Perception is everything in photography.

Perception governs our daily lives.

I know, a strange topic for a photography blog. But think about this for a minute. Do you like our current Prime Minister? Your answer will be different depending on your perception of who he is and what he stands for. You see very few of us have met the man. Even fewer, have had a chance to sit down and talk with him. All most of us know, is what we glean from news stories and the endless interviews he does. If 10 of us got together and had to select one word to describe our PM, there is a good chance we would end up with 10 different adjectives to describe Mr Rudd. Some would be complementary, others not so.

Abbortsford bridge on Murray River between Mildura and Wentworth. (Ian Mckenzie/

So, here is a low altitude aerial image of the Murray River and the Abbottsford Bridge, just a hop, skip and jump from our studio. Check out the water colour. Is that really the water colour of The River Murray? Absolutely not. It’s nowhere near that colour. This shot hasn’t been trickedup in photoshop. In fact, if you had been standing right beside me when I took this photo, you would have percieved that the river water was blue. The colour comes from a near perfect reflection of an early morning sky, off a mirror smooth river surface. Reality, NO! Perception, YES!

Early in my career, I learned, how people peceived me and my abilities was more important than my actual abilities. Much to my detriment. You see, I was hired by a PR company to shoot a building interior for an add. I’d never laid eyes on this place before. The only info I had was that the picture was to run double page in a national magazine and I would be the second photographer to tackle the job. I was told the first guy had screwed up. Never a good place to be. Follow up guy. You cop all the flack from the first photographers mistakes and everyone questions your ability.

Anyway, I turn up, ask to look at the room I’m to shoot, and I’m duly ushered into said auditorium. All the time being told what a bunch of losers photographers are and how “we’re not paying you until the pictures are published and we’re happy” routine. I walk into the room , taking time to look around and get a the shot right in my head. I have to say, under ideal conditions, I knew how to get this shot. However, my client had champagne tastes with a distinctly  beer budget. Taking time to think  through the shot was my BIG MISTAKE. The buildings manager, perceived that I was an idiot, didn’t know what I was doing. Promptly leaving me and heading back to his office. Spending the next  half hour paying out  on me for being another moron photographer and they weren’t paying for this guy just to stand there and look.

By the time the manager came back, I’d shot the image and was packing up. He told me in very clear terms to go and never come back. My image was used in their double page spread. And many more times in company advertising over the ensuing years. I never again  worked for the PR company, because their percption of me was  of an unreliable, dithering photographer who didn’t know what he was doing. Despite having produce what they admitted was a great shot under difficult circumstances. Perception.

Pink salt water, a salt encrusted shoreline and low undulating sparsely vegetated land typical of Lake Eyre, (Ian Mckenzie/excitations stock)

What is your perception of this image? Is it a close up of something you know well but don’t imediately recognise, or a long shot covering a massive area?


Recently, a client told me she liked the images I’d produced for a publication she was working on. She loved the “old fashioned look” I had achieved. It was meant as a compliment but was actually anything but. You see, these particular images were quite modern in style and treatment. To be honest, I’m prepared to bet,  she’d never seen anything similar before. Because, they were a result of my take on a new technique just starting to appear in Europe.  However, our client is young, and we’re not so young, having been shooting photos for longer than she’s been drawing breath. I suspect because our treatment was new to her.  Her perception of what she was seeing was that it was “old fashioned photography”.

Perception, reality that isn’t.  Sorta like reality TV I guess.


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