I’m calling this WISIWIS instead of the more familiar WYSIWYG. It has long been true and understood by most photographers that the way they see their environment is highly dependent on their experience using optics, film, sensors, and processing of images. Optics, film, sensors, and processing options all provide an artists with a new way of seeing. When I really began to achieve images I was happy with was when I started “seeing” the way camera lenses and film impacted an image. I was in control of the process because I could visualize a final result within the new parameters that a wide angle, telephoto, or macro lense offered, and the color palette and contrast range of a particular film. 

Beyond lens and film, I learned to visualize what a polarizer would do, a Neutral Density filter, a shallow depth of field, the effect of purposeful motion or a long exposure. This all meant that when I arrived on a scene, I was “seeing” the way I saw (visualized) things as a final film slide or print. Nothing has changed since working in digital format, except now I can extend my vision to the finished print without an intermediary film process. Now I have greater control over subtleties in tonality, contrast, cropping, and exposure (very darkroom like). 

Now instead of seeing the way one or two types of film “saw” things, I can apply my own vision, my own “film” view of the world. As a result, what I see in the field has changed because the way I see  is now influenced my the new way that I work. Even though I’ve worked primarily in digital format for over 5 years, much of that time I was still working with “film” eyes. I am more certain now that I am seeing with my own eyes now and to me that is the way it should be. 

 In a winter image like the one below, I can visualize in the field the cool/warm light contrast, the texture that will be achieved by extended depth of field and compression of a telephoto lens. I can visualize a curves adjustment to gain contrast, a levels adjustment to open up shadows, and how the final cropping will impact the visual geometry of the piece. I can visualize the result on a matt paper or a luster paper and maybe even on canvas or metal. 

Early light brushes snow covered woods - (c) Paul Grecian


9 thoughts on “What I See is the Way I See

  1. Yes! Exactly! But don’t you find yourself looking at the world with photographer eyes all the time? I know I do. Driving down the road I am seeing finished images. I am seeing the potential that never existed as a film photographer. It’s powerful stuff sometimes!

  2. You are so right Roberta, I have to force myself not to try to make images in my head while driving. I actually have a very good driving record, but yes the photo eyes are always working.

  3. “FILM EYES” Or moving away from my film eyes. That’s a wonderful phrase to condense part of the process of what’s been happening in my 3 digital years. I’m still fighting the old habits.

  4. Your mind and eyes work together along with your gear to see it, but lately, I seem to lean more towards it being one’s heart that is the final or deciding factor to creating.
    I better stop before I try to get any deeper! 🙂

    Really love this image shown here Paul.
    Those lines, the color and lighting involved, the overall composition, … all comes together in a image with meaning.


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