The Digital Photo Guy

Previsualizing a Photo

by on Oct.23, 2011, under Articles, Composition, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Ansel Adams Would Have Been Proud

For years, I’ve tried to practice Ansel Adams’ concept of previsualizing an image before releasing the shutter. To be perfectly honest, I never really felt I had a handle on the concept but, hey, it made me feel as if I knew what I was doing.

Yesterday, while flipping through a past issue of Outdoor Photographer (the only magazine to which I subscribe and read on a regular basis) I came across an article titled “Think Like Ansel Adams Today” that sparked a thought in my tiny brain. I suddenly realized I had been previsualizing many photos.

Ever since I first made this photo at Lake Tenaya, I’ve had in mind the same image on a calm, windless day when the reflection is as if on a mirror. Add in clouds and snow and the photo would, in my mind, be perfect.

This particular attempt was made late in the day when the last remnants of daylight cast a soft glow. At the time I made this photo, I was pleased with it but, now, in retrospect, I see many things I want to improve.

You don’t have to travel to Yosemite to previsualize a photo. Here’s another I made in my front yard that I’d like to replicate and improve.

In this case, I’d like to see the bee turned a bit more so I can see its eye and antenna in sharp focus. I lost the original in a hard disk crash so all I remember is that it was taken with a 20D with Canon 100/2.8 macro at f/2.8.

The take-away? Review past photos and think how you can improve them the next time. In short order, you’ll be able to previsualize new photos as you come across new scenes.


2 Comments for this entry

  • Doug

    Hi Lee. Thanks for the great tip. I have reviewed older photos and try to remember the changes I would make the next time I shoot it. I do need to do a better job of visualizing what I want out of the scene before pressing the shutter.

    • Lee

      Hi Doug,
      Strictly speaking, Ansel Adams’ use of previsualization was more about exposure. I’m sure someone will call me out on this but my philosophy is that a photographer can’t previsualize exposure until he/she can previsualize the final, desired image. I’ve always found it to be a useful exercise to review old photos and see in my mind’s eye, what I really want. Thanks for your Comment.


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