there!’
    With my photographs you ARE there. Or at least that is what I strive for. That’s it nothing more. But that is a package that includes all of those elements that you speak of so eloquently.
    Another point I’d like to make is about the ‘rules of composition’ which I think once you learn them well enough so they become second nature then you can ignore them. I have learned a lot from the paintings of Robert Bateman who confounds the rules all the time. His birds fly out of the painting, his animals are partly concealed, or mostly concealed. But his work is powerful and meaningful; they are as close to the wild as you can get in a two-dimensional image. They show life at actually is. He says that (paraphrasing here) ‘Animals doesn’t pose for you’.
    Anyway thanks for the lesson.

    1. Hi David,
      Thank you for another thoughtful and thought-provoking video. My question is not about learning to see, but rather learning to see the same thing differently.

      I photograph wildlife, particularly African wildlife largely focused on bi cats. I have spent a number of years honing my skills so that I can take reasonably good images. One thing that I find, however, is that I seem to be unable to stop myself from trying to reproduce an image that I have seen, taken by some of the top photographers of African wildlife. Needless to say my photos are not nearly as good as theirs. I don’t consciously set out to do this, but it seems to happen. Hence, I become disenchanted with my photos.

      What I want to do is to be able to view the work of other photographers that ‘impacts’ me, and then rather that trying to reproduce the shot be able to ‘see’ a different way of composing the image so that it might have an impact on others.

      How do I stop myself from sub-consciously composing, an often not very good replication of an image, and train myself to “see” the image from a different perspective?

      1. Wow, Garnet, this is a fantastic question. And it’s one for which I suspect most of us will search long and hard in hopes of an answer. Here’s my take on it. Figure out the mechanics. Figure out why the images you enjoy (so much that you unconsciously emulate them) work. Is it the depth? How is that achieved? Is it the mood? Again, how is that achieved? Is it scale or the balance/tension in the image? The choice of moment? The selection and use of colour? Relationship of elements? These are all tools we (along with others) that we can access if we’re aware of them and have a growing sense of their possibilities and how to use them. That’s step one, I think. Just knowing what the possible tools are and what they do within an image to make it feel a certain way.

        Then, do an honest inventory of your own work. What do you see there? Do you lean towards certain compositions more than others? Are there any ruts into which you’ve fallen? And what’s missing? Perhaps all your compositions are a little too simple and it’s time to bring in my depth. Or maybe it’s time, as it has been for me recently in my own wildlife work that I focus more on relationships and interactions than single-subject compositions. I think we need to actively learn this stuff and constantly be giving ourselves challenges. The images you reference that you like and find yourself emulating can be a source of that kind of challenge but I’d try to skip the “do as they do” stage and go a step further to the “figure out what tool they’re using and play with the tool” stage. In other words, don’t adopt the compositions of others, but adopt the tools and then adapt their use to your own tastes and vision for your work. I hope that makes sense.

        Copying a composition can be a good way to learn, but it often leads nowhere. Learning to use a tool – consciously, intentionally challenging yourself to learn it and use it, is a whole other thing. Juxtaposition, for example. Are you aware of the contrasts in a scene and the different kinds of contrasts possible and what they do in terms of eliciting a response from those who look at your image? Have you played with this device enough to be comfortable with it? Are you actively playing with contrast/juxtaposition in your work?

        That’s my reaction to your question. I don’t think you’re challenging yourself enough with the fundamentals of visual design. The more tools you get intrigued by and competent with, the more you’ll be able to mix and match them.

        One other thought: when’s the last time you showed your work to another photographer you respect and asked, not for praise but for perspective on what you’re missing, what grass you’re just mowing over and over again rather than moving in new directions? Sometimes we’re too close to it. And here I don’t mean talking to others in your camera club, I mean someone you look up to that isn’t invested in you personally and can tell it like it is. Camera clubs have a lot of value, but there’s a “group think” or echo chamber effect in many of them and growth is often limited to the how far the group can go together. Photography eventually must be an individual thing.

