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Seeing the World Through One Eye
By Mike Pasini, Editor
Imaging Resource Newsletter

You may have seen (in one cartoon or another) that beret-crowned, smock-robed painter, his palette perched behind him to balance his out-thrust arm, thumb up, one eye clamped shut, as he measures his subject.

Ever wonder what, exactly, he was doing?

"The problem, often, is that you're seeing the world with two eyes while your camera sees it with just one."

The thumbs up part is not a tip to his critics. Just a convenient way to measure the relative size of near and far objects. And the wardrobe screams Fashion Emergency.

But you can take a lesson from that one-eyed way of looking at things.

Whether you are sketching a scene on canvas or composing an image in your viewfinder, you are reducing a three-dimensional world to just two dimensions. Which accounts for another source of beginner disappointment. Those great shots you happen upon that somehow never look so good through the camera.

How come you can see them but your camera can't?

The problem, often, is that you're seeing the world with two eyes while your camera sees it with just one. Two eyes give you an unfair advantage: depth perception. And when you compose an image with a foreground and background subject (say a distant building framed by a nearby tree), depth perception gives it a dramatic perspective your camera just can't see.

Sometimes moving a little to the right or left will help you find in two dimensions some approximation of what you saw in three. But there's no real cure.

Instead, get into the habit of looking, now and then, camera or not, with just one eye. See a nice panorama? Ask yourself how it would look to your camera by closing an eye. Train yourself, in short, to compose images without depth perception.

Just don't overdue it. People might think you're winking at them. ;)

This article is reprinted from The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter,
Beginner's Flash Column, published April 7, 2000