Imagecraft Bootcamp — Developing Vision

Hi!  Mitch here, with the latest installment of the Imagecraft Bootcamp series.

What is “vision”?

We hear other photographers speak of it; it’s become something of a mantra on photo media web sites (develop your vision, develop your vision, develop your vision, ad nauseam.); and it’s so oft-repeated that we just become numb to the concept.  But what is it really?

In my mind, “vision” can be interpreted in two different ways:

  • One “vision” is the concept or “branding” that you create to make a niche for yourself in the photo world, which is usually associated with going professional.  This “vision” is generally associated as being a way of creating your images — through composition, in-camera work, or post-production (or any combination of all three) — that leads to a unique look; one that separates you from everyone else in the global horde of photographers.  Many times you may hear of artists being praised for their “vision”, or being asked how they developed their “vision”.  Getting a sensible response to this version of “vision” that’s understandable to the average reader is usually an exercise in madness.
  • The other “vision” is one that you develop in your own mind about how you want an image to look, just from glancing at a scene.  And it differs from scene-to-scene and image-to-image.  This is not related to creating a niche for yourself in the photo world; rather, it’s an exercise that’s a lot like cooking: you see the ingredients laid out before you — so what are you going to do with them?  This type of “vision” is what allows you to visualize the before-and-after in your head, before ever clicking the shutter button.

For example, I was recently driving home from running errands.  The day was dark and heavy with the promise of pending rain.  As I passed the last of the housing developments and the land around me transitioned into fields of agriculture, the first squall lines began to quickly move through and saturate everything.  I rounded a bend at the top of a hill and saw the following scene (oh man, that looks GREAT!), stopped the car, rolled down the window, and snapped the picture with my smartphone:

???  Yuck!

That’s not the scene that I visualized in my mind.  However, cameras — like computers — only do what you tell them to do… and I got the image that the camera was asked to take.  Does it look anything like what I expect the end-result to look like?  Heck, no.  But that’s why it’s called “vision”.

So, returning to the cooking analogy: I just returned from the store with some ingredients and now it’s time to make it into something savory and delicious.

Using the techniques I’ve shared in earlier weeks here (I’m not going to repeat the individual steps because you’re supposed to be learning them), I adjust the exposure, the white balance, and the clipping of the blacks and whites (above).

That rendering is looking more true to the actual scene, but the sky is still too light.  So now I’ll adjust the clouds (below).

That’s looking more like what I had in mind, but the clump of trees to the right is too dark.  Time to lighten them up with an inverted radial filter mask (below).

Better and better, though it still needs some more presence and gravitas, which I provide by adding some shadow darkening down at the base of the frame, and more shadow darkening in the clouds via inverted radial filter masks, plus a hint of warm tone (below).

This image is just about finished, all it needs is a bit of cropping from the bottom (it’s a bit dark there and I wanted to edit that out from the start), and…

Voilà! — you have the finished image below.  Remember, this is from a smartphone (an iPhone 6s).

And here is the before-and-after comparison:

Your challenge for this week — should you choose to accept it: show us your “vision”.  Take a photograph that you knew would look better after the fact, and show us the result.

Once you’ve finished, be sure to include “#photo101rehab”, “#photorehab”, and “#imagecraftbootcamp” with your normal tags — and if you wish to submit it to our Flickr group, you’ll need to join us there prior to doing so.

Reminder:  If you want me to tackle one of your throw-away images, but you’re reluctant to comment or post publicly (I completely understand), or want to contact me (Mitch) directly, just go to my About page — which you can find here — and send me a message via the feedback form in the “Contact me” section.  That will launch an email directly to my personal Inbox (sorry, I don’t publish that in the clear due to all the spam I get as it is) and we can communicate and work out the details that way.

For those readers that want to review the older Imagecraft Bootcamp posts, just click here.

Good luck, and see you next Wednesday!

7 thoughts on “Imagecraft Bootcamp — Developing Vision

    1. And that’s okay, Julie! “Vision” is static only for some people.

      The less you’re tied into a specific look, the more you can develop as an artist, and the more crafted your work can become — whether they are photographs, paintings, illustrations, etchings, sculptures, etc.

      I know for myself that my images have been improving dramatically over the past two years, and I fully expect them to continue doing so into the months and years ahead (at least so long as I don’t rest on my laurels and slack off!). 😉

      For now, I wouldn’t dwell on it too much. A better idea would be to tally up your images at the end of the year (hint, hint!) and figure out what you’ve done the most of for the past twelve months. By doing this simple exercise, I discovered the lens combos I liked (wide-angles), the subject matter (landscapes), aperture (varied by subject), etc. The results really surprised me, as I had always thought of myself as a telephoto shooter.

      Liked by 1 person

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