That Vision Thing

Many of the assignments in this course are tied to specific techniques, like making use of side light or placing the main subject off-center. However, in the second quarter of the semester, assignments also need to contain a creative, original element. They need to appeal to people who donʻt necessarily know you or your friends. That’s hard!

One way to make an image stand out is to go somewhere unusual or photograph something unusual. The subject can make the photo. However, when we are stuck on campus without access to Chinatown or Waikiki or Naʻalehu, then the way to be creative is to make use of technique and light. Nobody can teach you how to be creative, but here are some suggestions that might help:


  • Begin thinking a day or so ahead about what you will shoot. This sets your subconscious working on the problem and can result in much better work. (This works for other subjects as well, by the way.)
  • Remember what you have already learned about ideal lighting and where to place your main subject.
  • Pay LOTS of attention to how the light falls on your subject.
  • We see things from 5-6 feet off the ground, and from a distance of 4-6 feet. Get on the ground and shoot looking up at your subject, or shoot from a height looking down. Get very close.
  • Shoot just parts of people’s bodies. We mentally “see” people as whole, so itʻs not always necessary to include entire bodies. Bits and pieces can be more visually interesting.
  • Shoot THROUGH things, so that your image has a foreground that partly hides / partly reveals your subject. This is called a frame – even though it may not extend all the way around the subject. Frame your subjects.
  • Surface texture is the small stuff – the tiny roughness on surfaces. On cloth, it’s the weave of the threads. On skin, it’s the pores. It’s the small stuff that makes an image come alive. Pay LOTS of attention to avoiding camera shake so that your image captures surface texture and comes to life.
  • If you photograph people, try to get behind their fakey camera faces. Catch them when they look the way they are when they are alone, when nobody else is around.
  • Make creative use of blur. Motion blur requires a slow shutter speed, but other kinds of blur require intelligent manipulation of depth of field.
  • Look at some of the books by recognized photographers and copy somebodyʻs technique. In art, thatʻs perfectly OK. You grow by copying others.
  • Bring your camera (loaded with film) along with you. Great shots and great lighting happen even in the most “boring” places, but you are not always there with camera, eyes open.