Your vision as a photographer is what will make your photos stand out from the crowd. It’s the vision when transformed by the visual language into an image that transmits who the photographer behind that image is. A photographer’s vision is the formative link behind his or her photographic signature. Without a clearly developed vision a photographer will only be capturing images that look similar to everybody else’s.
In my post Vision is Beginning I wrote that the photographer’s vision is where the photographic process begins – or where it should begin. Too many photographers don’t pay attention to their vision; they just never get beyond the technical part of photography or beyond seeing light or composition.
A vision is not something one can consciously develop from scratch. It takes time – many years, a whole lifetime as a matter of fact – for a photographer to develop his or her vision. It comes with experience, by being conscious of why you photograph what you photograph and also being aware of the processes behind the vision. Firstly when talking about vision, it’s a good idea in order to get an understanding of what vision is, to split it into two; personal vision and photographic vision. The personal vision is our understanding of the world around us and ourselves. It’s based on experience and learning, and it changes with time as it grows more depth with ageing. Photographic vision on the other hand is the link between our personal vision and the final photograph. While personal vision is the how you see life in general, photographic vision is how you see life when the camera is put to the eye.
But what goes into and configures the photographic vision is not only your personal vision. Just as important are your observational skills, your craftsmanship and your emotional investment in the photographic process. Finally your talent is also coming into the equation, but talent has never been a limitation for any artist. As far as I see it, talent sets the parameters for your creative abilities, but hardly any artist ever hits the roof of his or her talent. The only thing that matters is to put in enough work.
That your observational skills influence your photographic vision is pretty obvious I think. The more you are able to take notice of what goes on around you, the more you will be able to discover potential images that are important for you to capture. How much technical knowledge do you need, then? It’s a classical question in all arts. The fact is the better craftsman you are; the better able you are to transform your vision into a final image that encompasses your intentions. On the other hand many brilliant photographers make do with very little technical knowledge.
As far as I am concerned the most formative element behind a photographic vision and the one that has the most impact on your photographic product – your images – is what I call the emotional investment. If you want to create pictures that others care about, that the viewers feel they can relate to and they are attracted to, you will have to be just as engaged in the subject during the shooting process yourself. If all that draws you to take a certain pictures is some beautiful lines or some delightful light; that in itself is never going to make a strong image. If you don’t feel a picture is really important to take – for your heart and yourself – then you might just as well forget about taking it – at least if your intention is to create compelling and telling images.
To sum it up, your vision as a photographer is partly built on your photographic vision, which then again is built on your personal vision, your emotional engagement, your observational skills, you craftsmanship and finally to a minor extent your talent. How much do you pay attention to develop these formative elements in your vision as a photographer? And what do you emphasize the most?