        I’ve talked your ear off. I hope some of this is helpful. It’s probably an easier subject to discuss when it’s a conversation and I can ask clarifying questions, look at your work, etc., but perhaps there’s something of value in here.

  7. When I watch, listen to, and absorb your videos, David, I can’t help but think, “This guy isn’t “just”a photographer and teacher, he’s a photovangelist.” And I mean that in the most positive way.
    Preach it, Brother! 🙂

    1. LOL. Thanks, Trevor! I don’t know if you know this but in a former life, before becoming a photographer and before that a comedian, I spent 5 years in theology school preparing to do just that. Same thing now, I suppose, though I’m less inclined to capitalize the word “light” than I once was. 🙂

  8. Thank you for an inspiring video about how to learn to see. Poignant and very much to the point. I would like to add two additional points as my answer to your question about what stands in the way of seeing more creatively.

    You are right in that seeing—with the purpose of photographing—has nothing to do with our eyes, but rather is a mental thing. Still, physiology, and how the brain and eyes operate together, is actually working against seeing with the intension to photograph. Because we cannot consciously process every visual input—the brain simply doesn’t have the capacity—we only notice what is unusual or new. All the rest is processed subconsciously. It goes back to when noticing anything dangerous was vital for our survival. However, for photographers it’s central to be able to notice what we have become habitually accustomed to, visually, otherwise we lose out seeing the special in the mundane (and that’s why it’s seemingly easier to see potential subjects when we travel to foreign places). Thus, we need to train ourselves to be more aware and observe in a different way than we have been trained to do by nature.

    The second point goes to what you say about learning about composition, light and all the rest that goes into photographing; that it’s necessary in order to be able to notice what can potentially become a photograph. While it’s true, we also need to be aware of the possible limitations it may lay on our creativity. The danger is that we after a while only see what we already have learned will create compelling photographs, leading to visual stagnation. Thus, we need to break out of the box, need to challenge ourselves all the time, also compositionally, to keep developing our photography. Which I know you very much encourage.

    There is of course much more that goes in to the process of seeing with the intention to photograph (which I have actually written an eBook about), but you pinpoint what is really essential. And you do so with enthusiasm and encouragement. Again, thank you.

    1. Otto! Thank you! What a wonderful reply. Yes, you’re absolutely right. The danger of trying to distill complicated ideas into bullet points that are more easily taught and remembered is that one risks over-simplifying. There are always a few “yes, however…” ideas that get missed. Ultimately how we become more aware, and more present in a way that runs perpendicular to what evolution has wired into us, is longer journey. We’re wired for survival, not picture-making, so that requires a bit of a firmware update. 🙂 I love your point about creativity too, and again you’re absolutely right. The way we see and the things we notice must not be static, as in “I learned to see photographically 10 years ago” but rather “I’m learning to see in new ways every day”. An important reminder. Thank you so much for taking the time to remind us of these things. This is one of the things I love about the community that continues to build itself here, it’s thoughtful and generous. Thank you, Otto.

  9. Hi David, this video was a big help.
    I worked through it several times and I have found that this makes a compelling photograph for me: Contrast (colors, dark / light, conceptual…. any contrast really). I love leading lines, and I love them straight, not curved. Patterns, repetitions. I love strong graphics. The more geometric the better. I’m drawn to abstracts consisting of triangles and rectangles.
    I love anything from the 50’ies and 60’ies (cars, the signs on streets, the fonts, the colors, the clothes, the midcentury interior design).
    I like certain colors (like the sea) and dislike others (grass. Grass with yellow flowers is even worse).
    When it comes to content, I found that I like emotion, relationships or humor. I like it when “something is happening”.
    I love my fisheye lens. Those wonderful dog faces you get when doing a close up with a fisheye. Priceless.
    So. This is a bit of a chaotic response and comment, sorry.

    I think the question was “what makes it difficult”.

