Visualization: The Art of Seeing a Photograph

Ansel Adams on Visualization

Ansel Adams on Visualization

This is an excerpt from “An Ansel Adams Guide: Basic Techniques of Photography.” In this introduction to Chapter Five, he discusses Visualization: The Art of Seeing a Photograph. I’ve written a number of posts on composition, design elements and lighting on my photo blog. We’ve discussed how important it is to practice and that we’ll all improve with practice. In this chapter introduction, Ansel Adams talks about visualization and how it relates to the final picture in composition, textures and tone. Visualization, too, will come easier with practice. It’s important to understand the technical elements of photography — again, composition, design elements and light — so that you can start to see them in your mind’s eye. In Ansel Adams’ own words …


Visualization: The Art of Seeing a Photograph

The steps in making a photograph may be simply outlined as folllows:

      1. Need or desire to photograph. This attitude is obviously essential. Sometimes just going out with the camera can excite perceptive interest and the desire to work. An assignment — a purpose — can be the greatest stimulus for functional or creative work.
      2. Discovery of the subject, or recognition, of it’s essential aspects, will evoke the concept of the image. This leads to the exploration of the subject and the optimum point of view.
      3. Visualization of the final picture is essential in whatever medium is used. The term seeing can be used for visualization, but the latter term is more precise in that it relates to the final picture — its scale, composition, tonal and textural values, etc. Just as a musician “hears” notes and chords in his mind’s ear, so can the trained photographer “see” certain values, textures, and arrangements in his mind’s eye.

Visualization, and the conscious application of fundamental techniques, does not inhibit the creative-intuitive faculties; it protects and augments them. The creative-intuitive forces must dominate from the start in all expressive work. If not, the whole concept of photography as a creative medium would be invalid. But a sloppy performance of a photograph is as obnoxious as a sloppy performance of music. Subject alone — or any mere simulation of reality — cannot support a work of art in any medium.
— Ansel Adams

Source: Schaefer, John Paul, and Ansel Adams. “Visualization: The Art of Seeing a Photograph.” An Ansel Adams Guide: Basic Techniques of Photography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. 119. Print.

Copyright 2017 Valerie Hayken Up