Thinking vs Feeling Photography: Discuss - Digital Photography School

Thinking vs Feeling Photography: Discuss

Today I read an interview with photographer Bruce Gilden (warning, some of Bruces images are confronting) whose photography of his time in Haiti was featured in the January edition of Leica’s LFI magazine.

In the interview Bruce was asked about the how he seems to have a real instinctual energy in his images. Bruce answered:

“Something either affects me or it doesn’t. It’s not a thinking process. It’s like in sports: when you go onto the field you don’t have time to think, you have to react. This is how I work: If I see something, I take a picture. If I don’t see anything, I don’t.”

Now Bruce’s style of photography is confronting and controversial (not only his subject matter but the way he goes about it when on the street – see this video to see that) but whether you’re into it or not I thought his quote was worth pondering.

Often what sets a great image apart from a good one is the feeling it conveys – something that almost always starts with the photographer and what they are feeling when they take a photograph.

While I’m not sure I completely agree with Bruce that ‘it’s not a thinking process’ – thinking about your images can also add a lot – I do believe that learning to ‘feel’ and convey that feeling in your images is something that many photographers could do well to focus more upon.

What do you think about this Bruce Gilden quote? Do you bring feeling to your images or are you more a ‘thinking photographer’?

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://500px.com/PavolTimko Pavol Timko

    I use feeling a lot even when I take landscapes. Beside some basic skills and rules I reveal sometimes at home why the picture was just right. At the very instant I didn’t know analytically what is there but I felt it and in post production I can see the reasons why it caught my eye in the first place.

    However I don’t like his style of bothering people. Golden rule says – don’t do to others, if you don’t want them to do the same to you and I can imagine many people would object to his style of taking pictures.

    This could be a theme for a film. Such a photographer would take a photo of a criminal who will chase him after. Or what about taking a photo of a hidden and protected witness after change of his identity?

    No, I don’t think it is such a good idea.

  • Rob Norton-Edwards

    My two pence: every photograph has to have both elements to it. The thinking may already have been done for those ‘throw the camera up and shoot’ ones – i.e. you have the settings already done for the conditions, lighting, expected subject – but you have done some thinking. The feeling, perhaps instinct is the right word, comes from the desire to take THIS shot NOW. That instinct will be honed over time.

    However, the feeling that really matters is the feeing that the image evokes in the viewer. What I was feeling when I shot it, and perhaps the feeling I want to convey, is irrelevant when it comes to what the viewer sees and feels. If the photograph makes them feel something – anything – then it is powerful. If they feel what I was trying to make them feel with the image, then I have done a great job!

    As for Bruce Gilden, I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to his approach at all. I’m of the opinion he didn’t ‘feel’ any of those images, by the way. He just went through a process of ‘there is an unusual character’ then ambushed them and got in their face and took a pretty random shot. There was no time for composition or technique in most of the shots I saw in the video. Sure, you get faster with practice, and he got a number of good images, but there’s a fair bit of luck there – combined with a superb camera and pre-settings.

    He says he’s been shooting in Haiti and other troubled places. Imagine if you had just come through a pretty horrific experience (earthquake, war, flood, whatever) and your life, family, livelihood or future were hanging by a thread. There you are, clutching onto the last vestiges of your sanity and hope, when this guy jumps out at you and takes a shot and flashes you right in your face. What would it take for someone in trauma to snap?

    No, I don’t agree with the method at all. It’s intrusive, rude, aggressive … and probably downright dangerous for both the subject and the photographer.

  • Ivan Lonan

    for the seconds moments automatically we only can use our “feeling” to take photos
    100 % i agree with Bruce
    BUT..
    for the photo studios or the moment we have to set or we can direct, that’s we use our “thinking” process to take photos
    100 % i don’t agree with Bruce
    SO..
    it depends on the moment you want to take..

