Have you ever taken a painting and drawing class? Who has heard their instructor say ‘draw what you see and not what you think you see!’? After your first class you realize this is much easier said than done.
Many art students will draw a ‘still life’ that contains common items such as a
chair, a table, maybe some fruit, flowers etc. Here is when our mind
starts to deceive us - our minds already have pictures of tables,
chairs, fruit and flowers. As a novice we often start drawing the
images in our minds and not the objects in front of us.
We don’t see the negative space, the converging lines, the shadow, the light, etc. We attempt to draw some image in our head of what we think a chair should look like.And the end result? Poor. We are not drawing what we see.
So what has this to do with photography? Many people are asking “isn’t it weird to see the image upside down when using the Flipbac?”
Maybe for the first few minutes. But after that you will actually see much better. Things that you may have overlooked with stand out like a sore thumb: a sign, wires crossing the scene, distracting reflections, disheveled clothing, crooked glasses. All of these things might be quite acceptable, but the point is, the upside down image will force you to see these things. It will take the familiarity you have with the setting and you will start to see what is in front of you and not what is in your head. Your composition will improve.
Photographers who have used medium format cameras with waist level viewers will readily agree that even though they shoot fewer images their hit rate, their “keepers” are much higher. Why?
With these cameras, the photographer composes the photo by holding the camera at waist level and looking at a reflected upside down image. They naturally concentrate more on the composition and the result is better composed photos.
There are still many other facets that make a great photo, but I have found that the reflected “upside down” image has slowed me down and I look harder at the scene. My pictures become more than just snap shots and often have a better design. It prevents my mind playing games and I start truly seeing what is in front of me.
From: Jim F.
Hi, I was reading your "Head Games" article on drawing instructors and upside down images. I agree completely with your observations about how you "see" and compose images, however, your use of twin lens waist level finders is a bit misleading! On a medium format waist level finder, the image is reversed left to right, not top to bottom (upside down). Only view cameras do as you suggest and I have to say I much prefer composing upside down after getting used to it! On the subject of art instruction, check out "Learning to Draw on the Right Side of the Brain", by Betty Edwards. Her approach to instruction is to have students copy original drawings upside down to eliminate the "what-we-know vs what-we-see" syndrome. Great book, and I have often wondered how it plays to using a view camera!