Learning to See Creatively

Photography Book Review

Learning to See Creatively is an excellent book. It makes difficult ideas seem easy and can help to make a really big difference to the quality of the photographs you take.

It does not matter whether you have a great camera or a basic one. The key to taking great photos is how you compose your photos and how you use light. Whilst there are plenty of books on the mechanics of cameras and how they work it is a lot harder to find a book that helps you along with these two critical areas.

Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson covers both composition and how you can use available light to squeeze the most out of any scene. The book runs to 160 pages and includes plenty of easy to understand examples. Over the years I have read plenty of books on various photography subjects, but out of all of them this is the book I think is the best. There is an incredible amount of information crammed in and hardly a word goes to waste.

Learning to See Creatively


The book is broken down into six sections plus the index. Almost all the key information is contained in the first four sections. The sections are as follows:

Expanding Your Vision

To get started Bryan runs through an explanation of how we see. By page 17 he has introduced a series of eye exercises that could well change the way you see scenes. These on their own are likely to make a noticeable impact on your photos.

This section also covers five different types of camera lens and how to match each type to the different photo opportunities you are likely to encounter.

Elements of Design

Once you have learnt about how to see subjects from a new perspective Bryan moves on to discuss how to use the different elements of a scene to maximum effect. Areas discussed under elements of design include line, shape, form, texture, pattern and colour. I found this section of the book gives you plenty of food for thought. After reading it you are likely to find yourself going out with your camera and actively looking for striking examples to capture with your camera.


You may already be aware of design principals such as the rule of thirds, but Bryan takes these concepts further than you usually find in books. In this instance he goes on to discuss the best third to place your subject. This is the best area to position your subject to ensure anyone viewing your photo is drawn towards it. Suggestions on how to avoid losing a viewer's attention by avoiding any exit points in your photos can make a significant difference to the success or otherwise of your photos.

Also covered in this section are filling the frame, no horizon, diagonals, frame within a frame, horizontal vs vertical, picture within a picture, working your subject and breaking the rules.

The Magic of Light

If your photos lack that something extra you see in photographs taken by professionals then there is a good chance it is down to the way you are using light. In this part of the book Bryan talks you through using available light, the direction light is coming from and how this can impact your photos and the colour of light. In addition these is also a section giving you photography ideas for overcast and rainy days.

Digital Photography

Running to 10 pages this is a brief section. The key point of interest here is likely to be the way Bryan uses photo imaging software.

Career Considerations

The book finishes off with another short chapter discussing photography as a career.

Who is the Book For?

Although this book is a great starting point for anyone who is new to photography I think there is so much in this book it is also an ideal read for anyone who is looking for new ideas or would like to freshen up their eye and add a new slant to their photos.


Compared to other books I have read on composition this book is written a little differently. I found it really got under skin of the subject. Even if you are just starting out with a camera you are likely to find Learning to See Creatively easy to understand. The way the book flows and connects different subjects works well.

What I Really Liked

I like the fact that Learning to See Creatively is easy to understand for someone just starting out, yet has enough ideas and information to appeal to the more experienced photographer.

Where It Could Be Better

That's a difficult one. Perhaps the section on photo imaging software could be expanded.


Learning to See Creatively As I mentioned at the start it is hard to find books that can really make a difference to the way you see scenes. This book does exactly that. I sat down and read it in one session with a notebook and pen by my side. Not only did I find it an enjoyable read, but the number of notes I made while reading underlines the fact that this book has a great deal of useful information.

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