  • http://digitalcameraadventures.blogspot.com Leopoldo

    Darren: I study my surroundings from a contex and a subject point of view. The nature of things are a constant series of events, nothing is static and all is about changes. To feel and to think cannot be separated, they are an intrinsic part of each other. Cycles will occur,but to see them oe most feel them and think about them. As a naturalist and a photographer, I thrive by amaizing myself with challenges and I’ve found, mores misses than keeps in the search for a self fulfilling achievement. I hace spent 9 months watching a spider only to make a molting and mating series the last day before she parted. To think ahead, I had to study it, my feeling towards the animal grew as I learned its ways of life. How it aproached a wasp or a moth and how it would handle it. Then, thinking in digital is another important factor, as we can do things to attain pos production results that are breath taking.

    As far as human behaviour, the unintrusive approach is best for me, and asking for pemition is the only way to get up to people’s faces. Respect goes a long way. I am eating my words today, as I am getting started with cameraphones, and this will change photography as we know it faster than we expect.

    Take care, and vist me in Caracas at my blog (Digital Camera Adventures) now in english and spanish. DPS is my inspiration and now, after 4 years of work, I am finally geting a decent audience number.

    Regards

    Leo

Some older comments

  • Leopoldo

    February 1, 2013 04:47 pm

    Darren: I study my surroundings from a contex and a subject point of view. The nature of things are a constant series of events, nothing is static and all is about changes. To feel and to think cannot be separated, they are an intrinsic part of each other. Cycles will occur,but to see them oe most feel them and think about them. As a naturalist and a photographer, I thrive by amaizing myself with challenges and I've found, mores misses than keeps in the search for a self fulfilling achievement. I hace spent 9 months watching a spider only to make a molting and mating series the last day before she parted. To think ahead, I had to study it, my feeling towards the animal grew as I learned its ways of life. How it aproached a wasp or a moth and how it would handle it. Then, thinking in digital is another important factor, as we can do things to attain pos production results that are breath taking.

    As far as human behaviour, the unintrusive approach is best for me, and asking for pemition is the only way to get up to people's faces. Respect goes a long way. I am eating my words today, as I am getting started with cameraphones, and this will change photography as we know it faster than we expect.

    Take care, and vist me in Caracas at my blog (Digital Camera Adventures) now in english and spanish. DPS is my inspiration and now, after 4 years of work, I am finally geting a decent audience number.

    Regards

    Leo

  • Ivan Lonan

    March 10, 2012 12:04 am

    for the seconds moments automatically we only can use our "feeling" to take photos
    100 % i agree with Bruce
    BUT..
    for the photo studios or the moment we have to set or we can direct, that's we use our "thinking" process to take photos
    100 % i don't agree with Bruce
    SO..
    it depends on the moment you want to take..

  • Rob Norton-Edwards

    February 21, 2012 12:01 am

    My two pence: every photograph has to have both elements to it. The thinking may already have been done for those 'throw the camera up and shoot' ones - i.e. you have the settings already done for the conditions, lighting, expected subject - but you have done some thinking. The feeling, perhaps instinct is the right word, comes from the desire to take THIS shot NOW. That instinct will be honed over time.

    However, the feeling that really matters is the feeing that the image evokes in the viewer. What I was feeling when I shot it, and perhaps the feeling I want to convey, is irrelevant when it comes to what the viewer sees and feels. If the photograph makes them feel something - anything - then it is powerful. If they feel what I was trying to make them feel with the image, then I have done a great job!

    As for Bruce Gilden, I'm afraid I don't subscribe to his approach at all. I'm of the opinion he didn't 'feel' any of those images, by the way. He just went through a process of 'there is an unusual character' then ambushed them and got in their face and took a pretty random shot. There was no time for composition or technique in most of the shots I saw in the video. Sure, you get faster with practice, and he got a number of good images, but there's a fair bit of luck there - combined with a superb camera and pre-settings.

    He says he's been shooting in Haiti and other troubled places. Imagine if you had just come through a pretty horrific experience (earthquake, war, flood, whatever) and your life, family, livelihood or future were hanging by a thread. There you are, clutching onto the last vestiges of your sanity and hope, when this guy jumps out at you and takes a shot and flashes you right in your face. What would it take for someone in trauma to snap?

    No, I don't agree with the method at all. It's intrusive, rude, aggressive ... and probably downright dangerous for both the subject and the photographer.

