How to Develop Your Photographer’s Eye

I’m hardly an expert on this topic. In fact, to be honest, I’m hardly an expert on any topic related to photography. I do, however, have several years of experience in photography and have seen what works… and what doesn’t.

The real issue with this topic is that there are just so many photographic disciplines that there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to any challenge. There are some hard and fast ‘rules’ that will at least get you on the right track, regardless which discipline you find yourself involved in.

The second issue is that those ‘rules’ are often better broken. It’s up to you to know when and how to break them.

These are some of the rules, in the most general terms, in the disciplines that I have an experience in.

First, let me list the disciplines that I have little to no experience in. There are probably several others, but these stand out the most.

  1. Sports photography (like panning a speeding race car)
  2. Baby Photography (I’ve done a little bit of this, but not much).
  3. Pets (Again, I’ve done a little bit)

Here are some disciplines that I DO have some experience in;

  1. Weddings (Ceremony, Reception and Posed images)
  2. Landscapes
  3. Night photography
  4. Portraits (single subjects, head shots and groups)
  5. Long Exposure 
  6. Aerial Photography and Videography

There may be more, I just can’t think of them right now.

The ‘rules’ for each style of photography listed;


Focus on the eyes. In a group, set a small enough aperture to get a deep enough depth of field and all of the group in focus. Center your subject. Pay very close attention to the lighting, back lighting is fine if you have a way to bounce, reflect or fill with artificial light to offset it. If outdoors, avoid ‘dapple’ light (this is light and shadow that filter though tree leaves – for example. There is really no way to fix the result of these images).

Again, many of the above rules can be broken.


Way too many possibilities to even know where to start. If you decide to take on Wedding photography, steady yourself for long, stressful days on your feet and being pulled in several directions at the same time. The knowledge of the weight of the situation and the importance of every image that you make is where most of the stress will come. Weddings demand your best effort, every day, every shot. There are no second chances, no ‘do overs’.  If you can push past all of that, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most rewarding work that you’ve ever created. There’s never been a landscape image as important as nearly any image taken at a wedding.


Landscapes are some of the most popular images that a photographer is likely to make. It’s in landscape photography where you’re likely to encounter most of the most popular ‘rules’. Among these are the ‘rule of thirds’, ‘leading lines’ and ‘framing’ – just to name a few.

Rule of thirds is probably my favorite, here is an example;

In the above example, the cathedral is set off to one side rather than in the center of the frame.

Here I break the ‘rule of thirds’ by placing all elements of interest directly in the center of the frame.

Leading lines example;

In this, perhaps extreme, example – the shadow of the tree leads your eye to the plantation house which is, of course, the subject of the photograph.
In this example, the train tracks lead your eye towards the street car.

Framing example;

In this example, a sunset over Lake Pontchartrain is behind some ornate columns along Westend. The background is a bit busy, but this is an example of framing an image.
The framing ‘rule’ can also be used with other types of photography, including portraits of course.

In landscapes, the lighting is a most important element, it’s an element that you simply have no control over. The light is either good or bad. Sure, you can move around a bit, but if the light is bad, that’s the end of it. Sometimes, the light is the subject of the image. The light will completely determine the mood of the finished image. Whole books have been written on the subject, but the best light for landscape photography occurs just before  and just after sunrise and sunset. These times are known as the ‘blue hour’ and the ‘golden hour’. Many Make the mistake of leaving too soon, wait a few minutes after sunset, you may be surprised by what the sky give you!

You don’t have to travel far to capture a colorful sunset, this image was made in our back yard!
This image follows several ‘rules’; the clouds and the water lead the viewer around the frame. The sun itself is on the 1/3 line on the right, there is some foreground interest in those straight tall weeds to the left of the frame. The reflection repeats the leading lines as well.

When photographing your landscapes, take a minute to ‘work the scene’. I’m guilty of not doing this often enough. I usually walk up and immediately ‘lock in’ to a vision. That works sometimes and other times I wish I would have moved around more. By the time that thought occurs to me, the light is gone and I’m left with what I have. That’s not a terrible thing. It just means that I’ll need to revisit the location. If I’ve traveled a long way to photograph the location, that may not be possible. So, just move around and work the scene, you’ll be happy you did.

Night Photography, long exposure photography are kind of the same thing when you look at the techniques that are used. The landscape rules still apply to both, you’ll just have to take your time and keep a close eye on the exposure and the long shutter speeds. A long shutter speed of 30 seconds is possible in the normal ‘m’ mode (manual). If a longer exposure time is needed, you’ll have to use ‘bulb’ mode which will allow you to keep the shutter open for as long as you desire. This is especially helpful when photographing fireworks, lightning and other subjects that are happening in the dark and are unpredictable.

I hope some of these tips help some of the newer photographers out there. As I said at the outset, I’m no expert and I don’t claim to be. Photography is one of those disciplines that cause a person to keep at it, to never stop learning. You’ll find that the more you learn, the more there is to know.

As is true with so many things that humans endeavor to accomplish, the way to develop your photographer’s eye is to practice, practice, practice.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this, I hope you’ll visit again!

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