a photo study: seeing

This week’s photo study has been inspired by A Cemal Ekin’s article, “Seeing is the Essence of Photography, And You Can Learn to Do It Better.”

Within this article, Ekin wrote, “Photography is an analytic art form. We aim our lenses to specific parts of the world around us to pick a frame because, in our analysis, that particular frame presents the photograph we wish to take. We can certainly raise the camera, lower the camera, rotate it, pitch it, yaw it, aim at a different part and end up photographing something different.

“Seeing is the essence of this process, it is the essence of photography. It is our ability to absorb what lies in our view, process that, and target the frame that is the most compelling; that is the analytical part. Seeing is a mental process, it starts with our eyes capturing some information from our surroundings but continues as a mental activity.

“It requires awareness; and awareness is a state of mind. There are many things in front of you now but you are not necessarily aware of all of them. For instance, you are reading this post on a screen, it feels normal to you. But, are you “aware” of the screen dimensions? Are you aware of the distance between the screen and your eyes?

“Seeing can be improved — you can actually work at it and start seeing things you did not notice before. It requires looking with intention and awareness and learning to appreciate many different things. The movement of the tree branches may create delightful patterns, flight path of a butterfly repeating itself, the huge scissors in front of a tailor shop mimicking the open legs of the pedestrians, there are many, many things to notice and see.

“The result is that you may actually start photographing things that you did not before, partly because you did not see them before and partly because you have come to appreciate them! Seeing is part of your experience, you should feel that you are seeing something as a result of your keen awareness, in that state of mind.

“Here is a simple exercise you can try. Take your camera, any camera and go down to your basement. If you don’t have a basement, go to your garage. If you don’t have a garage, go to your bedroom. You have 15 minutes to produce 30 photographs in that space with the following requirements:

  • Need to stay in the same space
  • Your images will be cropped to leave the square area in the center, frame height determining the size of the crop, no cheating!
  • If your camera allows setting the image ratio, you may set it to square or 1:1
  • Don’t get into serious editing, the idea is seeing with limits (the square crop in the center), just crop the images as promised

“Try to focus on things that normally escape your attention, like the folds of the bedspreads (if you are in the bedroom), the way the stairs may be worn going down to the basement, the stains on the garage floor, etc., etc. Look for texture, lines, shapes, forms rather than “things” to photograph.

“You also need to limit your vision to the center square section of the viewfinder, this makes you truly aware of what is outside your frame, because you actually see them knowing that they will be cropped. Why are you leaving those things outside the frame? Why are you including the others you include within?

“Now look at the cropped images, they are probably not your typical photographs. Do you find any that you would like to share with friends? What appeals to your sensibilities in them? What about those that did not work? Why do they not work?”

Erkin ended his article with an introduction to Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See

To learn more about Cemal Erkin’s, visit his website  https://www.keptlight.com

Would love to read your thoughts and see some of the images you created during Erkin’s 15 minute exercise.  Thanks for taking the time to visit.


  1. Am very partial to B&W and the quilt textures are especially nice but my favourite is the #33 colour one.
    p.s. I very recently commented to Sue (above) about how the camera helps me with seeing so this is a timely post – thank you. Also as some of us are joining Becky’s square June ‘rooftops’ theme it’s doubly timely. Am going to try this out when I have some idle time -and link my post back to this

    1. Thank you Laura. Someone else noted that #33 was their favorite, also. It is an interesting photo experiment that I’m going to repeat with hopes it helps me create more interesting and creative photos.

  2. Brenda, thank you for spreading the word. Cameras are just tools to record, the actual photographs are made with our eyes and brain. Continue looking with an intent to see, that is looking to see.

      1. You have produced many interesting frames, may be worth repeating the seeing experiment. A lucky coincidence brought me to your site and I will revisit to explore more of it.

      2. I agree as my mind seems to seek “things” and keeps me blind to the shapes, texture, light, shadow, lines, tones of my world.

    1. It is great to find talented photographers who are willing to share their knowledge, skill, ideas, and experience.

      1. Too many photographers keep their skills and ideas to themselves as if it’s all a competition. While I’m not into plagiarism, sharing is always good.

      1. Always a pleasure to see what you come up Brenda.. btw… I don’t know how I managed to get your account un-followed… !! Just noted it today.. Sorry about it, it must be my circus with self hosted site these days!

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