  • Pavol Timko

    February 20, 2012 10:58 pm

    I use feeling a lot even when I take landscapes. Beside some basic skills and rules I reveal sometimes at home why the picture was just right. At the very instant I didn't know analytically what is there but I felt it and in post production I can see the reasons why it caught my eye in the first place.

    However I don't like his style of bothering people. Golden rule says - don't do to others, if you don't want them to do the same to you and I can imagine many people would object to his style of taking pictures.

    This could be a theme for a film. Such a photographer would take a photo of a criminal who will chase him after. Or what about taking a photo of a hidden and protected witness after change of his identity?

    No, I don't think it is such a good idea.

  • paxbell

    February 19, 2012 04:53 am

    Of course there times one has to think and times one feels it. But if one does not think first, the quantity, beats quality ,syndrome is going to take over. When a Jackalbuzzard comes screaming in for a pheasant................ .the trigger goes down hammering 8 frames a second, the feeling is their......., praying that it is on auto focus, hoping that the shutter speed is hyper fast because one is shaking so much that even the stabilizers are confused. What a feeling adrenalin hypeing you up.as you get your breath back and want to start chimping it is then you see the lens cap still on . MAN i THINK" thinking comes first"

  • Alejandro

    February 18, 2012 03:56 pm

    I agree that photography is a feeling process but I disagree that it is NOT a thinking process. In my experience, photography can be either or both. As a form of art, it may demand a level of feeling from the artist. As much as it is an art, however, it is also a science. As such, it can also require the scientist to think about what he or she is doing. In practicing photography, I have found myself both thinking and feeling. It is when I can balance the two that I am able to produce the best of my work.

  • dolkar tsering

    February 17, 2012 10:38 pm

    I have been learning a lot from Digital photography School. I am very passionate about photography . I have been subscribing digital photography lesson since 2 month and this really helps me learning more and more about photography. Infact, more than what i gained from my photography teacher.

  • Devesh Kataria

    February 17, 2012 03:58 pm

    What I understand is....thinking is kind of a 'by default process but feeling is something that does not come always. You might keep moving around with your gear to look for a frame out of many surrounding you, but till the time you get that appeal or spark or 'feel' coming from inside that yes this should not be missed, you don't click with your heart. you generally try to express feelings with your photograph. those expressions are priceless.

  • TA

    February 17, 2012 12:46 pm

    I'm still kinda new at photography, and I have a lot to learn. After watching the video I felt like he had stolen something from his subjects, kinda like photographic assault. If he had put that flash in my face I probably would have clobbered him with my purse! Maybe that's the feeling he's going for...

  • Gazza

    February 17, 2012 11:27 am

    I consider that there is one axiom in life that is: that in all walks of life, sport and past-times is all the best performers make the time to consider and think of the best option. Many do this almost subliminally, but they do it, and therefore they are the best because of that.
    It appears to me that Bruce does not understand himself that he has in fact thought of all the aspects that make a good photograph.
    I unfortunately don't do this automatically because I have come to photography somewhat later in life, I am getting better and that is because there are some aspect which i do and I don't have to give consideration to because I have assessed them without knowing about it. because I have thought about them so often when starting out and getting to know what is right.

  • Leroy Skalstad

    February 17, 2012 06:23 am

    I have always though of photography as a left brain/right brain technical/creative pursuit. When a camera is set to auto/bracket everything one can be more incined to shoot with instictive abandon and may show something of their inner soul in the process... My skeptical side ponders if folks who shoot like this get far to much credit for their work. I could put a camera in timed mode on a stray dog and still get something intersting

  • marty

    February 17, 2012 05:10 am

    There's another perspective to take on the "feeling" side of the equation, which is intuitive. The distinction each of us may make between these two concepts I think may reflect the amount of "thinking" that has been put into the entire photographic process. I also will take almost any shot when the scene/object/etc. calls out to me. At this time, I try to think about the image only as far as I can to try to identify BRIFLY what graphic element is attracting me, so that I can adjust the scene to highlight (usually cropping) it.

    It's only after I review the image (now on the monitor, previously the light box) that I attempt to really analyze it. I think that after one puts in enough hours of after-the-image analysis, we internalize it so it becomes "intuitive" This doesn't remove feeling from the equation, but that's another aspect.

