How to Pre-visualize, Shoot, and Edit a Landscape Photo

Knowing how to visualize a shot in your head before you take it is an important step in the creative process, else you're simply firing off shots and hoping for a good edit to come out of the process. This great video follows a landscape photographer from pre-visualization all the way to printed photo.

I think the biggest thing I overlooked when I got into landscape photography was the importance of pre-visualization. I would find a nice view or scene, frame up a shot, and go home with no idea of how I wanted to edit it. This caused my progress to stagnate for quite a bit, as I wasn't developing a vision, just coming home with some ok starting images and seeing where I could go from there. As Nigel Danson details in this great tutorial, your photos will get better the more you shoot to the creative vision you have in mind. Part of this is because what makes for a great scene to our eyes doesn't always make for a great photograph (and vice versa) and part of it is because you will develop a stronger personal style and know how to consistently shoot to further refine and augment your catalog. Give the video a watch to follow the process from start to finish.

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35 Comments

Michael Holst's picture

I always enjoy getting to see someone else's start to finish process. It helps to see things from a different perspective. I wouldn't shoot and edit that way personally but it gives me ideas about how I could make small changes in my the way I approach a photo even before I take my camera out of the bag.

Great post!

Anonymous's picture

His process is very similar to my own. One thing that can't be overemphasized is stepping away from your work for a while and revisiting it later. Even though I don't drink, I was wondering if the final image would have turned out differently had he stepped away to have a beer rather than a cup of tea. ;-)

nigel danson's picture

I don’t drink either! But if I did then not great I suspect!

Anonymous's picture

Nothing wrong with it but it's a different philosophy. Personally, I think editing the photo is the only way to re-create your experience. I'm not trying to show someone what it looked like. I'm trying to show them what it felt like.

Anonymous's picture

I didn't take it as being dismissive but as you know, I lean toward naiveté. :-)
I also like nature as it really is. But I don't think any photograph is nature as it really is. One is infinitely more complex than the other could ever possibly do any kind of justice.

Anonymous's picture

I have no idea what people think and, at my age, only occasionally what they say. :-)

Of course everyone has a different focus but, I experience the world through sights, sounds, smells, touch and even taste. And further, each of these sensations are constantly changing. To only consider vision is a poor substitute. Our brains, being the wonderful organs they are, can be enticed to create a shadow of sensations through clues provided by the others.
We should probably agree to disagree.

Robert Nurse's picture

"I'm not trying to show someone what it looked like. I'm trying to show them what it felt like."

What a statement! This, in my opinion anyway, IS what photography is and this is what I'm after in my work: conveying the feeling that I had as I stood looking at the scene.

Anonymous's picture

The specific words were mine but the sentiment is old and oft repeated. :-)

Robert Nurse's picture

I was going to ask if I could reference the sentiment on my website! :)

What's with the "PRE" visualize? You visualize. You don't 'visualize' before you 'visualize'.

Anonymous's picture

A few years back, I "puppy sat" for my sister. She has one of those little scrappy dogs and before he even arrived, I imagined a dramatic shot, similar to the Benji posters. In my mind's eye, the sky would be stormy, he would be standing on a cliff and a bit dirty. I didn't imagine him wearing a collar but my wife wasn't having that. Anyway, I watched the sky every day and when the time was right...
That, my friend, is pre-visualization.

Anonymous's picture

You don't agree with the term "pre-visualize" or you don't think it should be used in photography? In either case, one philosophy results in one kind of image, the other in another. Not right or wrong, just different.

Anonymous's picture

...and once right and wrong has been acknowledged, there's room for mercy; shades of gray, but not fifty! ;-)

Anonymous's picture

Remember what I said about people? We do. Well...some of us.

Anonymous's picture

I understand your general point but emotions are facts too. According to what you're saying, things like "love" and "altruism" don't exist. They're merely responses to hormones, released under certain circumstances, and the desire to continue your species. I can see the Hallmark card now, "I have a response conducive to cohabitation and/or procreation as a result of the pheromones you're exuding." Instead of flowers and hearts, there could be an Erlenmeyer and Florence flask, cuddling up together. ;-)

Anonymous's picture

They're two blades of a pair of scissors, one without the other is useless. Sounds like we agree. Sort of. :-)

Anonymous's picture

I was referring to "A focus on the truth also doesn't cancel out compassion."

Alex Cooke's picture

“Pre-visualization” is the proper term, aka the conceptualization of an idea or shot before the manifestation of said shot through the act of taking the picture. There’s a distinction between pre-visualization and visualization in the arts.

Anonymous's picture

I have a dictionary too, Bob. It is Bob, right? :-)

Anonymous's picture

Stupid or not, those who use it know what is meant and that's the purpose of communication.
Again – sorry, I'm a romantic – the physical heart isn't where emotion comes from but nobody would know what you meant if you said your amygdala was malfunctioning.

Anonymous's picture

If we were lunatics in an asylum? Yes.

I would be the last person to say anything can mean anything. But I also give everything its due priority. The use of pre-visualization versus visualization doesn't deserve any time at all. My only purpose for engaging in this discussion is to divert from other activities, less enjoyable. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it.

My Bob question was referring to the fact, a lot of folks here use nom de plumes, including my favorite foil, and there's nothing wrong with that. But, it is using the wrong name, nonetheless, which you claim to be opposed to.

Anonymous's picture

Saying two related words can be used interchangeably or jargon can be substituted for a dictionary definition is hardly the same as saying "anything can mean anything."

In this case, photographers can be unreasonable (insane) in their pursuit of the perfect image so one needs go no further than this site to identify an asylum. :-)

Clearly, I'm not the only one who has no idea what others are thinking. You're getting close to calling me a liar. Please don't.

Anonymous's picture

While I, Merriem Webster, appreciate your frequent use of my work, please refrain from conflating specialized technical terms and dictionary definitions. I am not an encyclopedia.

Anonymous's picture

See #2

Anonymous's picture

Ah I see you are unaware of section 3c(1) of the definition of “wit”. Permit me to illuminate:

Anonymous's picture

I actually thought it was funny, someone would go to so much trouble to make a joke.

Anonymous's picture

Posting in your name is one thing. I have no use for liars! Creating a unique name is quite another. I love a good debate, either with you or you and I against others. I have no interest in people agreeing with me without adding a unique insight or perspective into the conversation. I love it when you or I can convince the other of a point's validity. If I concede to you more often, it's only because you're more stubborn than me. :-) Above EVERYTHING ELSE, if for no other reason than we all love photography, we should try to be friends, and smile, at the end of the most heated debate. :-)

Anonymous's picture

Posting, using someone else's name, is lying.

A debate is reserved for those situations where there is no truth or the truth is unknowable. In such discussions, the participants debate the merits of their position in an attempt to convince their opponent they're right. In formal debate there can be winners, losers or ties.

I agree. There's nothing inherently wrong with being stubborn. We agree again! :-D

I was referring to a theoretical debate, not this one.

Anonymous's picture

I don't care. Sheesh. My point was only, you use a pseudonym WHICH IS FINE but complain about people using words that aren't the precise meaning, and sometimes only one of many, that you choose.

In a formal debate, each side tries to win by successfully defending their position. There's scoring and everything.

So we don't agree there's nothing wrong with being stubborn. You didn't say that?

You really are stubborn, you know that right? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Man...I hate how narrow the comment boxes get after a while. :-(

Anonymous's picture

So if I say 1+1=2 and you say 1+1=2, I'm not allowed to say we agree?

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