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Photography from the Heart and Head

In my opinion, a bridge exists between the heart and the head in photography, just as it does in many other areas of life. I use “bridge” rather than a word like “battle” because they aren’t really at odds with each other. They’re just two parts of the photographic process.

In other words, the decisions you make every time you take a picture range from spontaneous (the heart) to meticulously planned (the head). Both are important if you want to take powerful photos.

The Heart

As a photographer, some objects you see in the world will interest you more than others. Which ones? That depends on you. No two people will have the same answer.

Often, this is subconscious anyway – having something draw your attention. (I even considered calling this article “Photography from the Subconscious and Conscious,” but it didn’t have the same ring.) You’re walking along with a camera, and a subject catches your eye. You’ve taken a photo before you know it.

That’s all heart. Heart is the broad stroke of photography – the inspiration, whatever it was, that led you to take a picture in the first place.

The Head

The other side of photography involves conscious decision-making. The most obvious example is picking your camera settings, which requires at least some level of thought in order to do properly.

But there’s more to it than that. My mantra in photography is simple: ask questions. Look at the scene in front of you and make certain that you’re capturing it as well as possible. Are your camera settings optimal? Is your composition balanced? Do you even want a balanced composition in the first place? Why?

These decisions are part of the head. It’s the detail-oriented side of photography – turning your inspiration into a tangible, successful photo.

Which One Should You Work On?

As I said at the beginning of this article, heart and head in photography are not at odds with one another. The situation isn’t, “my heart wanted the photo to look one way, even though my head told me it was a bad idea.” It’s more, “my heart liked this subject, and my head figured out how to photograph it.”

In other words, you should try to improve both. Improvement in one does not come at the expense of the other.

Here are some signs that you should devel