How to train your eye to take better photos

There is a common saying among photographers that the best technical skills in the world will not make a bad photo good. Getting a good photo is more than simply understanding the features of your camera and a knowledge of lighting, exposure, and editing. So the question is, how does one train their eye for “seeing” great photo opportunities? It is the simple practice of shooting as much as possible. Training your eye to “see” photo worthy images is no different than training your muscles for sports, or your brain for higher thinking. Professionals shoot almost daily and each day their “photo eye” gets stronger and better. I call this “photo radar”. I have observed that most amateurs don’t shoot very often, instead they wait until they are on vacation or see something extraordinary like a rainbow or beautiful sun set. 

Once you start to shoot on a regular basis though you will strengthen your photo radar and start seeing photos where you never did before. Since I have been shooting for so long I occasionally have turn off my “photo radar” because I can be so easily distracted with seeing images. Remember that famous line from the movie The Sixth Sense, ” I see dead people”? Well, I see photos…pretty much everywhere. For example, I can see three or four different photo opportunities while walking to the apartment dumpster to throw away the trash! 

Rusting dumpster with rivets: Linda Holt Photo

It certainly wasn’t always like that though. When I first started photography school I used to struggle to find subjects to shoot for my assignments. I’d walk around Boston for hours looking for interesting things to shoot when in reality everything around me was an opportunity to create something interesting. It wasn’t until my photo eye became more developed that it became easier for me to see photos where most don’t.

 In order to train your eye my advice is to shoot everyday. Don’t think you can do that? Challenge yourself to try it for thirty days. Remember, your photos don’t have to be subjects of extraordinary beauty. Sometimes the most mundane things can make interesting photos. Think in terms of creating a photo rather than taking a photo.

One idea is to pick a different theme each day and try and find as many photos that fit into that theme as possible. For example, one day challenge yourself to only shot things that have texture. Another day only shoot things that are in your yard or limit your photos to shoot only subjects that have bright color. These are just suggestions but you get the idea. If you narrow down your “photo radar” to search for something specific it is much easier to find things to photograph. Try and come up with different assignments for yourself. No one will be judging your photos and only you need to see them.  

As I was halfway through writing this post I had to make a quick trip to Whole Foods. I realized it was a perfect opportunity to challenge myself and share my WF store images with you. I didn’t have much time (about 15 mins) but I wanted to find as many photos as I could while also grabbing food for dinner and a Birthday card for a friend. Side note* All these photos were taken with my iphone.

I started off super easy and snapped a few flower shots from the floral section on my way into the store.

Flowers at Whole Foods:Linda Holt Photo

I think it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo of flowers. Just get in close and fill the frame with the color and shapes.

Whole Foods Flowers:Linda Holt Photo

I then grabbed a cart, looked down and noticed the dramatic lighting and grid pattern that was created from the sun coming through the side window.

Whole foods cart:Linda Holt Photo

Onward to the veggie isle. 

Radishes: Linda Holt Photo

I feel the same way about beautiful fresh vegetables as I do flowers. It’s pretty easy to get a great photo as nature has done all the work already.

Then it got a little more challenging because I wanted to find more unexpected images than flowers and veggies. I spotted this display of wine bottles and liked how the back window light was coming through the wine and also the repetitive shapes of the bottles.

Whole foods wine bottles:Linda Holt Photo

I also liked the texture and simple graceful lines of this cropped in tight image of flip flops. What really makes the photo interesting is the string.

Whole Foods flip flops:Linda Holt Photo

My few minutes were up and I thought I was done but then on the way out I saw one last image and it is my favorite one from my self assignment. A bright orange metal chair tucked under a multi colored stained wood table.

Orange metal chair:Linda Holt Photo

Simply by changing the camera’s perspective and shooting down on the chair it became much more interesting than if I had photographed it from straight on. Plus, there were customers sitting at the table eating and they would have been too distracting. Piece of advice… simple is often better.

So I hope you take up my challenge and spend thirty days photographing every single day. I guarantee you will strengthen your photo eye and improve your photo radar. Please let me know if you are up for the challenge or have any questions or comments. Good luck!!


18 Responses to How to train your eye to take better photos
  1. Linda Pakravan Reply

    As always, great advice!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Linda and thank you for taking the time to comment!

  2. kelly Reply

    Love all of your tips as always Linda!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Kelly. You have your beautiful new grandson to practice on. I expect to see lot’s more photos of him!

  3. Lisa Reply

    Linda, you have such an amazing eye! I completely understand what you mean about seeing photos everywhere. I recently began painting, and now I see paintings everywhere I look. So distracting!! Thank you for sharing this advice.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Lisa, it really is true. Teaching yourself to “see” is really just a matter of practice.

  4. Angela Taylor Reply

    I am always up for a challenge Linda:) I have an old Nikon Coolpix 4300. Probably need a new camera but this one works fine. Loved this post because as always you give a new perspective on things. Just returned from Victoria BC where I took photo’s of the residential area for a change. Wish I could share with you:)

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Angela, I think I used to own an old Nikon Coolpix. I have no idea where it is today. So happy to hear I inspired you though!

  5. Sarah Hepburn-Smith Reply

    Great tips Linda – I am always inspired by your photos and photography advice!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Yeah! So happy to hear I inspired you. Let me know if you do my 30 day challenge!

  6. Barbi Reply

    Linda, your advice is so spot on. Practice and persistence! I decided to finally learn guitar and altho I’ve only taken baby steps, little by little I’m starting to understand. I’m going to try your method to improve my photos as well. Thanks for great ideas and advice!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      It’s so true Barbi, it’s all about practice and trying. Good luck with the guitar and let me know if you complete my 30 day challenge!

  7. Sandy Roth Reply

    Cool Photos!!
    What type of camera did you use for these shots?

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Sandy..sorry, I should have said that in my post. I took them all with my iPhone which is the only camera I have these days.

  8. Meredith Bohn Reply

    What’s wonderful about this “assignment” is that you are not only training your eye, but hopefully gaining confidence in your own unique perspective- I’m definitely going to try and see what I can see and photograph! I had to chuckle thinking about watching you do your “photo thing” in Whole Foods…great post and great inspiration!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Meredith, I’d love to hear how it goes. I think you’ll be surprised what 30 days will do for your photo radar.

  9. Carolyn Reply

    Love your tips and this challenge! I’m going to give this a try for at least a few days. I do see images everywhere I turn, but it drives my kids crazy so I don’t take out my phone! I’m thinking your challenge gives me permission! Thank you!!

  10. Carla Aston Reply

    Amazing eye, indeed. These are stunning! Love your images.

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