The challenge of visualisation


How important do you think visualisation is for one’s artistic work?

I read in several articles that visualisation is vital to art and I thought about it many times. In dictionaries, visualisation is defined as “the act of forming a picture of somebody or something in your mind”. Does that mean that to create art you need to be able to imagine the picture of what you want to achieve? The final result?

I believe there are painters who look at an empty canvas and see a masterpiece. I believe there are photographers who look at a model and see an artistic portrait. I believe there are sculptors who look at scrap metal or a piece of wood and see a sculpture. But what the rest of us, are we out of the game?

I think so and I think not and I will explain what makes me feel this way.

I believe that visualisation is a powerful tool and people who are gifted with it will always be a step (or a league) before the others. Visualisation gives wings to ideas and plans. Visualisation helps one to be better prepared, to have the necessary equipment and knowledge at hand.

I believe that to some degree, the skill of visualisation can be acquired by experience and practice; the more you know, the more you can imagine.

Also, you may not see the whole picture right away but you can get some promising ideas, you can see something in the scene that you can’t define right away but that makes you focus on possibilities, you can feel something you want to express so you start experimenting… and the process of creating takes you to a result that grew from that little seed of perception.

I am no artist but trying to be a better photographer puts all these thoughts into my way. In my photography efforts, most of the times I do not see the final image beforehand, just something that triggers my attention.

Let’s have a look at the opening image in this post. I didn’t see that result when I was looking at the scene. My hubby and I were in Pilsen, looking for some geometry for our photo project and on our way back to the car we were crossing a foot bridge over the river next to that bigger bridge. The foot bridge was narrow and moving with every step, the light was already fading and we were tired and ready to go home but something in the scene made me ask my hubby to stay for a while so that I could have a look through my camera and take a photo or two.

Here is the RAW photo of the opening image, straight out of the camera:

It’s RAW so the photo is not sharpened, has little contrast and the colours are a bit off. Overall, the photo doesn’t look much appealing. But I learned not to underestimate the RAW format, so I started to adjust lights and shadows and contrast and all that stuff that needs to be done and I got this result:

Much better, don’t you think, but in my opinion it was too HDR looking which I wasn’t aiming for so I decided to go a step further and sent the image to Nik plug-in. With the help of its presets and settings I created the opening image and that was the final image for me. I don’t know how about you, but I love it.

And here we are back at the visualisation issue. I was not able to visualise a result like that beforehand but I saw/felt/perceived certain potential in the scene that made me stop and eventually lead me to the result. In other words, I may never be able to fly but I can see the world from a few inches higher if I try… and that is something to be grateful for.



  1. most wonderful post and interesting question … myself, I don’t have much of a picture in mind when I start an art project but a vague idea and then I start to play. I do think I use that skill when it comes to other areas of life, however.

    That is a top notch job with your photography!

    1. Susan, thank you for the praise and for sharing how visualisation works for you. I can almost imagine you touching the skin and beads and buttons you are using, feeling them and letting them show you the way… result of which is another unique bag! 🙂

  2. I’m not at all able to visualize something that isn’t right in front of me. But I just read an article by a photographer who talked about the benefits of the practice. As to your photograph of the bridge, your edits definitely brought the RAW image to life. The sky, especially, was very flat in the original; and it’s very dramatic in the final edit. Well done!

    1. Linda, thank you. The dramatic sky adds to the picture, I agree. You know, that is what I like about RAW, that when properly exposed, you have so much data that you can tweak them in many interesting ways without damaging the image. As for the practice, I think it’s beneficial in many ways… and getting better at visualisation is no exception.

  3. Beverly

    This is amazing! Your theme of visualization and how we use it. I rely on it for all of my creativity processes. You’ve written a fascinating description and process! I learn something every time I visit your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Your final image is beautiful!

  4. Its a great finished article Petra. I think you are right about experience and practice helps a lot, but I still think also that you either have an eye for a shot or you don’t. That part of photography is natural and you just can’t learn it. Yes you can be taught and learn a lot about photography and using the equipment and produce good results most of the time especially with modern equipment, but you still need that something extra natural ability to pull off something special.

    1. Roy, thank you. I absolutely agree with how you summarised it here. Though all of us can learn and improve, you need to have that natural gift to create something extra… For someone it may not sound good enough but it’s the way it works. I guess, the most efficient way is to have a flair and develop it by practice, then the results must be extra special!

  5. Both a present and past circumstance immediately came to mind, Petra, while reading this post, neither having to do with photography, interestingly.

    The present is about my coloring each week. I often will start with one color that I like and will start imagining what other colors will look like in the design. In fact, sometimes in bed, when I can’t sleep, a color choice will come to mind, and I follow with it the next day, with satisfaction.

    In the distant past, I made sports jackets for my then husband, when polyester fabrics were first taking the scene. I could go into a fabric store with him and pick out a fabric/design that I could instantly translate into a sports jacket in my mind’s eye…but he couldn’t. He never knew what to say except to trust me.

    It’s interesting how these things happen. Sometimes it’s just there. Other times it takes lots of attempts to find the results that look “right” or are pleasing to the eye. It’s fun, isn’t it!

    1. Ginnie, thank you for sharing your point of view. Visualisation doesn’t apply just to photography and the circumstances you’ve mentioned are great examples of the variety. I agree, sometimes it’s just there while other times it’s an adventurous journey to arrive at the destination. Interestingly enough, both results can be equally good…

  6. Nice job with your manipulations! I also like shooting RAW when I have time, but it’s more work later. Still, RAW is not as labor intensive as darkroom photography. I did so much of that as a teen, that I could see the world in black and white.

    1. Sarah, thank you. I agree, RAW means more work later and also, it may be a process that is not easy to go through… Sometimes jpeg is good enough, although the more I work with RAW, the less convinced I am about it. I’m grateful for the “digital darkroom” we can use nowadays! 🙂

  7. This is a wonderful post and a great picture. I stopped taking pictures in RAW, I do a little manipulation also to lack of time, maybe next year when I stop working, or let me say, the company is closing this location and I have no job, on my age, that is ‘forced’ retirement…..I will have more time on my hands. Looks is important, a picture should have ‘it’….. it might be personal how much one will change it..

    1. Astrid, thank you, I’m pleased you found the post interesting. I agree, processing photos in RAW is time consuming… They say that RAW is a must if you want to achieve higher photography level but not everybody wants to sell their photos in galleries so if it’s easier and more practical to work with jpegs, why not?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *