Seeing twice

…or more, to make better images

Lacking a formal education in photography, I am currently living vicariously through my sister’s experience of taking a photography course at her local college. I feel that I have a good understanding of the fundamentals of photography. However, I have never enrolled in a college-level photography class. So, I have been enjoying hearing about my sister’s experience as she takes her course.

One of her first assignments was to shoot the same subject in two different ways, using the same focal length. Repeat 30 times. There were other requirements, but the essence of the exercise, it seems to me, was to learn to see and create at least two different photos from the same scene. This led me to think about how I shoot and if I am taking the time to see twice (or more).

How and what do we see?

This class assignment is a great exercise for any photographer, teaching us the lesson that we should never be happy with the first way that we see or make a photo. We should always look at the subject from a different angle or position, consider a different aperture or shutter speed, shoot into or with the light, and just plain move closer. I expect that nearly all of us have internalized these lessons to a certain extent. Perhaps this is a good reminder for us to more consciously think about our seeing and photo creation.

I know I am guilty of unconsciously eliminating certain options before even bringing the camera to my eye. I do this because of past experience or due to the circumstances in which I am working. However there is danger in relying on instinct or past success in dictating that next shot. The seeing twice assignment is a good reminder to more consciously examine the possibilities of any scene, perhaps finding more than one (or two) ways of seeing and capturing a subject.

Aside from having multiple options for any particular subject, learning to see twice (or more) is the starting point for creating a story-telling body of work. I find that having a number of different perspectives, angles and points of view, provides me with a group of images that help tell a story. In cinematic terms, think of it as having an establishing shot, a medium shot and a close up. Of course, you can add any number of images in between, but this is the beginning of creating a visual narrative, which is my preferred way of seeing and shooting. As you probably know, I call it “observational documentation.”

My colleague, Olaf Sztaba, when he isn’t too busy running workshops or publishing magazines, is a great person to discuss ways of seeing photographic possibilities. He is certainly one of those people I credit with making me think about how I see. This class assignment renewed that introspection. And thanks to my sister for letting me participate in her class vicariously.

A few examples of seeing twice…


NB: All images captured with Fujifilm X or GFX cameras and XF or GFX lenses. Paired photos were captured using the same lens and focal length. Now, for the next assignment!

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