The Importance of Pre-visualization

First of all, what is pre-visualization?

To help you understand the concept of pre-visualization, let me construct a simple scenario.

You’re in the living room of your lodge in Peru on a rainy day. As you sip on your cup of coffee, you start to think about the endless photographic possibilities in the Land of the Incas, also known as Machu Picchu. There’s the postcard picture, a panoramic view of the ruins, and then there are the unconventional compositions; close-up shots of the once-occupied city. You decide on the composition that you want to capture, but there’s more. You decide to check the weather forecast for the next day. Misty. Check. When does the sun rise? Time noted and alarm set. What is the best vantage point? Google Earth is your best friend. So now you’re all set. All you need to do is get to the right location, at the right time, and with the right equipment. Is that it? No, you still have to press the shutter button 🙂

In a nutshell, pre-visualization is envisioning a scene or composition in your mind before actually capturing the image.

Okay, it sounds like a lot of work but how does it help my photography?

Well, for starters, it helps you decide exactly what shot you want to capture so you don’t have to run around on location looking for compositions. It also enables you to pick the right equipment for the job so you won’t miss the decisive moment fumbling around with the lenses in your backpack. However, there’s another major benefit of pre-visualizing the image that you want to capture, particularly for nature photographers. By not having to rush to take the shot, you get to enjoy the scene in front of you. After all, how many times do we, as photographers, just set the camera aside and take in the beauty of nature?

So what you’re saying is that I should pre-visualize every image that I capture?

Not at all. In fact, I would encourage you to always be opportunistic. Nature can never be predicted with perfect accuracy and if the elements in your pre-visualized scene don’t align on a certain day, it may be the perfect opportunity to photograph something else. You could spend hours trying to pre-visualize a scene and it may, sometimes, take years for the various visual components to come together at the same time. This shouldn’t discourage you from trying to pre-visualize images, however, because once you do capture the magic moment, there’s absolutely no other feeling like it.

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