Photographers such as Michael Freeman, Scott Kelby, David duChemin, and so forth have all talked and written about composition, framing the photo, vision and so on to make a good photo.
So let's talk about the elements we believe to be are necessary to make a good photo and what are essential elements to make a great photo. We all know the rule of thirds, relationship between aperture and DOF, white balance, ISO, shutter speed, bokeh, etc. They are the most basic things everyone learned at the beginning. We also understand how different lenses work, such as how a wide angle lens distorts closeup objects to how a telephoto lens compresses distant backgrounds.
But what other things do you (or should you) consider:1) Is only having a good frame/composition + exposure the right formula for you?
- A lot of times, this just isn't enough, sure the right composition + exposure will get me an OK photo, but OK just doesn't cut it.
Especially in this day and age where digital cameras has made photography cost friendly for the consumer and anyone can use Photoshop or other tools cheaply to edit photos. Gone are the days of expensive film and even more expensive chemical processing equipment. To make it in the business requires putting in more and more effort into the craft and trying very hard to stand out from the crowd. It will always be a Quantity vs. Quality
issue.2) How about simplicity vs. complexity or familiarity vs. unfamiliarity with the elements in the frame? Even familiar shapes vs. unfamiliar ones or pleasant colors vs. strong colors? Bright vs. Dark?
- Do you want to capture a complex scene that is hard to understand or a simple one that your audience can quickly grasp, after all, people do have a limit on their attention spans and lot of them are short. An image is supposed to speak a thousand words and if it can't be done within the first few seconds, few people will take the time to try and understand it. Also think about what your eyes and the eyes of your audience is drawn towards. Consider the psychological aspects from a design perspective, how will you make your photo attractive to the viewer.Converging lines
, on Flickr
Looks like this has a nice exposure, the framing is nice, the lines draw the viewer towards the center of the photo. But it has unfamiliar elements that no one would recognize without being told what or where it is.3) Is it important for the viewer of your photo to be able to easily find/recognize the relationships between the different elements in the photo?
- If you're taking a photo of two people, or two objects or an object and a person, viewers will try to find a relationship between them. It can be simple obvious ones like a person sitting on a rocking chair to a couple with some sort of subtle expression in their eyes.Lantern Light
, on Flickr
A friend's daughter taken on their Chinese New Year celebration, it is easily recognizable how the child relates to the red lantern.4) Is it important for the viewer to be able to relate to the element(s) in your photo, whether it/they be inanimate objects or living organisms?
- This can be an important thing depending on the type of photography you do. Photojournalists, urban photographers will essentially need to have the human element in one form or another in their photos. Landscape, Architecture, Interior Decoration, etc. photographers, a human element is less essential if not unnecessary. Consider whether having or not having certain elements in the photo makes it stronger or weaker.5) How about color vs. black&white or monotone/duotone, would your photo become stronger by such a conversion?
- There is a whole range of differences between having a photo in color and having the same photo in b&w, monotone or duotone. There is a whole range of settings for each of the different conversions you can perform and consider what would bring strength to your photo.Bike on Wall
, on Flickr
In color this scene is pretty average and boring, but when converted to a strong B&W image, all that's left for the viewer to focus on are the shape of the bicycle and it's relationship to the wall.6) Let say that you come upon an interesting scene/object(s) to photograph: do you consider how you are going to frame that scene? What to place in the frame vs. what to leave out? Or how about from which angle or point of view to capture that interesting scene/object(s)?
- Framing the scene in your viewfinder can change the way the viewers' eyes are drawn in the photo. If your intention is for the user to focus on a specific element then make the composition lead the viewer. Perhaps you may need to do it during post processing, such as cropping, changing the orientation of the image or even darkening out unwanted areas.Devotion
, on Flickr
This photo had a nice exposure for the entire scene but I wanted my viewers to focus only on the person meditating and the statue of Buddha he was sitting in front of. So I darkened out both the bottom left and top right corners of the photo by selectively reducing the exposure for those parts in Lightroom. I didn't want any distracting elements.7) And finally what are your personal rules concerning the photos you take? One of mine happens to be the KISS! (Keep it simple stupid!).Simplicity
, on Flickr
Otherwise an ordinary leaf that no one may care or even notice passing by, by using a wide DOF during a hazy day to defocus the background and keeping the composition very simple, it makes for a simple yet elegant photo, at least in my opinion.
So what do you think makes a good photo and what turns good photos into great ones?