    I’m a pet photographer. Pets are not graphic, nor do they live in strong graphical environments with the colors I prefer. What I will do is: Photograph Pets and concentrate on one of the things I mentioned. Lines. Pattern. Light (back or side). Contrast of any kind. I’ll look at my scene and try to find the one element which I can use here to practice.
    Thank you for your inputs in the video. Looking forward to the next one!

    1. So insightful, Eilwen! Not all photographers have a sense of what they are drawn to, nor of the challenges they face in translating that to the photograph. Understanding this is a necessary step for us to find our own particular path forward into finding creative solutions and ultimately to making photographs that look and feel the way we want them to. Thank you for commenting, I’m so glad the videos help!

  10. need to hear thi! s need to UNDERSTAND this and will need to watch this video again. So insightful and laser focused on whats missing for me and WHY its missing!

  11. David – I am enjoying these videos as they are building on the foundations that I have been laying on how to make more compelling photos. My aha moment in this video was your comment about Visual Design – not sure why, but this really resonated with me – it brought together the intentionality, the looking for what the light is doing, looking for the lines and moment potential – all pulled together in terms of seeing what the camera sees. I am excited to take this new perspective out with me as I practice and I have purchased a couple of honest to goodness books to do the studying and marking up that you talked about. I am finding myself very inspired of late and I am finding my process delivering more satisfying and compelling results. Thank you again for putting together these thoughts and videos.

    1. I am so pleased to hear this, Pam. Aha moments and inspiration come less frequently than I wish they did, so it makes my day to know I contributed to that. 🙂 It’s always amazed me that photographers don’t take greater advantage of what visual designers in other mediums already know and understand – there are such rich ideas out there! As for studying the masters: good for you! If you see and read this I’d love to know which photographers you’re studying.

  12. This adds clarity to composing (as does the first video). It is helpful to be reminded of “intentionality” which is akin to thoughtfulness. So often I am driven by seeing a scene or image in my mind’s eye by the emotion it stirs in me and then with, as you say in my head the ‘Elements of Composition’ to as much as I’ve mastered those in my uneven way snap my various pictures. But what I have brought to with me so much is the 3rd suggestion: See What the Camera Sees. I act more with that emotion rather with as much analytic mind that you describe. I can understand from your description how that melds the more technical knowledge of how the camera works and how that impacts the outcome with the creative process. Perhaps it is an analysis of why I am responding emotionally to what I see to the possibilities of how the camera can be used to interpret or reproduce that as a picture. Thats where I’ve fallen short. (and I hope I’ve been able to articulate what I mean, it may take more time to ponder)

    More work here at playing with the elements, devices and tools….
    Thanks so much!

    1. You’re welcome, Susan! What you describe reminds me of poetry. I read the poems of Billy Collins while drinking my coffee this morning so poetry is on my mind. There’s an analytical element to poetry, a front-of-brain, conscious learning to use poetic tools. But that happens before the writing of the poetry. When the poet sits down to write it’s more about feeling and reaching back into the years of thinking about and studying how words flow and feel, not pulling out the books about grammar. I think the same is true of photography. We study, we analyze, we parse out elements of composition, to figure out what works for us and why, and only later with the camera do we switch gears to become less analytical and more emotional. In other words we need to put the work in to train what later will feel intuitive and intentional but without overthinking it. Or that’s how it works for me, though I’m no more sure than you are that I’ve articulated it well! 🙂

      1. You hit on poetry as if you were in my mind. I have a dear friend who entered hospice last month by choice, and he is at peace with his choice over more surgery to prolong his journey. I asked him a few days ago what he can see from his window in Manhattan and his reply was mostly sky and some building tops, but at also the play of light on them and his ceiling with the passage of the sun and light during the day. It made me think of how we try to capture light we see with the camera and that led the conversation in the direction of whether he had tried capturing it in some way on paper. His reply was that his artistic outlet had always been words, he was a writer, though not with poetry. In thinking about this the next few days I was wondering how one would do that and it always came back to not writing about the actual colors, shades outlines etc, but trying to capture those with how they made one feel and react. In other words, how the experience played out in emotions for the seer and attempting to get that in words that somehow resonated in the reader, just as one would try when taking photographs. Using all the techniques and tools and elements at the disposal of a writer to express those ephemeral sensations on paper the way you are explaining we need to do with the camera. And it requires practice, practice, practice and experimentation.
        I think Otto’s response is much along these lines too. it happens subconsciously. We have to bring it forth.

        1. Susan – I wonder, by any chance if you saw the last two written articles I posted about making more poetic images? If by chance you missed them you can find the first here: and the second one here: – They might add to this conversation. I’m saddened by the story of your friend, but there’s such a beauty in how you express this. I hope my final days are as peaceful and filled with light as his seem to be. That doesn’t deny the reality of the saddness, the loss, the pain, but allows those things to exist beside the beauty. I’m wording it poorly, but I’m hoping you get the spirit in which I say these things. I’m glad your friend has you in his last days, to talk about things that are still beautiful, still full of life and colour.

          1. I did miss these for some reason, probably Thanksgiving approaching, and yes they speak exactly to what I am getting at. They help give structure to where I want to go. Thanks.

            Yes, there is both beauty and joy in its own way, to be able to be cognizant of changes toward the end. Even the sadness because without sadness how do we know joy. To be able to make the journey alongside someone else is a particular gift. It’s part of the richness of the tapestry of life and if we are lucky enough to help sew it then we are living to our full potential, or attempting to, whether it is us who are on the path or assisting. I think thats why photography has become more important to me as I age; it’s a way to record and to participate and to understand or reach out into the world. I photograph lots of pictures of my grandkids in part because its like taking those moments into the heart, but also to give their parents those ephemeral memories too. The other pictures of scenes, items or the occasional street photos are moments or ideas of something beautiful or striking or unusual that catch my eye.

  13. Hello David,

    thanks for that last sentence! alone that just gave me precisely what I needed at the moment.

    so simple. so powerful.

    and since I’m leaving a comment, I need to tell you how much I liked your book The heart of the Photograph and that now I’m reading The soul of the camera. It’s like Christmas day, just way better!

    some 10 years ago, when I started to fell in love with photography, your other book was the first that my master told me to read. it was Within the frame. I was pretty amused that is wasn’t a bit about the technical aspects of photography, instead it had some kind of soul. I dare to say that first book, that first impression showed me the magic I always admired in photography, even before I started to take photographs myself.

    10 years passed by, my life has entirely been changed – partly because of photography: I found THAT passion I had been seeking before and just secretly expected to find. 10 years passed by, so this is HUGE THANK YOU. for that first impression, and for the others ever since.

    (I finish here because it seems way to cheesy, even for myself) 🙂

    Meli from now foggy little Hungarian town Veszprém

    1. I once did a course with a well-known UK landscape photographer. He explained that sometimes he takes students to a location, asks them to put down all their camera kit, take off their boots and socks, and just walk about in their bare feet. To absorb “the vibe” of the location, before even staring to think about where your viewpoint might be. I tried it once, and it had interesting results.

      1. Colin – Fascinating. But just the thought of it makes my toes curl up! My feet are so sensitive I think this approach would overload me. And make my feet hurt. But there are other ways too of being hyper-present, and I think that’s the point. We rely too much on our eyes as photographers (perhaps I should say we rely too much on our eyes alone) when there is so much to be perceived with the other senses. I love this! But I’m keeping my shoes on. 🙂

    2. Meli, you just made my day. In my opinion it’s almost impossible to be too cheesy. 🙂 I just looked up Veszprém – what a beautiful looking town! I’m adding it to my list of places to see one day when travel resumes.

      Thank you so much for this note. It’s full of such encouragement ( like: “now I’m reading The soul of the camera. It’s like Christmas day, just way better!” I should ask my publisher to put that on the cover of the book. 🙂 ) I’m humbled by your sincere words, and so grateful I get to be part of this. Thank you for being part of my work. People like you are why I do what I do. Many, many thanks.

    1. Thank you, Jed. Always nice to see your name among the comments. I hope you’re well.

  14. Thanks for another great video David!
    I feel pretty comfortable with understanding what I am drawn to. The thing I really struggle with creatively is breaking out of those “comforts”. My images are all starting to look the same because I just keep recreating those likes over and over…

    I think my biggest challenge right now is that I don’t explore outside of my visual preferences. I hope that makes sense. 🙂
    Thanks again!

    1. Totally makes sense, Leah. It’s one of the possibilities and one of the dangers of social media such as Instagram. If you choose to you can find such diversity of visual expression, but most people end up in the so-called echo chamber. It takes a lot of effort to find divergent influences, and IG’s algorithm isn’t much help as it pushes us to content more and more like our own. But you recognize this need, so it shouldn’t be hard to step outside the box, not only in terms of visual influence but also cultural. Popular photography defaults to western voices, so perhaps we should be exploring Asian, African, and various indigenous voices with greater interest. For what it’s worth, Leah, I think your struggle is the same as many creative people – it’s easy to get comfortable and stay there. It’s easy to hit repeat on what we know works. (On an unrelated note, I adore your still lifes – not something I have any interest in making, but some of yours I could look at all day. Beautiful use of light and shadow!)

  15. Hi David and thanks for these 2 great videos! I have been photographing “intuitively” (by that I mean in a lazy sense of stumbling upon what is exciting and what I’m drawn to, rather than actively looking for it). Doing this I’ve gotten some shots I’m proud of and happy with, but now it’s clear to me I need to take the questions you posed in these videos and go hunting. I’ve kind of known that’s what’s missing, but your videos brought this into clarity and provided me the questions/tools to get going, and for that I’m very grateful and excited to get started afresh. Thanks! Such high value from you!!

  16. Hey, David,

    A little late to the game, but this is an important topic. A few decades ago I took a workshop from Chris Rainier. I complained that I had a hard time deciding how to capture a scene that I wanted to photograph (I didn’t know how to do what you discuss in this video).

    Chris suggested that on my way home I should pick up a pack of tracing paper, take ten or 15 prints that I strongly responded to from photography masters, and trace the elements of the image. Look for line, placement, borders, etc., then see what common elements appeared in most of the images. I tried this and learned a lot about what I see and how I see. And while this might be hard to do on a computer screen, we should all have books of photographs we could trace, shouldn’t we?

    This was a revealing project for me and helped my photography immensely. I recommend it. In fact, I should do it again.

    1. Hey Bob, thanks for chiming in! Yes, I agree with the tracing, though I’ve always just suggested a red sharpie on images you could mark up, your own prints, magazines, etc. Tracing it certainly makes the whole thing much less destructive!

  17. Hi David

    As usual, really good stuff and great tips for better photos. I believe that knowing how to use your camera, to take “the gear” it out of the equation when shooting is important (of course it comes from tons of practice), as it leaves you the mental bandwidth to focus on the image.

    When shooting there are basically two distinct scenarios 1) you have plenty of time at the scene to move around, try different compositions, experiment with the light etc. and 2) you only have a very short time to make the shot – it could be the action passes in a few seconds, the light changes by the minute (like sunset) etc.

    I would like to hear your perspective on scenario 2) (maybe an idea for a new video?), as I find the mental preparation in this scenario very important, as you need to pre-suppose things like composition and lighting, and only have a few seconds to focus on the most important thing in the scene, that being a person, animal, landscape etc.

    As always, thank you for great inspiration

    1. Hi Peter – You’re absolutely right. Sometimes we just don’t have all the time we’d like. I think learning to anticipate possibilities is key, and that takes some time to learn to do well. I’m often thinking, How can I put these together, what would I do if a person walked into the frame, what will this scene look like if the sun comes out? Questions like that prime the pump, at least for me, and get me much closer to ready, or to being receptive. They make me much more observant as well.