  • iamaiman

    February 17, 2012 05:06 am

    Firstly, a photographer will take a photo only when he feels something to what he/she sees. So its not a question, whether u feel or think, its a question, whether u are guided by ur feel only or by also ur thinking?

    Then, for snapshot takers, its a question of feeling only, he/she does not think whether the image can convey the same feeling to the viewers or not. After that there are serious photographers, who tries to think before releasing the shutter bcz they want to capture a good image, at last come that group of photographers, who are gifted or well-experienced enough so that they can be guided by their feeling to capture a good photo bcz the thinking process are ingrained in their subconscious by experience that they can easily guided by their ''feelings that this is the right frame or right light or right compo.

    So, to me the answer is, both are necessary for a stand out photo! Thanks

  • Charles Mackay

    February 17, 2012 04:26 am

    'Feeling' may lead you to nice composition and a photograph with good potential impact, however 'thinking' is what gets the technical bit right (f-stop, exposure time, focal length, ISO setting etc).

  • Lee

    February 17, 2012 03:52 am

    I understand his point regarding “it’s not a thinking process” – I’m very much right and left brain and I think the artist in my see’s and reacts. The technician in me has prepared me to (hopefully) capture that great moment in time before it gone while I’m trying to figure out f-stop, shutter, metering etc. that pare should be second nature because you understand how to capture an image and know your equipment. When you have time to “think” about an image you should – often you simple see it and react.

  • Marco

    February 17, 2012 03:46 am

    Part of the reasons for such varied answers is that different types of photography require completely opposite techniques. I think that street photography is much like wildlife photography and sports photography, in that you put yourself in a likely environment and react to the opportunities presented. Fashion photography and portrait photography have a specific subject in a controlled environment so attention to details require a lot of thinking while shooting. I find myself in a similar mode when shooting landscapes, seascapes, etc. There I have the time to examine angles, lighting, and other details since the "landscape" will not run away if it sees me.

  • Mark Stanley-Adams

    February 17, 2012 03:38 am

    Just two related thoughts on the subject...
    1. Why does it have to be one or the other?
    2. Great photos demonstrate both in some or other balance.

  • Marco

    February 17, 2012 03:37 am

    As a wildlife photographer, I find that shooting in the field is mostly instinctual. It is rapid fire, grab what you can get while an animal presents itself in range of your position. There is very little time to think about settings and technical details until after a series of shots. Then you may review the histograms and adjust your settings for the next opportunity. However having said that, a lot of thinking goes into planning a days trip. The details of where you are going, what you expect to find, the best way to conceal yourself, and a lot of little details like drive settings, camera mode, etc happen in advance of the trip. You also spend a lot of thought in the editing as to how to present what you caught in its best presentation. I don't remember who said it, but I kind of remember a quote that "success if often a lot of luck, but the luck happens more often for those who are prepared to receive it." So I plan and think a lot before the shoot and after the shoot, but the shoot itself is more feeling than thought. Another key to remember is to be flexible and take any opportunity that presents itself. You may be after eagles, but don't miss the coyote that steps into range when you are not expecting it! One other thing that makes this all possible is the necessity of scouting new locations so you have places that you can plan trips too. It is very much luck on the scouting trips because you could not fully prepare in advance not knowing what you are likely to find (if anything).

  • Colin Wollerman

    February 17, 2012 03:29 am

    I ran out of time to read all the post so I might be repeating this but for me they are connected;

    The way I feel affects the way I think.

    I understand the "react" mind-set and that his comment was more about the moment. Most of his thinking was/is done as he steps out the door. He is prepared to react.

    I am sure it takes a certain amount af mental and technical preparation, no matter what the skill level, to allow one to open the mind, to be prepared for the moment of reaction...right?

  • Philippa Heydenrych

    February 17, 2012 02:22 am

    I disagree with Bruce.
    I think that the thinking behind a photograph is what evokes an emotion from the viewer. If you see something that "feels" like something to yourself, you cant simply pick up your camera, shoot and miraculously have an image worthy of sending to National Geographic (for example). Photography is a creative outlet and however you tweak your white balance, ISO, aperture or shutter speed will affect your image's mood, tone and atmosphere, ultimately affecting how and even what the viewer feels when looking at your image.

