Photography is a challenging art form in that there are enough technical aspects to it that one can spend a great deal of time learning and mastering the technical side, yet still produce uninspiring images that don’t speak to anyone. This is because along with the technique, photography is still an art, and practicing that ability to create emotion, or convey a feeling through an image is not something learned from the technical side, it’s something grown over time through visual exercise.
YouTuber and photographer Sean Tucker recently put together a brilliant and quite inspiring video about this very subject. So, what is visual exercise? Sean describes it as being in the moment, taking in the world around you, and paying attention to the light and what it is doing to the scene in front of you.
Interestingly, Sean points to his smartphone as his greatest learning tool, something not many photographers may admit to. But he makes the case that the simplicity of the phone camera forces him to be more creative, pay more attention to the whole scene, and look for good composition since he can’t hide behind a shallow depth of field.
A tip for trying to do this is to put some headphones on and go for a walk, turn your music up loud enough that the noises of the world fade away, and you are left with your thoughts and what you see around you. This can make it easier to focus on the light in your scene, the shadows it creates, how it is interacting with the environment.
Tucker has some more great videos along these lines and one specifically about better smartphone editing that you can check out over on his YouTube Channel.