Learning To See


Guess what? Being "creative" and having a "talent" for capturing great images isn't some unique gift bestowed on you via the universe. Nor is it some sacred element reserved for the few and lucky.

Jennifer Hulley food photographer hamilton toronto ontario

Creativity,  and your ability to capture beautiful imagery is a direct result of your ability to see. It is something that with dedication and focus you can strengthen, like a muscle or a skill. Its similar to everything else we learned over the years. 

At one point in your life you couldn't move, and then with practice you became able to pull yourself along the floor until one day, low and behold, You were standing! Then came staggering and then walking until finally you were running! (If you are visualizing that scene if Forest Gump it's ok, I totally am too)

What I am trying to say is that with practice and small progress in bite sized steps you can train yourself to capture strong and powerful images. "Yah but I don’t know how to make things look good.."  or "I don’t have good taste..." you may say. Well guess what? That doesn't really matter. Do you have the  ability to scan your environment? Are you able to notice things throughout the  day? Does anything ever grab your eye? (note: if you spend your days walking around the world thinking everything is ugly,  terrible and awful I may not be able to help you). The reality is that most of us, if not all of us have something that we enjoy looking at. Can you confidently say what it is that catches your eye? What colours, what patterns, what types of light? 

Chances are no. And it's not because you can't do it – its because you are not training yourself to be consciously aware of what you are noticing.  We are often so caught up in the daily grind and the day to day operational crap that we go through that we don't take time to notice. We take the same route every day, walk through similar spaces and events, heck we might even eat the same thing for lunch every day.  

This in ability to "notice" things doesn't mean we are defective or broken, rather its is a fact of life. As humans we experience something called habituation to our environment. Our brains are wired to notice the different stimuli, the changes and the things that are out of the ordinary. And as a result we switch off and stop "noticing" the things that become familiar to us. It’s a fact of life! We are constantly bombarded  with so much sensory input all day that if we weren't able to switch off like this our brains would probably implode.  

The upside to this is, we can begin to train ourselves to see again. A good exercise to do is to keep some sort of camera (your phone is great for this) with you at all times. And to snap EVERYTHING that catches your eye. Every time you stop and think "wow that's cool!" Or "that colour is really pretty." This sound easy. Believe me, it is not. The  first time I undertook this exercise I was walking around aimlessly trying to force it, basically snapping images of things that were kind of appropriate, things that "should be" or "could be" interesting. It wasn't useful. 

It takes a while. And it takes a lot of practice. And you can't force it. You might snap 3 pictures one day and then nothing for a week. Just keep going with it. If being "on" all day is too much to undertake try to carve out 15 minutes a day where you focus on seeing what is in your immediate environment.  As with any  sort of muscle training, the more that you override your mental processes and force yourself to be consciously aware  of your visual surroundings the easier it will become to start seeing again.  Eventually what you will start to notice is patterns developing, and you will begin to build an idea of what grabs your eye, which is the first step in trying to define your artistic style.  You will start to see how the  random and otherwise mundane elements of life will begin to show up in the work you create.

Another side effect of this practice? You smile more. Small things, typically unnoticed register in your head as beautiful, interesting or just something that makes you happy. And you become a completely distracted driver...I'm working on trying to not be distracted by my surroundings while driving. Its hard.  

Have a look at this video and see if you can figure out how what I "see" directly informs the work I create. Then what? Get and then get out there and start documenting what you SEE. I'd love to see your work. Remember, sharing is caring! So share your images on social media use the hashtag #ArtfullyStyledU and I'll post some up on Instagram.