A friend commented that “real world info from great photographers in the trenches is priceless” and asked, “What inspired you? How did you visualize the shot? What camera settings did you use? I want to know insider details unique to gifted photographers.”
There are as many answers to these questions as there are photographers, great and unseen, but first of all, to be gifted means to have an uncanny ability to attain skill or knowledge that other’s have to work at to get. I am a practiced photographer of 30+ years (with music and art background) rather than gifted. Mozart was gifted. His greatness was because he already understood music before he played wrote it down (unlike his private life as I understand it, was really in the trenches).
Each image or shoot is born from a unique spot because unless you are in a light-controlled room shooting for a toothpick company, nothing is ever the same twice. Like driving, elements change, the environment varies, you have to anticipate other’s moves, communicate, be ready to react and think ahead all at the same time. Photojournalism, commercial, portraiture, still life, conceptual, fine art, event and editorial photography all involve responding to a different set of elements of varying degrees and each requires an understanding, passion and time for you to become efficient at it. In any case you will never master learning how to see because then you would stop photographing.
I’m pretty sure I can’t preach how to “see" to a general photography class. Like Mozart, I’d rather create than teach, but I’ll admit I did teach a class for teens in 2009. They all showed up with digital cameras. One had a film camera and just one roll of 24 exposure black and white film. I tried to guide the students to think about why they were shooting, but alas, for half an hour every day the digital users would shoot and delete over and over until they got what they liked. The limited student did’t have that luxury. I never saw her work until the last day. By the end of the course the digital users had replaced batteries daily and showed perfectly exposed typical content available at a arms reach. The film student captured images rich in unique personal content. Her technical skills will improve with experience. Was she a better photographer? I just think she had to think. Obviously, if I was to teach today my approach might be different, but the point is that mindfulness produces meaningful results.
Anyone can read a camera manual. Your tools must be the first thing to learn but you will always have technical issues. Beyond that each image is a unique structure based on a recipe of practiced elements - content (your sense of interest), composition (how you see it) and knowledge and application of techniques.