A constant request I get from my friends is to “teach me to take photos like you do.” I find I have to stop myself from responding like George Costanza: “That’s like asking Picasso to teach me to paint like you paint.” The arrogance of the statement is only half of the issue; the other half is that it’s very hard to explain how someone visualizes a photograph. Many times I don’t even know what has drawn my eye to take the picture until I sort through my photos later.
Abstract photos are particularly difficult to explain. Take Erin’s photo above, a great abstract photo. What drew her eye to take this photo? If it was the peeling paint, she could have cropped it more like this. Was it the contrasting colors in the scene; the dull tones of the paint, with the muted reflected colors? It’s easy to say it was all of the above, but it could have been the shape of the window. Or perhaps even something I am missing. How does what explain finding and taking this picture?
The ultimate answer is you shoot what catches your eye. It’s a carefully cultivated talent, that is unique to each person. I, or any photographer, could no more teach this skill than Picasso teach us to paint like he does. Each person just has to go out there and take photos the way they take photos.