Photography tips for people with visual impairments
There has always been a stigma around the idea of blind or visually-impaired photography – but things are changing fast. Thanks to fast advances in photographic technology and a fantastic range of visually impaired photographers leading the way, blind photography is becoming far more common.
There are now many visually impaired and blind photographers being recognised for their fantastic work and their contribution to photography. Bristol-based Ian Treherne is one of many trailblazing blind photographers bringing a different perspective to the art form. And Bruce Hall has been lauded for his underwater photography.
Whether you are thinking of getting started with photography, or you are looking to support someone with visual impairments who is interested in pursuing the subject further, there are lots of possibilities to make photography more accessible. With some creativity and the right tools, anyone can enjoy photography as a hobby or art form.
How camera technology helps the visually impaired
Everyone should be able to engage in a creative pursuit and express their perspectives. Photography is an art that many people have enjoyed making – and this is also true for those people with visual impairments.
By offering insights into camera accessibility, adaptive equipment, and techniques tailored to the needs of individuals with visual impairments, the camera industry has made photography as both an artistic hobby and a profession possible. Indeed, photography has evolved to embrace inclusivity and accessibility, with advancements in camera technology and the availability of adaptive tools.
Choosing a camera with accessible features, such as tactile controls and audio feedback, can significantly enhance the photography experience for individuals with visual disabilities.
Additionally, various adaptive equipment options, ranging from viewfinders with magnification to tripod mounts with tactile indicators, can further enhance the ability to compose and capture remarkable images. In this article, we’ll take a look at some photography tips for those with visual impairments.
Embrace selection as a part of the process
Many artists with visual disabilities have a sense of the kind of photograph they want to take but may not be able to line up the perfect shot first time. Cameras have become smaller over time, which is fantastic from the perspective of portability – but doesn’t necessarily lend itself to easier usability for people with disabilities. As such, visually impaired photographers have to get creative.
“My low vision 20/400 eyes can’t see my subjects very well, but my camera can see perfectly,” says Tammy Ruggles, a legally blind photographer. “When I click away at the landscapes, flowers, farms, and rural scenery I grew up with in Kentucky, I know I can sift through the images on my big screen until I find the ones that I want to keep.
I realise this isn’t the ‘normal’ way to take photos; most photographers see beforehand what they want to shoot. But for me, the selection process afterwards is where the art of photography comes alive.”
Rather than ‘selecting’ the photograph to shoot ahead of time, visually disabled photographers can instead take a range of images and then choose the perfect image when they have the advantage of a big screen to view them all on.
Find your own way to work
Photography is a medium that goes beyond visual perception alone. For visually impaired photographers, it opens up a world of possibilities to express their unique perspectives through alternative techniques. Consider exploring techniques that rely on senses other than sight.
- Audible appreciation – capturing the soundscape in your photographs, immersing viewers in the auditory experience of a particular moment. By focusing on the ambient noises, whether it’s the chirping of birds or the bustling sounds of a city, visually impaired photographers can convey a distinct atmosphere.
- Tactile reality – experiment with emphasising the textures, patterns, and surfaces through the use of lighting and composition, visually impaired photographers can invite viewers to experience an image through touch. In addition, techniques like light painting can be a brilliant way for visually impaired photographers to find unique ways to express themselves.
“If I see a light pattern with highlights and shadows I find intriguing, then I will shoot it,” says Imraan Gallo, a visually impaired photographer. “I don’t see the object clearly. Once I put it on a bigger screen, I can see what it is. It’s enjoyable as photography allows me to appreciate eyesight on a much bigger level.”
Composing photographs when you have limited vision can be challenging, but by focusing on a few key techniques, visually impaired photographers can craft striking images.
- Simplify the composition – a cluttered or busy scene can be difficult to capture if you cannot fully see all the elements. Identify a clear subject or focal point and frame it centrally while minimising distracting backgrounds. This makes the image easier to align and achieve your creative intent.
- Zoom in to photograph details – concentrating on patterns or textures is an easy way to compose compelling photos when you cannot perceive the larger context. Get close up to capture the intricacies of natural or manmade subjects like leaves, bark, ripples, fabric, etc. These detail-oriented shots often make for striking abstract images.
- Create stability – using a tripod greatly aids in carefully framing a shot with limited vision. You can use your other senses to determine where your subject sits in the frame. A tripod also enables slower shutter speeds to enhance the effect of motion or depth through blur.
- Symmetry is a powerful tool – identify reflective or symmetrical subjects like windows, doors, buildings, paths, flowers, etc. Frame the shot so the symmetrical elements run through the centre. This creates an impactful, balanced image. There is no need to capture a sprawling scene. Identify an interesting portion of your subject and fill the entire frame with that section. This allows you to control all elements in the composition without needing to perceive the surrounding context.
As camera features become more accessible and adaptive tools provide increased functionality, photography is opening up as a creative and empowering medium for people with visual disabilities.
The visually impaired photographers featured in this article demonstrate that compelling, evocative photography is not dependent on eyesight alone. By embracing selection, finding their unique way of working, and employing techniques suited to their needs, these photographers craft images that invite the viewer into their world.
Image by wirestock on Freepik