  • Greg

    February 15, 2012 01:50 am

    I believe the thinking part is everything leading up to the actual photo. You think about settings, lighting, framing, etc but you feel the actual picture and visualize it before the shutter click. I think there is feeling in the post processing part as well. When you tweek the settings and you get that "wow" feeling that you nailed a picture.

  • Mary

    February 14, 2012 06:50 pm

    I understand exactly what he is saying with this quote, but believe he must have a tremendous amount of skill; probably earned through countless hours of practice to be able to create such powerful images in such an instinctive way.

    I find as I move through the natural world I am constantly filled with intense emotion by what I see around me. My goal in photography is to be able to portray those emotions in my images. But I understand it will take many hours of practice and thought before I am able to do so in an instinctive way.

    Thanks for the great quote.

  • Scottc

    February 14, 2012 11:01 am

    I don't thinks it's "feeling versus thinking". Certainly recognizing a photographic opportunity that evokes emotion is important but there is a thinking process behind that and the technicals of capturing it.

    Sounds like this could be better summed up as "experience and expertise" rather than "thinking versus feeling".

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5794645246/

  • Jeremy Skupien

    February 14, 2012 09:00 am

    Thinking is how you take the shot. Feeling is why you take the shot.

  • OnyxE

    February 14, 2012 03:48 am

    I think photography style depends a lot on individual personality as well as your favorite subjects. Today it also depends on how techy a person is. I really don't consider the beautiful photos done in Lightroom etc with all the effects photography. It's creative and beautiful but when it's not accomplished with a camera alone it's not photography. I've seen photos done of my own city that are so full of effects the places are virtually unrecognizable. I think that's fake and if I was a traveller who came here because of the photos I had seen I'd be royally ticked at some photographers!

  • goggin

    February 14, 2012 01:59 am

    I think it all depends on a person's approach when the "thinking" and "feeling" take place. For some photographers, the thinking is in the shooting stage: the location, or set-up, or subjects. I taught with a photographer who does amazing wildlife and landscape shots, he thinks about the locations and vantage points, and then treks out to those spots as many days as he needs to to get all the elements to fall into place (sun, clouds, animals, etc.) He's a thinker and planner, but if the elements don't fall together in a way he feels is right, he'll pack up and try another day. For others they shoot on instinct, and the thinking comes in the editing, and how the photograph can be shown, paired with other images, cropped, etc. I think about what I'm trying to say with my photographs, but I shoot on instinct (I do a lot of street work,) and then I do the lion's share of my thinking in the editing process, about how the images work to get my point across.

    Neither way is right or wrong, and I think that there are as many other mixtures of "thinking" and "feeling" as there are creatives...we are thinking and feeling creatures after all.

  • Dakota Visions Photography

    February 13, 2012 04:37 pm

    I think each photograph has a voice - and no matter what you do with that photograph, the voice should not fall silent. Here are our images for thoughtful discussion today. They are the fallen, but not forgotten. http://www.seeyoubehindthelens.com/2012/02/weekly-photography-challenge-f-fallen.html

  • Kapil Suvarna

    February 13, 2012 04:15 pm

    I think I fall in ‘it’s not a thinking process’ Cat. But having said this, while shooting I try to do "think and convey" and I get 80 : 20 success ratio, which I need to work on.

  • Raghav

    February 13, 2012 02:31 pm

    Wow really compelling shots those from Bruce Gilden!!!

  • JohnP

    February 13, 2012 01:31 pm

    Brave man, Bruce Gilden! I think because I mainly am into travel photography I tend to more "feel" the people shots as I come across them rather than think too much about them. Don't know if that is a good thing in all cases though.

  • Alexis Duncan

    February 13, 2012 12:42 pm

    I was trained as an artist as well as a photographer. In any artistic endeavor, mere feeling ends up in a general mess. The technique must be mastered first. Then, the technique becomes second nature and requires no further thought. Only then can you rely on feeling. The two combined produce great images.

  • Matt Dutile

    February 13, 2012 11:20 am

    As with most things, the best results come at the intersection of thought and intuition. I think Apple taught us that lesson pretty well.

