Your Eyes VS the Camera

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By now you should be totally aware that what we see with our eyes and what the camera sensors' see is the light being reflected from a subject and back to you.

However there are some differences in how we see things, colors, shapes, textures and everything around us and how these same things are seen, thus captured by a camera sensor and translated into what we call a photograph.

To begin with our human eyes can actually distinguish or see about 10 million colors (if that's even possible) but science said they do. While the camera sensor, even in the most advanced digital cameras, can only distinguish about 3 colors (red, green & blue) but not by itself since a sensor is basically color blind.

In fact a filter is placed on top of the sensor that eliminates some colors that are not present in what the light that the subject is reflecting and the rest is what constitutes the final image. But digital cameras can also see or distinguish about 15 more shades of colors than our eyes can.

Human eyes sample the reflected light in a way that can be thought of as a time exposure, in a very quick way, usually a few tenths of a second when the light levels are high like during the daytime while with low light conditions, the eye's exposure to light can increase to several seconds.

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But don't fret. The modern digital cameras actually allow more light to be recorded by the sensor than our eyes actually could and that is why when we look at photographs we usually see then in a brighter light. They are brighter than if we were looking at the subject directly.

What our eyes see is sent to our brains which processes this information and generates a complete picture based on several factors, including past experiences.

Our brains fill in the voids and we see more of the subject that any camera would but the picture captured by the camera will be much brighter than our eyes could possible show us.

Keep in mind that we scan the subject, we look at its sides, up and down and directly at it, what's in front and in back while the camera only shows us whatever is facing the lens.

The human eye is an organ that reacts to light and has several purposes. As a sense organ, the mammalian eye allows vision. Rod and cone cells in the retina allow conscious light perception and vision including color differentiation and the perception of depth. The human eye can distinguish about 10 million colors.

Similar to the eyes of other mammals, the human eye's non-image-forming photosensitive ganglion cells in the retina receive light signals which affect adjustment of the size of the pupil, regulation and suppression of the hormonemelatonin and entrainment of the body clock. Wikipedia

In both instances your eyes would have seen more detail. Look how much detail/texture is missing in the image of the gorillas

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It would be unfair to think that any digital camera will ever be as good as our eyes in seeing light and interpreting it like it really is but understanding this is the basis for improving how you take pictures.

A camera will never be able to use our human experience and past knowledge to interpret an image so how you work the lens, camera and the surroundings is what gives the image its appeal.

Since you know that what you see is not really what you are going to see when you look at the final image makes you take more control of how you see a subject through the viewfinder.

You now begin to compose the shot better and include or exclude elements that may or may not aid in how the image finally looks. It makes you be more of a technician and more of an artist at the same time.

Our eyes would have seen this picture with more detail and a bit darker. See the moth?

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How you become a better technician? By knowing that your eyes take a few seconds to adjust in order to see a subject under low conditions then you now know that you also need to give the sensor more time to compose a better picture.

By knowing that your eyes look at the subject in various ways like up and down as well as directly you can now compose the shot to encompass some of the angles; instead of a straight facing picture you may add more elements that are on top of the subject for example.

By knowing that our eyes can only absorb a limited amount of light you now allow the camera to absorb as much light as it needs to show a clearer and sharper image keeping in mind that the camera sensor combination can absorb more light than we can.

To put it in perspective; if you came upon a white rabbit sitting on a filed full of snow your eyes will quickly distinguish where the rabbit ends and where the snow begins.

The same would be true if you saw a gorilla sitting in deep brush. You can distinguish what is what.

In comparison the camera sees everything in mostly whites or black tonalities and that is why when you come upon any of these two instances you need to adjust the camera settings and either overexpose or underexpose a bit to get the right tones to show.

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© 2016 Luis E Gonzalez

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2 comments

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teaches12345 3 months ago

This is an interesting topic for photography. It surely must be part of each student's curriculum!


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LuisEGonzalez 3 months ago from Miami, Florida Author

teaches12345: Than you.

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