  18. 2 thumbs up for the video. This information is so needed, it’s like the missing piece of the puzzle. Thank you for bringing it to us in such a concise and excellent way.

  19. David I don’t usually comment on these platforms but after reading of you books a few years back (I actually have read it twice) I really tried to stop thinking about the gear and really looking and thinking about what I wanted my photos to convey. These two videos have pushed me even further. I’ll never make a living at photography but that’s not the reason I photograph. Mainly I am trying to reflect just a sliver of the incredible beauty of the world we live in.
    This is a daunting challenge but I am learning everyday. I find your photos and philosophy incredibly inspiring. Thank you.

  20. I just came back from teaching a “What Makes a Winning Image” for our local camera club. Today’s session was an introduction and look at the ‘Wow’ factor of the image. Next month’s focus is composition. May I use these two videos in that session?

    Your videos and books have been very important. Thank you for your work, your inspiration and your commitment.


    1. Sure thing, Kathryn. Go for it! Just let people know where to find me if they want more. 🙂

  21. I’ve been following your work for years, David, but this is a really timely series for me. I photograph real estate full time (which ends up being little more than product photography), and often find myself struggling when going out to shoot for myself, to re-center and remember what makes interesting photographs. I fall into the rut of photographing subjects (bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, etc.), so it can be hard to make the transition of seeing light, line, and moment, and searching for those elements rather than a “subject” per se.

    But I’m heading to Kenya and Tanzania next week for my first visit to Africa, these reminders are exactly what I need right now to try and avoid the trap of getting a bunch of “record shots,” and elevate the images into something more meaningful. Thank you, as always.

    1. You’re welcome, Martin. Have a fantastic adventure! I’m jealous. I won’t be back to Kenya until January. This was my first year without being there for a dozen years and I have missed it terribly. You’re going to have such a great experience!

  22. Hi David
    I have enjoyed some of your courses and many of these videos. A major limiting factor so many us have problems with is that we are time poor!
    This limits our experimentation and slows down achieving the levels of comfort we need.
    Therefore another tip would be time management
    Kind regards

    1. Hey Joel,

      I’m not David, obviously, but I have a resource to point you to that’s helped me with my time and priority management.

      The book ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown has been an enormous help not only in rethinking my approach to time, but also my interactions with others in my business and personal lives. If you’d like to get an idea of what she’s about before investing the time to read a whole book, she does have a few Ted talks that you can watch or listen to.

      She may not be for you, but I figured I’d make the recommendation since she helped me out so much and has helped out many people I’ve spoken with.

    2. It’s true, learning to use our limited time is important, though I think there’s only so much we can do to shorten the time needed for experimentation – that’s just a non-negotiable in the creative process. Might be helpful for people to look at how they use other time and find ways to create larger, un-interupted blocks in which they can be creative.

  23. Nice video, I have always been able to see, especially the light, it can make an ordinary scene look quite spectacular. Unfortunately I find some of the best picture I notice are often when driving and there is nowhere to pull of safely and get the shot. It’s so frustrating.

  24. Thanks, David…so far I understand everything you explain…I agree completely…I love to hear…but…will I ever reach this kind of open mind and intuitive photographing?? one good sign: during last week I deleted about 2500 of my 3000 pictures I’ve made during the three last years, because I recognized they didn’t show any personality at all. Others will follow…and I will hold the line! 😉 I never thought that being seriously involved in photography is so much psychology and personal evolution!

    1. You will, Rike! This is like learning a language and those that get comfortable and fluent do so after a long time of focused practice. Some people are better at languages than others, but most of us just take time. Look how far you’ve already come!

      1. thanks David, for giving confidence! thats completely right, and very worthful to be reminded again and again. I love this way of exploring myself with my camera, with the powerful help of your courses!

