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Flowers at Bowtie, UT – Canon 1Ds Mk III, 1/125 sec @f/11. ISO 200, 25mm, no filters

One of the things I try to instill in students is the importance of understanding that a camera does not “see” the way our eyes see. While this may seem obvious, it is surprising how many photographers assume that what they see on their monitors at home is somehow an accurate representation of what they reacted to when they made the picture.

I specifically used the word “reacted,” because that’s what we do when something inspires us visually at first, and then emotionally soon after, to setup the tripod and make a picture. Of course we don’t notice them being separate, we simply see something that makes us feel a certain way and start snapping away.

How we feel is the essential component of any creative expression, and as photographers it’s what we strive to include in the pictures we make.

The more we make the picture about our feelings and less about the photography itself, the more effective and meaningful our work becomes.

This is the image the camera captured – but the image above is what I saw and felt.

Neuroscience is discovering more and more about how the brain works, and in particular how what we see is mostly a construct of the brain. It receives information from the retina and then interprets and combines that with context, experience, and perceptual shortcuts that enable us to make sense of the world in very short period of time – milliseconds.

A camera sensor captures exactly what is in front of it, without any of these subjective elements. That’s ok if you’re interested in documenting reality. But if you want to express what you feel, then you have to think about how developing an image in Lightroom can aid or hurt the success of your work.

It also shows how we can all stand in front of the same scene and make different pictures, even with the same exact cameras. It’s your uniqueness as a person that makes the difference.

Needless to say, it’s essential to control the outcome. Simply relying on the camera to faithfully capture the essence of your “reaction” is likely to leave you feeling frustrated.

This TedEd video explains more on how the eye and the camera are different. While it focuses on video cameras, the underlying technology is the same.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. You are right about what we see and what we think the camera sees it does not see the same thing as we do.

    Nice article loved reading it and with 58 yrs behind camera ones view point I’d different than another’s thus we are always learning as I did with your article.

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