Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Photo reading and speed reading – how to do them, and how to use them within a structure for learning!

I devour books. I am constantly reading. I am looking to absorb the information as quickly as possible. To do this I utilise photo reading and speed reading inside of a larger methodology for learning. Here is how I do it, and along the way, you’ll learn the ‘bare bones’ of photo reading and speed reading too.

Photo reading is very misunderstood. Photo reading does not give the detail yet instead gives the overall context. It will give you the ‘gist’ of a book. I will know where to turn to find the detail. I utilise this to absorb 700+ page detailed degree course texts in under an hour. I don’t get the detail; yet, I get a fantastic broad over-view and generalised information. 

Speed reading provides the detail. It enables you to absorb a great deal of information very quickly and in detail. I cannot understand why this is not taught in schools.

I can explain all the processes I am using here in fine neurological detail. I could talk about the neurological processes for memory storage and retrieval; give understanding as to how we take short term memory into long-term potentiation, and so on. Yet this is just a blog post - the idea here is to give you the ‘bare bones’ to get you up and running and taking in information more quickly than before.

I will start with the structure that I use to learn and absorb the information from a book. I will then go through the process of photo reading followed by the process for speed reading. This is the process that I use to devour degree level texts in very short periods of time, such as this highly recommended text:

  1. Photo read the book;
  2. Speed read marking specific areas for detail reading;
  3. Detail read specific areas of interest underlining and annotating, making notes in the margins;
  4. Speed read again identifying further areas for detail reading;
  5. Detail read this further areas underlining and annotating once more;
  6. Utilise my imagination, looking for as many applications as possible to put the knowledge into practice, or see where the knowledge is applicable;
  7. Cross reference other areas of learning to understand where I may get serendipity.
 Photo read
  1. Read the front and back covers;
  2. Read the contents and acknowledgements;
  3. Speed read the first and last paragraphs of every chapter;
  4. Carry out ‘photo-reading’:

    - Defocus eyes (imagine looking at a point several inches beneath the book
    - Align your finger at the centre top of the page
    - Let your eyes (still defocussed) follow just above the tip of your finger as you run your finger down the page. Don’t try and read. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth to turn off yourself talk. An A4 page should take no more than a couple of seconds.
    - Turn to next page and repeat until the book is complete
    - Carry out mind-mapping exercise from memory (Google ‘mind mapping’ for the process)
    - Carry out a light physical activity for at least 10 minutes
To store this information in your memory repeat this process for three times the first day, once the second day, then once every three days, then once the week after, then once the next month. To retain the information and maintain the quality repeat once every six months or so.

Speed Reading

Turn off sub vocalisation. (Do not ‘read’ the words in your mind.) Place your tongue firmly on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth;
  1. Align your finger under the first line, look at the word just above your finger, and sweep your finger quickly to the right, following the words just above your finger.  You are taking in the ‘image’ of the words and using the finger prevents ‘back-skipping’;
  2. Repeat for the next lines all the way down the page and continue.
 (With practice you will learn to not need the tongue or the finger movement. Practice also increases speed. Make sure your practice is ‘deliberate’, ensuring that you get the process right!)

As I have explained, this is just a bare bones blog post. I hope you find it of interest. If you do, please read my other blog posts and let me know what you think! I regularly give workshops and talks on elements of performance, such as the information contained in this blog. I often work with businesses helping them deliver performance, or working with particular psychological approaches to their staff. Should you wish to talk about the services I can offer, and the benefits that I can give please get in touch!

As always with my blog posts, your feedback is appreciated!

This is me at Change Phenomena, the National Hypnotism Conference, explaining photo and speed reading to some of my friends. I also have a nice black eye as a result from heavy kickboxing sparring the day before! (Photo by Paul Friend)


  1. Nice succinct summary Gary, as one who already uses these principles I can vouch for their effectiveness - Pete

  2. I was always pretty skeptical about photo reading. I like how you broke it down into photo reading, speed reading and detail reading.

    I might have to test this out soon.


  3. Thanks Gary for the post :-)

    Bob Chiang

  4. does photoreading work for you ? ( seeming the reports puiblished that it is BS basically )

  5. Yes it does - yet, read the blog post above for what it gives you.

    It does not give you the detail. You do not hold 'photographs'of the pages in your mind. There is alot of mind mapping work required. It takes multiple 'passes'.

    Most of the reports either take it out of context, or take things too far, or just make ridiculous claims in their marketing...

    Photoreading allows you to find potential relevence in large pieces of text - it does not give the detail.

  6. Mr. Turner,
    I am reading this because of an article by Rintu Basu. I heard that you had a learning disability and succeeded far beyond what "they" had expected of you. I am very impressed and I have a question. I suffer from Schizophrenia and have tried photoreading, seemingly with no success. Do you really think these methods will work for me, or is my brain wired differently?

    With all due respect,

    1. Hi Randy, the methods should work quite nicely with a schizophrenic, I'm not aware of any neurological reason why it shouldn't - yet I'm not a neurologist of course!

      Maybe just practice more? Not that helpful I'm afraid...

  7. Hey Gary,
    I was just curious, would you use this for onscreen reading?

  8. Hi Turner. I'm in Venezuela. I was reading about PhotoReading two weeks ago. Here I can see a point between "possible now" and "possible at future". Our brain is fantastic!!! I'll asume your teaching.
    Best regards

    1. Fantastic, so glad you found the blog! Wow! Love the internet!! Have a great day JP!

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  10. I found your approach of photoreading very effective but I'm confused that while in the photo focus state do I have to look at the words from top to bottom, let's take for example a book of a4 pages or simply by looking at the center of the pages and continuously flipping the pages in a photo focus state would do it?? Please clarify??