John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche


Part 1: Sensation and Perception


How does the human mind react to a photograph?

To answer that question, it helps to understand the psychology of sensation and perception. "Sensation" refers to the immediate, relatively unprocessed experience associated with the stimulation of a sense organ like the eyes, ears and skin, or with a specific body condition, like feeling tired. "Perception" refers to the basic mental operations that determine how the brain organizes, interprets, and makes sense out of that sensory stimulation. However, it's impossible to draw an absolute distinction between the two, because sensation and perception are part of one continuous process. Some aspects of this process are biologically, pre-wired into the human brain, while others, especially aspects of perception, are learned through experience. We might even consider the mind as analogous to computers. Both its hardware and software programming determine how it reacts to the world.

So how exactly is our mind hard-wired and programmed to see what’s happening in a visual image?  This section will help the photographer appreciate the basic psychological principles of sensation and perception that determine how we experience photographs.

The line
The diagonal line
Psychological lines
Eye to eye
On being sharp
A fresh eye and the Mañana Principle
Visualizing and verbalizing
Mindfulness in photography
Facial asymmetry and "character"
Insights from the Rorschach inkblots
The psychological impact of image streams
Photos remembered and forgotten


Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche