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Learn to see differently

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Hi !

Now we are to begin to discuss Composition aren’t we? Before we start, I’m going to make a statement… Now I believe, in fact I know, I can even prove, that at one time in your life all of you were ‘Masters’ of composition. I mean it, and I will prove it.  It will open your eyes and have you laughing and nodding like a donkey, but that’s for another time.

I think today we were going to begin to talk about: ‘Learning to see differently”


“Many will learn but few will master” (I just made that up, but you can’t hope to master until you learn right?)

First off: What do I mean by seeing differently? Well you have to learn to look, I mean REALLY look, almost like you’re looking on another level. Look beyond the obvious. see into the depths of what is all around you. Learn to understand that light ‘moulds’ and ‘shapes’ everything your eyes let in. Also see that everything has some kind of structure and position and as you move, all the above may change with you. Notice I did that without using the word perspective? This is Lightism, this is how we do it.

Learn to shift your gaze from the focal point of what you are looking at. This is really simple, come off target. Say I’m going to photograph a mountain, there it is right in front of me. I’m looking right at it, I’m so fixed on it that I lift my camera, frame the mountain, and ‘click’, mountain photo achieved! Well done. I just got the prize for the ‘one millionth customer’ shot of that mountain from that angle right in the middle of the frame. Nailed it. Or did I?

Now you try, try ‘shifting your gaze’. What’s around that mountain? What’s above it? Take it ALL in, notice what else there is, notice what else you can use or add into the image to compliment or justify the mountain. Notice how the light is falling onto it, how is it lit? Notice the people who might be walking into your shot: bad? Or could they be used? Notice how important parts of your mountain that explain it, would they be in shot? Imagine your shot, where would the mountain be in frame? Centre? Left? Right? Now, you are looking properly.


Now this is just a start, because as you learn more you will begin to appreciate how things go together to make a great photograph. Called by many ‘The elements of design’. Once you have a grasp for those, you will find your ‘ways of seeing’ will be enhanced because you will understand how to put things together. For now though, I need you to just try and soak it all up, immerse yourself in what you see and all that goes with it.

Exercise: This one is easy. Go do an image search or find a book of Photographs you love. Now really look and ask yourself why you love each image. Justify those images as if you had taken them. Notice and acknowledge what is included in the image, and maybe what the photographer left out. I can assure you the photographer only let in what they wanted you to see.


Book recommend for those who like to read in more depth: “Ways of seeing” by John Berger. Now that book can be hard going, but it does a good job of breaking; Paintings, Photographs and advertisements down to understand how and why they ‘work’. Ways of Seeing (Penguin Modern Classics) untitled-131


all images copyright martin gillman 2014



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