Do we see exactly what our eyes see?  It seems not, as per recent researches scientists now believe that our vision is a smart vision compared to dumb vision of a camera.

What it means is that our brain applies several filters to the visual data sent from the eyes. These filters are kind of short-cuts to enable our brain to jump to conclusion. In simple words we can say that our brain has some tricks up its sleeve and learning about these tricks can boost your creative vision. In this article we will learn about different brain vision tricks. Don't forget to leave your comments!


Professor Erismann and his assistant Kohler performed an interesting experiment where they made their subjects put on goggles that inverted the vision. Top became bottom & bottom became top but to everyone's amazement within about a week they started to see normally. In other words, their brain adapted to inverted reality and enables them to see normally! This makes it clear that brain does not simply see the visual data as sent from the eye but follows a complex algorithm to make sense of our surroundings. Similarly, our visual memory doesn't simply store what eyes see but we remember an interpretation of what our eyes saw. Don't believe it? Alright, do this small exercise; close your eyes, feel relaxed, now try to recall one of your experience from the past week, focus on details in your memory. Now open your eyes. How do you feel? Did you recall details effectively? But did you see yourself in your vision? Woaah! How did you store yourself in the memory? How did you remember seeing your back or top of your head? Revelation, isn't it?

This concept is called dynamic memory and it can be useful for making immersive photographs. If a photograph makes an impact on the viewer then viewer's brain stores the visual information as a memory as if the person was a character in the photograph. 

1. Location on the frame


In a photograph, top part is referred to as background, middle part as middle-ground and bottom part as foreground. Background is perceived as far away from the viewer while foreground is perceived as close to the viewer. In cultures where native language is read left to right, the top left corner is interpreted as being the farthest from the viewer while bottom right corner is perceived being the closest to the viewer. 

2. Contextual Perspective

Next is our brain's tricks to relate known geometry to estimate relative size. Ames room is an interesting demonstration of how we see and understand relative size. It is a distorted room that is used to create an optical illusion. It was invented by American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames, Jr. in 1934. Here is an image sourced from

The child is normal size child and her mother is a normal sized mother but our brain is tricked because it tries to use shortcuts from past experience and that results in flawed interpretation. The assumption from past experience is that a room has rectangular walls, corners form 90 degrees angle with each intersecting plane and roof - floor are parallel and also aligns with the flat horizontal ground. In photography lines, patterns, perspective are used as composition tools to make an image more appealing. Bigger objects are assumed closer while smaller objects are perceived as farther away. However, depending on surrounding geometry similar sized objects can be perceived as bigger or smaller relatively. 

Following image (sourced illustrates relative size illusion due to placement of subject & leading lines: 

Both the monsters are of same size, however, our brain interprets the monster chasing as much bigger than the one trying to run away. This phenomenon is called Linear Perspective. The trick is that brain believes that two parallel lines appear to merge at a distance. It's one of the depth indicator. Because of the use of converging lines our brain estimate the depth and then second belief is that objects close to the viewer appear bigger and objects far off appear smaller. These two together are creating this conflict making the image interesting.

3. Size Constancy

Size constancy in psychology which means that brain try to evaluate size of other objects with reference to the most familiar object or geometry. Incorporating such a conflict in your image can make a photograph very interesting. 

Following image (source: illustrates it: 

The image above used two of brains tricks to make it interesting. One is that Objects which are closer to the viewer appear bigger and another is foreknowledge that a car is bigger than the human legs. Putting these two together in one picture creates a conflict and that's what make this photograph interesting. 

4. Context

The two circles above are same gray but the one on black background looks brighter while the one on white background appears darker. This shows that our interpretation of tones is dependent on background. In the following image same thing can be seen for colors:

The circle in the picture above is of the same color but due to different background it looks different in both cases. The one on the blue background appears more reddish while the one on red background appears bluish. You may place your cursor on the circle to verify. This illustrates that background in a photograph is just as important as the main subject.

5. Color constancy

Color constancy is a feature of the human color-perception system which ensures that the perceived color of objects remains (almost) constant under varying light conditions. However, when we photograph we must take into account white balance. 

6. Imagined Shapes

We tend to see shapes when there are no actual shapes. Since straight lines, perfect rectangles and circles do not exist in nature usually, we have an ability to recognize whenever such shapes appear.


In above image (Left) we see a square even though there is no square in reality. (Right) We see a circle at the center even though there is no circle in reality.

Similarly, we also tend to see human faces in things which don't even resemble human faces. This tendency is called as Pareidolia. The following image stirred quite many headlines when a rock in mars was perceived as human face:

These are few of the brain tricks that help in creating better photographs. The rule is to use one (or more) of the brain trick and try to create a conflict and that makes the photograph very interesting. Sometimes conflict can be very evident, while other times it may be very subtle. Levitation Photography is an excellent example of this, it creates a conflict with our foreknowledge that heavy objects don't float around and that's why we find these photographs very interesting. 

Hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Please leave your valuable comments. 



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