You say you don’t “see” like a photographer but you want to — maybe this will help… – Kalebra Kelby
Featured, Photography, Tips

You say you don’t “see” like a photographer but you want to — maybe this will help…

September 14, 2016

I’ve wondered how to start this conversation and, thankfully, the statement of a friend sparked one that helped me figure out how to do it —
I like that about friends.

This post is for those of you who have been snapping pics with your phone and realize you’re enjoying it or perhaps just because of all the advancements with their image taking capabilities you’re now curious and want to do more. Whatever the reason, this conversation might help you. Certainly couldn’t hurt. 😉

Friend: “I can’t get pictures like you do with your phone. I’ve tried.”

Me: What do you think is keeping you from doing that?

Friend: “I’m not an artist, like you. I don’t see the way you see things.”

I’ve heard people say this before — a lot. That “seeing” is their problem with photography. Versions of what I’ve heard over the years are: “I don’t know how to see.”
“I’ll never see like this person (or that person).” “I’m not an artist.” And so on…

Me: I think you’re putting the cart before the horse.

Friend: “How is wanting to see putting the cart before the horse? I hate it when you do this.”

Me: Hahahaha! I’m going to let that last thing go and say, “Stop trying to see and pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention to those moments
that tug at you.”

Friend: “This sounds harder than seeing.”

Me: Hahaha! Let me explain. You have a shot of your son and nephew that is awesome and you’re proud of, right?

Friend: “Yes, I love that photo of them! They were so cute trying to stack the sand fast enough — not realizing it was never going to work.”

Me: Well, when you were watching your son and nephew attempting to build that sand castle was it because of the picture you saw or was it first because of how you felt about what you were seeing?

Friend: “I think I see what you mean.”

Me: It’s like I told my son when he was first learning to drive, “Your hands will follow where your eyes are looking.” Similarly your photos will follow what you’re feeling. Just train yourself to pay attention to that and when you feel it, shoot it!

Friend: “Okay, I get it! But how do I frame it up?”

Me: You’re talking compositionally, right?

Friend: “Yes. Once I know what I want to take a picture of, how do I know how to compose it so that it doesn’t just look like a phone shot?”

Me: Actually, I do have a super easy and fun exercise to help that. 🙂

I’ll write about what I told her in my next post but, for now, pay attention to how you feel and give yourself some time to practice that. I hope it helps.

I wish you all the very best.

P.S. This little cafe in Nice, France (where I had an intimate dinner with my husband) made me feel like I was in the pages of a Hemingway novel.
Oh, Hemingway…

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  • Reply Clinton Ferrara September 14, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Excellent advice. I always tell them to look for the light. Your way is way better for someone brand new to the game. The light doesn’t matter if the subject doesn’t grab them first.
    Looking forward to part two.

    • Reply Kalebra September 14, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      I love that you tell them to look for the light —what a beautiful way to get someone stared. I like that about you. 🙂

  • Reply Marie-Lise Van Wassenhove September 15, 2016 at 5:16 am

    Very inspiring advice, and so true. Thank you so much for sharing, and also looking forward to part two 🙂

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      Thank you Marie. 😊

  • Reply Terje Unhjem September 15, 2016 at 5:38 am

    How do I subscribe to your blog? I’ve looked and scrolled, but am not able to find out how.

    • Reply Jason Joseph September 15, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Click the icon that says RSS at the top or bottom of the page.

      • Reply Terje Unhjem September 16, 2016 at 12:31 pm

        All I get is a page with what looks like html coding…. Never understood this RSS thingy…

        • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

          Hahaha! I don’t really understand it either. I’m actually looking at plugins now so that I can add a simple email sign up. Wish me luck that I get it installed correctly. 😉

      • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

        Thank you for jumping in to help — your the best!

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      I think I did it! Woohoo! A subscribe pop up window should appear. Thank you for suggesting it. Crossing my fingers I installed it correctly. Hahaha!

      • Reply Terje Unhjem September 17, 2016 at 1:33 am

        Yes! You did 😊👍🏻 I am now officially subscribed! 🍾

        • Reply Kalebra September 17, 2016 at 10:42 am

          Awesome! And thank you for subscribing and hanging in there while I figure out some of the site changes. I’m so grateful for the suggestions that I want to implement them as soon as I can. Wasn’t really thinking about having to learn how to do things first but luckily I LOVE learning new things. 🙂

  • Reply Lauri Novak September 15, 2016 at 8:07 am

    I love this and am trying to help others learn the How Do YOU See thing from another perspective as well.

    I would like to know which cafe this is, I’ll be in Nice in a couple of weeks!!

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Thank you Lauri and hmm…let me see if I can find the name for you and I’ll get back with you. 😉

  • Reply Sheri Winans Harvey September 15, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Makes so much sense! I have often seen things didn’t know why it caught my eye but didn’t think about shooting it. Gonna start now!

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      Have fun Sheri!

  • Reply Debbie Lund September 15, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Yes! The images I love the most are not technically perfect. They’re the ones that make me want to climb back into that moment and be there again.

