NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

For me, Vision is the main idea that separates a technically proficient photographer from someone who can truly visually communicate with their photos.

And I don’t mean only photographers who have their photos in magazines or in galleries. I mean photographers that share their photos with their friends, families and peer groups around them. It’s nice to have your work admired by others right?

You’ve all probably met (or maybe you are) that person from your photography club that can speak in f-stops, can calculate shutter speeds in their heads, and tell you every technical detail about photography. But their photos are missing something and they don’t have the vision to take them further.

It’s TOTALLY normal. Why?

Because the technical is quantitative, and can be measured. You either know what Aperture is, or you don’t. It’s easier (for most people that is) to learn than the creative part.

See… once you learn the technical stuff, it’s fairly easy to go out and document what’s in front of you. To capture a scene as it looks. Honestly, cameras are really good at it these days with little intervention from us.

But what about how the scene actually feels or what you were feeling about it? Does that matter? To me, it’s ALL that matters. That’s where vision and taste come in.

Luminosity Masking and Taste? Huh?

I have a quick story for you. In an interesting coincidence I was releasing my “Art of Editing Landscapes” course the other day and I got an email that morning from some one that solidified why I made that course. This person asked for more “in depth” luminosity mask training. They said they had watched many YouTube videos that didn’t deliver. So I went to YouTube and just typed in “Photoshop Luminosity Masking”. I watched a few videos and I thought they did a really good job at explaining and showing what a Luminosity Mask was. So what was the problem?

I actually think his issue was not that he needed more “in depth” training. I think he’s a technical person, and the moment his photo looked different from what was on the example he watched, he didn’t know what to do.

If you’re not sure what a Luminosity Mask is, it’s simply a selection. Plain and simple, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just like there are 100 ways to change color in your photo, there are 1000 ways to make selections. They don’t magically make your photos better. They don’t magically reveal something and bring out detail in areas you never knew. They don’t make the photo sharper. They simply make a selection in a different way than the usual selection tools in Photoshop’s toolbox.

The real skill to using Luminosity Masks is knowing what to do with that selection. Knowing what area of the photo needs improvement. Knowing how bright, how dark, how sharp, how colorful, how whatever, to make the part of the photo you just selected.

Notice I just said “the real skill…”? Well, yeah, it kind of is a skill right? But everything I mentioned that came after “skill” is really a product of taste.

I believe what this person was looking for, and just really either didn’t know it, or couldn’t articulate it, was help in figuring out how to make his photos better with those selections/masks. He wasn’t getting the results he wanted, and it wasn’t because he didn’t know how to make a Luminosity Mask. It was because he didn’t know what to do with them once he made them.

Why not? Because he didn’t have a vision for the photo. A game plan. If you’re going to invest the time to make complex masks, you should also have a plan. What do you want to do in the photo? If you know the end game (like the Avengers reference there?) of what you want from a photo, then once you make the masks, or whatever else it is you’re doing, you have a plan on how to use them. But if you’re just learning skills, without adding the vision and taste to the mix, you’re likely to have those technically good photos, that don’t necessarily move you or others.

It’s like people that learn long exposure photography. Learning how to extend the shutter for 2 minutes, and get a well exposed photo is something concrete that you can put your mind around. You either know how to do it, or you don’t. Learning what scenes and subject matter lend themselves to this technical ability is VERY DIFFERENT story.

I Was Not a Creative Person!!!

When I first started in the graphical and photography world, I was NOT a creative person. Not by a long shot. I wrote software code for a living. When I got my first DSLR, I would walk around my neighborhood and come back every time with photos of trees. Not even good looking trees 🙂

Why? Because I didn’t have any creative experiences to draw on. I walked outside and all that was around were houses and cars and fences. So the nicest thing I could find was a tree. We take photos of things we know (or are familiar) to scenes that we’ve seen before that we liked.

So can you really learn how to have better taste or to be creative?

Absolutely! I believe it happens by looking at, studying, and talking with people who are more creative, and have that “taste” you’re looking for. At first it’s daunting. But little by little it builds. You learn one great tip for shooting or editing. Then you go repeat what you learned. Sure, you copied it from the person you learned from, but that’s ok. Every great guitar player learned by copying songs from the greats before them. Then you repeat this process. Before you know it, you have 5 or 10 little things you learned in your arsenal.

Then… one day when you least expect it… a situation comes up and you try a little bit of tip #1 and a little bit of tip #4 that you learned. And you put them together to see what happens. And BAM!!!! It looks great to you. And then you share it and everyone likes it as well. Guess what… you CREATED something and developed a better taste for what works along the way.

Okay… I’ll Answer the Question Already

Finally, I hate to pose questions and not answer them. Or worse, answer a “this or that” question with “both” (I hate when that happens) 😉 So I’m going to pick a side.

When it comes to landscape / outdoor / travel photography (note, I’m picking a genre for this answer), I would take the person that has a good eye, creativity, and great taste in a heartbeat. Hands down… it’s not even a choice (for me).

Now, there are exceptions to everything. I’m talking about the art of seeing a scene in front of you and capturing it with a camera. Cameras are so good these days, that you could put it on P mode and as long as you had a good eye to get yourself into the right place at the right time, I’d be okay if you took every photo using P mode on your camera.

Will that “creative” person (who’s not very competent using the camera) be hindered if the wind was blowing the trees, or if they were photographing moving wildlife, or long exposures or night scenes? Yep. But I had to pick a side – and I’d still stick to my choice from an overall perspective.

Luckily, we don’t have to pick sides. We get to choose if we want to learn more about the skills and the taste or creative part.

I think there’s a lot of education out there to help with the skill part, but not that much on the taste part of it. My latest course “The Art of Editing Landscapes”, actually works to teach you how to balance both. There’s a lot of technical subjects in the course, but in each one of them I’m constantly trying to teach you how to use it creatively. You get to hear my thought process, the why behind what I’m doing, and even my screw-ups and why they happened, and how I get out of it. I hope you’ll swing by and check out the course page today.

Have a great weekend!

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