Torrox Costa, Andalucia,

Many of you will be familiar with your camera/phone, but for those just starting out, there’s the gradual realisation that knowing the technicalities – and producing good images – are two different things…

Why is that? Well imagine standing in a beautiful valley for instance. Birds are singing and there’s the aroma of newly cut grass on the breeze. You can see mountains, fields, cottages, all of which change subtly as you move your eyes. With four of your five senses tingling, how on earth can you capture all that magic in a two-dimensional image?

Well, like musicians learning to listen and chefs learning to taste, for photographers, it comes down to “learning to see”.

But seeing is also very subjective. I’ve been to photography exhibitions and walked out thinking “what a load of rubbish”, but someone, probably the curator, saw something in them that they liked. So there’s no “rules” about whats good or bad, the conclusion rests solely with the viewer, and if the viewer can figure out why certain pictures appeal or not, it’s a step on the way to learning to “see”.

Back in my old student days (pre-internet) we’d plunder the college library for books by accomplished photographer. We’d study their techniques exhaustively and try to figure out what made them masters of their craft. Even copy them.

Books tend to be used less today, so I’ve made an arbitrary selection of photographs by three masters, Arnold Newman, Jay Maisel, Michael Kenna – and three phone pictures of my own for you to peruse. Just click on the first photograph to see them at a large size. Oh yes, each of the three names is a link to their websites if you would like to see more of their work.

The problem with looking at photographs on the internet however, is that the viewer tends to spend less time looking at them – probably because there’s so many. But for the sake of this first exercise try to study each image carefully. If it appeals, ask yourself what captured your eye? Is it the light? The subject? The composition? The colour? Or a combination of them? Or maybe something else?

It’s for you to choose, because your artistic likes and dislikes will have a strong bearing on your photography. It’s a very simple, but important stage, that most artists, photographers or painters go through. But if you have any question, don’t hesitate to get in touch.