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      I love how you said that Debbie. 🙂

  • Reply Nita September 15, 2016 at 11:46 am

    I love this conversation. It helps me pin point why I lean toward different shots as oppose to not! My husband wants pictures of everything, I tend to only want to take pictures that move me! Now, I can make more sense of it and work on the composition! After the next blog, of course! 😍

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you Nita — I’m so glad you found it helpful. 🙂

  • Reply Stefan Frank September 15, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Well, yes, fine, but isn’t this a vicious cycle?! How many shots of sons and nephews have we all seen that turned out crap – even though the one who shot it “felt” something: But how to convey these feelings? Photography is essentially about communicating this feeling: And here we are back at the start: I know how I feel about the what I see, but how do I transport this feeling?! Or is the thesis here that there is some magic involved and if I feel hard/deep/intense enough, this will somehow transpire into good pictures? There is an endless stream of images on flickr that speak about this not happening automagically…

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      Hi Stefan, I hope my conversation didn’t frustrate you — it certainly wasn’t meant to.🌷 And, I don’t think we’ve quite gotten to a “cycle” yet and I will definitely try to avoid a vicious one. Haha! This post is only meant as a first step but I will say this, I do, absolutely believe that when you feel it “intensely” it can come through in your image. From the moment you discover it, to capturing it and even into the editing process. I can say that because it happens that way for me all the time. Thank you for reading the post and for commenting. I appreciate your feedback very much and look forward to more conversations. Have a great night!

  • Reply Jason Joseph September 15, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    This is so indicative of one of my most favorite qualities about you my dear friend. You are part Buddhist Monk.
    I’d like to add a few, hopefully helpful pointers of my own here for anyone reading.

    Feel.. is single-handedly the most impactful tool a photographer has with them at all times. Bar none.
    Composition, can be taught with lines, fibonacci spirals, grids etc etc… but most key to learning how to compose an image…is to learn how to FEEL what is in the frame.

    First be aware of everything you are looking at, know what in the frame is yoru subject, and once you’ve decided what the main subject in the frame is, immediately take notice of the rest of the elements in the frame.
    Then comes the moment where the feelings come into play. You must then feeeeel the balance of what is in the frame that is yoru subject, in relation to everything else that is not yoru subject.

    When you begin to break it down into just these two categories, you can easily feel… when your subject is balanced with its environment. You do not need to be trained by a guru, take classes, or to calculate grid placement or any such nonsense. You;ve got this. How does it feel. You know HOW I know you’ve got this.. because the very same thing that tells you when you spot a beautiful photograph that this is something special… is the very same feeling you will get as you are feeling yoru way through what is before you. It is a balance of energy, one that is inherently a part of everyone’s ability as a human being. This I truly believe.

    You will begin to see how large objects have more weight.. darker objects more weight in the frame.. angles move energy towards or away from things.. they direct the eye, You will begin to feel your way around the image as youre aligning it, and when you keep your mind focused on moving the camera around till the subject feels balanced with the energies of whatever else made their way into the frame…you will be well armed to make an excellent image.

    Don’t be afraid to fail at it, and … most importantly font worry about taking your time.. if yoru subject rushes you find another subject. (They weren’t worth your effort anyway!) Eventually, as you begin to trust yoru ability to feel the balance, aligning a shot it will become effortless. Just resign to remain comfortable in the much of a shot not feeling right. Its not you.. its the angle.. change it .. move.. keep trying. Whenever you seek balance.. you will find it so long as you don’t give up.

    If you want to really practice… without being told hurry up… Then grab your camera, put a movie on, and photograph the screen. It is an excellent exercise that will help you hone more than just yoru ability to frame an image, it will also hone youre skills of anticipation and timing.

    Hope it helps!

    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      Thank you Jason.🙏🏻 You are a kind friend and a wonderful helper to have included your advice. Rock on my friend!

  • Reply John Swarce September 16, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Great post, Kalebra. I always get looks from my wife (well, not so much now) when we go to a new place, and I stop and just look around without my camera to my face. Just have to “see” what I want to capture. If there’s nothing, I move on. I can’t wait to see what your exercise is and put it into practice.
    Thanks so much for adding the email update thingy for us. It will help when you update your blog!
    Have a great weekend. I’m going to a country fair tomorrow, and hope to “see” a lot! 😉


    • Reply Kalebra September 16, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      Every bit of it was my pleasure, John. Thank you for coming and letting me know your thoughts. I love the fair — have fun tomorrow! 🙂

  • Reply Konstantin Articus September 16, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    I’ve been reading foto blogs for 10+ years, but I have not seen this advice before. I will put it to test today, as I will take some architechtural fotos. An area which I usually do not get along with very well.
    And besides: the foto of the wine bar is super lovely!

    • Reply Kalebra September 17, 2016 at 10:44 am

      Good luck today — I wish you much success!!

  • Reply Chris Burgess September 17, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Having a look for the light for a while….start looking at just the shadows.

    • Reply Kalebra September 18, 2016 at 11:52 am

      That’s a great idea — thank you Chris! 🙂

    • Reply Kalebra September 18, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      Great idea — thank you Chris! 🙂

  • Reply La October 7, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks Kalebra for sharing your great advise. I check your blog every single day for part 2. Can’t wait to see it.

    • Reply Kalebra October 7, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Really? First, that is the nicest thing, ever! And second, I’ll get on it this weekend. I’ve been trying to figure out all this backend stuff with the blog and MailChimp and WordPress and blah, blah, blah and forgetting what I was really wanting to do here. Happy to leave the technical behind for a while and concentrate on what I like anyway. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

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