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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57 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!

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!

Nothing wrong with "a record of that location." Nature is beautiful enough without having to alter it in Lightroom or Photoshop.

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.

Sure, but he was being dismissive of that kind of photography. Not everyone is looking to create art and fantasy. I happen to like nature as it really is.

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.

Of course he was being dismissive.

That nature is infinitely more complex than a 24 or 50MP image is a given. That said, it is not difficult to get a good
Iikeness of what nature looks like, especially these days.

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.

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'.

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.

I have to agree with Brigham. It's just another example of the way the English language has been butchered and misused, like pre-owned for used.

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.

I don't agree with the term and therefore it follows that I don't think it should be used anywhere.

The world, nature, the universe is filled with rights and wrongs.

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

Remember what I said about facts and the truth Sam? They don't care about such things.

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

People should not be swayed by emotions when discussing the truth and facts.

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. ;-)

The fact that emotions exist doesn't equal emotion being fact. Something factual can be expressed and addressed emotionally, but on its own emotion is nothing more than someone's feelings.

The pursuit of truth is impeded when emotions are considered and allowed to take precedence over reason.

As I've said before, the truth doesn't care about anyone's feelings. A society that puts feelings over the truth is one that will eventually self destruct.

A focus on the truth also doesn't cancel out compassion.

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

No, I don't agree with the things you have said on this matter.

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.

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

Since when did jargon become known for always making sense?

Full frame? Full frame what? Which is why I use the term 35mm digital.

Viewing at 1:1 is pixel peeping? Only if you are using something like a VGA monitor.

There's plenty more stupid jargon in photography.