What Makes Some Photographs Better Than Others?

Art is so subjective that there is no correct answer to this question. But there are some things that can help you analyse a photograph. I find it interesting that the majority of people can tell the difference between an average and a great photo and choose the ‘better’ one, but struggle to articulate why. Here are some of those harder to explain things that might draw them towards the ‘better’ picture (I’m sure there’s many more things I’ve missed, we never stop learning):

    Lines – are the strongest design element in a picture. Without lines you can have shapes, patterns or textures, they are everywhere! The strongest of these lead your eye through the different elements in photographs.

    Shape, pattern & contrast – The shapes of your subject and background elements, and how these interact will tell your story. Our brains are pre-programmed to look for these things. One of your main challenges as a photographer is to demonstrate a 3D world on a 2D format, and good photographers understand how light (and shadow) interact with these subjects in order to make a scene come alive.

    Colour – has a huge emotional effect on a photograph, we often use colours to describe our mood. Colours can work together in harmony or they can clash and this can be used in your story, or you can use a black and white photograph to force people to concentrate on the other aspects of it.

    Beautiful things – even if you have no idea about photography, there are some things or people that will almost always look great. Once you do have an idea, you can make them look spectacular.

    “The moment” – you hear this a lot in the photography world, but what does it mean? It’s hard to explain. For me, this means is that you captured a small piece of time, which tells a story that you don’t need to explain with words. A great moment can tell a story that spans a much longer period of time than it took for the shutter to fire. Sometimes, the moment is so good, that you will have a great photograph even if your technique wasn’t perfect.

All the great pictures ever taken don’t necessarily include all of these, but I’m fairly sure they each include at least one. More importantly, if you can start to think about these things before and during your photography, I guarantee that you will begin taking better photographs, simply because you are no longer snapping and hoping, you may even start to enjoy seeing more, even when you don’t have a camera!

But photography isn’t only about being able to see what’s in front of you; you have to be able to record what you see using some technology that is more advanced than what it took to take Neil Armstrong and his buddies to the moon. This can be quite daunting for some people and is the reason you see so many people with REALLY good cameras, keep their dial on the green auto mode and never move past that, don’t be that person. My free photo FUNdamentals guide will guide you through the basics. Do you think there are other things that make photographs great? Have you ever taken a GREAT photograph?
Please join me on my photography journey, it’s possibly the best free beginner’s guide to photography on the internet!

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