  • Jaymer

    February 13, 2012 05:54 am

    Unless you're a pro-photographer selling images for a specific project, then I think it's up to you as an individual.

    Don't let anyone influence you in terms of what is right and wrong. Shoot for yourself, who cares if anyone else likes it. If you love it then that's all that matters. Sometimes you shoot because you feel, sometimes you shoot something that's staged. Photography is what ever YOU want it to be.

    Do learn how to use your camera and good techniques. People are getting too technical or philosophical about something as simple as learning how to capture a moment YOU feel is worth shooting. Who cares what other people think is right or wrong. Whether you need to feel a shot or think it out. If the moment triggers a snap from your camera, and the end results of the photo speaks to you. Than it's a great photo. Period.

  • bycostello

    February 13, 2012 05:38 am

    for sure, you first lean and think about photography and then once u get good u feel it...

  • London wedding photographer

    February 13, 2012 03:17 am

    Having that special spark makes a photograph stand out! Technical side will only take you so far.

  • Rebecca W

    February 12, 2012 11:26 pm

    You can only 'feel' your way in sports after hours of practicing and perfecting technique. It's when the 'thinking' has become second nature that you can take whatever you are doing to the next level.

    That said, there are people in every field who are exceptionally talented and can 'feel' before they have much training. But to truly be there best, even they must learn and practice the technicals.

  • Wm. Reed Lovick

    February 12, 2012 10:00 pm

    Seconds after viewing the images and pondering his statement I realized I'm just like him. Further... it wasn't a thought, but a reaction. This guy has nailed the cameras drive with his words. Good post!

  • Steve

    February 12, 2012 08:54 pm

    For those having a problem watching the video (just a black screen appears), here is another link that should work.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc1RrQXidlY

  • Martin Stepka

    February 12, 2012 07:56 pm

    Learning photography is like learning to ride a bicycle (or any other activity). First you have to think. Focus to stir, do not stop pushing the pedals, look in front of you to see the road and obstacles and there are the traffic rules... It is too many things at once and it is overwhelming. Do you remember the feeling? But in a couple of years you ride a bicycle and do not give it a single thought. You appreciate the country or think what you are going to do when you get where you are heading to.

    I do not see a reason why it should be different with photography. When you learn it, it is thinking, it is making mistakes, rethinking and practicing. Slowly, with the time, it becomes automatic and you do not have to think about it as much - it becomes your second nature.

    You can feel, when you have thought and practiced enough, otherwise it is pure luck. I suspect Mr. Gilden forgot his beginnings or choses not to speak about them. I doubt he was born with the feeling. He got further then some of us, because of his talent and amount of practice he went through. Now for him the ride might seem like nothing. We still have to think about the pedals and rules and the road...

  • Mei Teng

    February 12, 2012 07:47 pm

    I am more a 'feeling type of photographer' than a thinking one.

  • John

    February 12, 2012 05:48 pm

    I would have to say it's not as simple as either/or. There is no doubt that technical skills, knowledge, and the ability to craft an image is essential. However, there has to be a point where you stop the conscious thinking and trust in your abilities. Greatness comes from the ability to flip that switch.

  • wotsupdoc

    February 12, 2012 05:25 pm

    I take 2 kinds of pictures: there are th pictures that I "find" and there is no thinking involved, I see a great shot and I MUST take it.
    Then there is the "concept" picture. I have a concept, a story I want to tell, this involves thinking and planning

  • Isoterica

    February 12, 2012 02:33 pm

    Bruce isn't speaking of technical skill-- that is assumed. He's speaking of emotion. If a scene draws your eye, invokes feelings in you, then in the capturing of that scene those people you share your photos with should be equally moved just as you were when taking it. If a scene does not stir you to passion then why take a photo of it? Ultimately it's all about capturing the moment. That's all he is saying. Practice will make you a good photographer, add heart and you'll be an even better one.

  • raghavendra

    February 12, 2012 01:17 pm

    Feeling plays a role in photography.
    Showing the emotions in a portrait or in action photographs

    mine
    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.in/2012/02/true-love-of-puppy.html

  • michael mckee

    February 12, 2012 12:42 pm

    I'm signing up with the majority here. Thinking comes first: first in technique and knowledge of tools, first in goals and expectations, first in planning. After that, photos taken without emotion will seldom elicit emotion in the viewer, so emotion is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient in photos that will move us.

  • Jai Catalano

    February 12, 2012 12:32 pm

    By the way the video was a real waste of time. It isn't working and appears to have been broken for some time. I wish you would have caught that before posting this.

  • Jai Catalano

    February 12, 2012 12:29 pm

    It's what works for him. It's so in him he has a gift. That doesn't mean one should stop thinking when they take photos.

  • Martin

    February 12, 2012 10:43 am

    I'll have to add to what's been said above. As I've looked at my own progression in the past year, thinking is definitively an important aspect of photography. It's what you need to learn in order to make what you see in front of you into an image that matches the feeling you have.

    Like Bruce said, it's like an athlete hitting the field, but how many hours of practice did it take to make all of those moves instinctual?

  • hubblefromthesun

    February 12, 2012 10:12 am

    First, the feeling one has may not easily translate into a photograph. Photographs are limited in comparison to your senses in taking in a scene whether it is scenic or an event. Thinking helps to create a picture that can best capture that feeling and to allow a sense of that to the viewer. So they are both intertwined.

    It also helps to have experience so that thinking can almost become instinctual due to thinking similarly before. It is sort of like knowing what settings to try off the bat.

  • Jeff E Jensen

    February 12, 2012 08:53 am

    So, here's my thoughts on the subject. I have a couple of kids that love to tag along with me when I'm out shooting. I set them up with one of my backup cameras and let them shoot. They are free to shoot as they please. I'm always amazed at some of the fantastic images that they come home with. It occurred to me that part of the reason that they do so well is that they don't over-think things. They just shoot. That being said, they also come home with tons of not-so-good images. Like most photographers, the more they shoot, the better their keep rate becomes. It's because they are putting more thought into the process. I think it is really a balance of both, you have to put some thought into your process and your vision, but you also have to feel an image. When you have the right balance between the two, magic happens :o)

    Here's some shots that my son took recently:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2011/10/peters-work.html

  • dok

    February 12, 2012 08:41 am

    One thing for sure, in my case the thinking part happens really often after the shot when working on it on the computer. A bit more often after than before. Does that make me a "feeling" photographer or a some kinda lucky one ?

  • MikeC366

    February 12, 2012 07:56 am

    personally I think,and feel, that you cannot have one without the other. Every photograph taken is done so on a feeling that, "this is the moment", {{click}}... However there is always thinking behind the feeling. Where is the best position? Am I likely to get any action on this street, or the one over from here? What time of the year and day, will be the best time to photograph this lake and mountains. The thinking comes with experience, but the knowing, the knowing that this is the moment, this is the shot, press the shutter now. That knowing, is but a feeling.

    Again personally I'm the worlds best proponent of feeling the moment. However my thinking very often lets me down. Not always though. Sometimes, it just clicks.

    Here is one of those moments when the feeling was just right, but my thinking (camera shake/settings) let me down.

    I's the shot of the lion next to the housing estate: http://wp.me/p268wp-91

    Mike.

  • The Girl Behind

    February 12, 2012 07:51 am

    Totally agree that a really great photo is one that elicits feeling - but I also think there's a fair amount of thinking to be done too.

    I'd liken it to learning to play a musical instrument - everyone has to go through that process of learning the scales and the exercises, and everyone has to do the thinking as part of their learning. Great musicians are those who are able to go on and make music that makes people feel.

    And so it is for just about any art-form I can think of. I don't think photography's any different.

    (I'm an absolute beginner, so I'm just getting my head around the 'thinking' parts right now).

  • Emily

    February 12, 2012 07:21 am

    I completely agree with Bruce.

    Sure, it helps to know how to frame a shot well and how tuning certain settings on your camera will change the photograph, but in the end what attracts a viewer to a photograph is that undefinable spark that attracts them to it for whatever reason. I like to see photos that evoke *something* in me, and I try my hardest to do the same when I am taking them.

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