A Photographer’s Holy Grail

What is it we’re really after when we pick up our cameras?  Is it safe to say our “Holy Grail” – our quest – is visually and emotionally appealing photographs?  I’m assuming that’s the case until I hear a better answer.  Is there a better answer than that?  I’m listening.

Now that we’re (at least for the moment) agreed that our goal is visually and emotionally appealing images, we can set our course on that.  We’ve got direction.  We’ve got a better idea of what to aim at.  Metaphorically, an appealing and compelling photo becomes our “true north” and we can set our aesthetic “compass” against it.

But, is there any kind of guide or “map” to give us any clues that tell us how to get there?  Yup, there is and there’s a divine genius in its simplicity: It’s knowing how our eyes and minds behave when viewing a photograph.  As I’ve posited in previous posts,  there are five things our eyes and minds will do and they do them predictably.  Since each one has already been explained in previous posts, I’ll spare you those details here.

Parenthetically, when we ask the right questions, we get the right answers. Scientists know this.  Detectives know this.  So do journalists.  Anyone looking for the truth is going to find it when they ask the right questions.  I’m asking questions here because I’ve been doing it all my adult life in regard to what factors contribute to emotional and visual appeal in two-dimensional art.  If you haven’t noticed, that’s what this blog is mostly about.

Knowing that I can INTENTIONALLY and PURPOSEFULLY  build appeal into my images before I press the shutter is an awesome thing!  It’s the power we photographers strive for: being able to PREDICT how a viewer will react to our photos.  Those five factors make sense as soon as we learn them.  And  they’re so easy to understand because they agree with that part of us that already knows them.

I should explain that.  You already know that we photographers see the world a little differently than others and it’s because we were wired from the womb with a right-brain pre-disposition toward spatial awareness.  Put another way, we have an artistic aptitude.   We have this strong right-brain thing going that tells us INTUITIVELY when something “looks good.”  Feeling it and knowing it are two different things, though.  When we’re COGNITIVELY aware of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, something powerful happens: Our left and right brains start working better together.  Scientifically speaking, new neural pathways are formed between the two sides of our brains.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Don’t be satisfied that you have talent. The world is full of untutored, raw, undeveloped talent. Read the previous posts in this blog to find out what the Five Factors for Fantastic Photography are. Then, find yourself a coach, a mentor who will hold you accountable and give you feedback on what you’re doing right and what needs improvement. The best athletes didn’t get where they are in their skill level by practicing alone or with others who aren’t much better.  They grew because they had good, highly competent coaches that cared about them and knew how to develop their talent.

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