  25. Great videos David. There is a quote from Elliot Erwitt that i thought was great.

    Photography is an Art of observation.
    It has little to do with the things you see
    and everything to do with The Way You
    See Them!

  26. Hi David.
    Really enjoyed the video and it delivered that cold sharp shook that reminds me of the first dive in the Irish sea on a cold December morning, lots to think about. I guess my biggest thing is not taking/making the time and trying to rush things.
    I had recently been researching some photographers for a course at college. Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Roger who as you will know where co founders of “Magnum Photos” and also Robert Frank, who i read this week passed away at the age of 94. So along with your videos and books i am on the way to enlightenment.
    So again many thanks and i look forward to the next instalment.

    1. Thanks, Duncan. It’s a long wonderful journey. Take it slow and keep your eyes, mind, and heart open.

  27. Hi David-
    Well Put! So many people feel that mastering the camera is all it takes. Having the ‘Tools’ down is great, but until you can link ‘Materials’ your efforts are in vain.

    My biggest advance in understanding the human eye vs. the camera came working with HDRI. It was fun to work with but I think it strengthened my other picture taking also.

    I had the habit of ‘shoot many and show few’ and when I started to understand ‘Materials’ I got into analysis paralysis. The happy medium is between those two points.

  28. Thanks, David. Your videos always give me a shot in the arm. I have followed you off and on for years to help kick my butt. You’re a good teacher, so articulate!

    Something that holds me back: photography is something I love but don’t do everyday. Because of that I live with the reality that I may not always capture what I hope to.

    I shoot using manual mode and am somewhat slow. I haven’t used shutter priority or aperture priority settings much at all. I’d probably be better off using those settings because of my gear slowness but when I have used them I find myself disappointed. I’d kind of love to hear if you use these settings and how often you actually use them? Maybe I should get over my prejudice against them.

    1. Hi Kathy – I’ve used Manual or some version of AV or TV at various points. Honestly, do what works. There is no badge of honour for shooting in Manual if you’re missing shots or getting in your own way. I went back to manual mode because my current cameras (Fuji mirrorless) are much easier (for me) to use in Manual than previous DSLR bodies. But with both Nikon and Canon DSLRs I used Aperture mode most often, adjusting the exposure with EV compensation. No matter what, it’s important that you be able to tell the camera what to do, and that it gets out of the way as best as possible for you. If you can’t use the camera enough that manual mode becomes second nature to you, there’s no shame at all in using what does work. Better to enjoy making the photographs and be able to create what you want to, than that you can say you only use M. 🙂

  29. David,
    You are coming right in on my current question-to-self: how can I go from mid-level to awesome? I just viewed a national competition in a gallery locally, in which I was included, and I really saw pretty much all mid-range photography. Even the prize winners seemed to me pretty much in the same league as everyone else.

    This is a level I used to aspire to, but now I look around and see where I actually am and know I need to kick it up another notch. Your carefully considered thoughts are right on target: visual literacy, active seeing, intentional shooting.

    I love your idea of going through my favorite images and sorting a select cut into piles according to “method of composition,” to see what my go-to, not to say obsessive, visual lenses are. I think I will do that and make a video with an audio track talking about the meaning of each. I wonder where that will take me?

    Thanks again for this right-on-time series of videos. I know you must be selling something really interesting—a class? A book? You’ve got me …


    1. All of your essays and videos are directly in line with where I am (or trying to get to) in my photography. My local camera club was a great source of learning when I was starting out. But in the last few years, the judges we bring in for critiques, and some of our more outspoken members, seem obsessed with the technical side of photography. While I acknowledge it’s important to know my tools well enough to accomplish my vision, it seems easy for some photographers to forget the goal isn’t documentation, but art. If I never hear the words “tack sharp” again, it would be heaven.
      I often look at a favorite Edward Hopper print (The Long Leg) in my office, and imagine what the latest judge would have said: “the horizon is in the middle; nothing is sharp; maybe I’d take a little off the left, it doesn’t really add anything; needs a little more detail in the sail-it looks blown out in some areas; the sky is boring-a few clouds would help.” You all have heard these things. When I look at the image, what I’m thinking is what a beautiful, peaceful day on the water. I can feel the wind & spray, smell the salt, and can’t think of a single place I’d rather be. And I am amazed, as always with Hopper, that it is accomplished with so few elements and so few colors – lack of distraction at its best.
      Thank you for all you do to help keep the art in photography and help me get there.

