Pack the Knives

eat & travel

Un-Developing a Critical Eye

Reading and following the guidelines of “The Photographic Eye: Learning to See with a Camera” by Michael F. O’Brien. 

All of the following are extracts from “The Photographic Eye: Learning to See with a Camera” by Michael F. O’Brien. 

Chapters 4 to 6

Photograph’s standards

  • Four basic factors determine a photograph’s standards: value, clarity, composition and presentation.
  • Value, in a photograph, concerns light—not price. Specifically, it refers to the range of light in the photo- graph: from black through shades of gray to white.
  • Clarity: the primary key to clarity is focus —not just whether or not the photograph is in focus, but whether it is correctly focused. There is a difference. In a correctly focused photograph, a subject may be either sharp or soft. With sharp focus, all edges are very clearly defined. With soft focus, the edges blur a bit. When something is out of focus, the edges blur more than they should. In addition to appropriate focus, clarity depends on an appropriate shutter speed and an appropriate degree of contrast between the subject and background.
  • The relation between the subject and background in a photograph has something to do with light and value, with line and with composition.
  • Presentation: the care and skill with which the final print has been produced.
  • Composition.


  • Line is not passive. Instead, it is a strong visual force that pulls the viewer’s eye around in a picture. Different kinds of lines ex- press different moods or emotions.
  • Line has three basic functions: pattern, direction and structure.
  • As pattern, line is often a photograph’s primary element. The lines themselves interact in some in- teresting way that is more important than any other elements within the frame. A photograph of buildings or cornfields or blades of grass is likely to emphasize pattern.
  • As direction, line helps the viewer’s eye travel around the picture. Visually, the lines say, “Go here. Look at that. Stop. Move on.” A photograph with many different kinds of objects especially needs strong direc- tions to help the viewer understand it. Without directing lines, the overall image can simply seem like chaos (which, of course, may be the photographer’s intention).
  • As structure, line divides a photograph into smaller areas, providing a skeleton to support the other elements and link them together. A strongly structured photograph will often seem to be several photographs in one. A photograph of several faces peeking out of windows is one example of this.

    Homework:  Patterns

    Your assignment is to find and shoot patterns. Any series of lines creates a pattern. Remember to keep your camera on the point of departure setting (f16 at 1/125 of a second), and to shoot in open sunlight.