For as much photographic information and experience as I have under my belt, there is one thing I can’t teach you: vision. How you see the world and how you want to express that to others is something entirely personal to you, and something only you can develop and nurture.
When I talk about vision or “your eye,” I am really describing how you feel about what you see when you are making pictures. When I teach photography, I can help students understand how to translate their vision into an image, but I can’t give them the vision. In some ways, in fact, teaching students the “rules” of composition is really just teaching them to copy other photographers.
An excellent example of different visions expressing the same scene is when my wife Abby and I shoot together, which we both love more than almost anything else we do as a couple. Sometimes we shoot commercial jobs for local businesses, sometimes we shoot magazine images together, and sometimes we travel. Recently we worked the Miss Oklahoma Scholarship Pageant together.
Through all of this, each of us brings a unique vision to our imaging, and we almost always get different images while shooting the same scene, often standing right next to each other. I like this because it keeps my images from getting stale; Abby sees the scene in a fresh way, and brings that to our cadre of images.
When I learned to fly some years ago, one axiom in aviation I liked is that your pilot certificate is a “license to learn.” When I am done teaching a photography class, I hope I have given my students that license.