      1. “If I never hear the words “tack sharp” again, it would be heaven.” Yes! 🙂 It’s adventures in missing the point, isn’t it? 🙂 I love The Long Leg, and think you’re right, he’d get some flack at the camera club. But isn’t that always the way? The impressionists got flack at the salon, too. The people that criticized, hell, we don’t even know them by name anymore.

    2. Thanks Sandy. Yes, on Sunday I’ll be re-opening my composition course on a very limited basis. It’s easily my best course, I do hope you’ll consider it if it looks like it’ll be helpful to you. Hard for me to know how to reply to the question you’re asking yourself, not sure it’s even my place, but I know my own work turned up a notch in terms of visual impact when I began to take visual design / composition more seriously. Sounds like you’re on a mission and on track. I love it! 🙂

  30. David, I cannot seem to find the first video in this series. I do not see it on your main website, and the most recent video on your YouTube channel says it is 1 year old. Can you provide the link here? Thanks!

      1. Thanks for that, Craig! Not sure why it didn’t occur to me to link this in the main body.

  31. Thanks, David.
    I think you have identified the problem I have had for years and offered a very good approach to “learning to see”. You mention learning all the components that make a “good photo” until it becomes intuitive.
    My wife is totally convinced that the ability to see photographically is something you are born with. She is very much a novice photographer but is much better than I am “composition wise”.
    So, is it something that some people have to “learn” and something other people just have?
    An excellent baker and instructor has said that you will eventually develop “Baker’s hands” which are essential to good and consistent results. Interestingly, he feels you get them by practice, practice and practice with all the parameters involved in sophisticated baking.
    That seems highly analogous to your recommendations in the video.
    Great video directed at my biggest “problem” with photography.

  32. Thanks, David! OK, gear I don’t care about – I’m happy with my Canon M5 mirrorless and Tamron lenses. Composition could use some improvement, though I mainly shoot nature closeups, so I’m looking at tiny scenes where there’s not much happening, but I can control my own light, for the most part. What I struggle most with, though, is the editing process.

    As we speak, I’m so backed up with thousands of files waiting for editing, but the thought of weeding thru the backlog is so overwhelming, I don’t even know where to start! Most photographers would advise to batch process in Lightroom, but I feel like each shot requires its own process, as I’m likely just choosing the best of multiples (checking for sharpness, etc), and ignoring the rest for each subject. Plus, I don’t have Lightroom and have no desire to subscribe (I’ve been using a freestanding version of Photoshop Elements). Then I have to wonder, WTF am I even gonna do with all of the edited shots, anyway! There’s not really a market for selling prints, is there? Any thoughts about powering thru massive amounts of editing with an unknown end result in mind? Is that even a real question?? 😁

    1. Here’s my gut reply, Lori: you’re overthinking this. You have thousands of images waiting for you. So? 🙂 Just take them one at a time. Perhaps do a tighter edit. Thousands? Even the master photographers of the last century didn’t die with thousands of final images. Maybe go through with the intention of finding the one hundred images that really excite you. Put them in a folder and work on them. One at a time. And then if you finish that, go back and do a second edit on the larger collection and see if there are another 100 that are so good they are worth the effort. Many of us seem to think we’re expected to have thousands, but who says? Forget the market. Forget it all, except for what gives you joy. Find 100 images that do that and work on them. Most important is that you enjoy this and have the freedom to do it well, and happily. Your paralysis isn’t serving you. 🙂 I don’t know if that helps, but my gut tells me it might.

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