What Makes a Great Photograph?
I’m certain this article is going to be controversial. It’s true; after all, how can you accurately define what constitutes an excellent photograph? It’s not like marking a maths paper, where there’s always a correct or incorrect answer. Photography, just like any kind of art, can be incredibly subjective. But I do believe that there are certain aspects that all great photos have in the same way. Let me give you my (subjective) attempt to define them:
1. Excellent utilization of Light
This is why I’ve put it at the top of the list since photography is focused on light. Many times, photography simply is a way of painting with light, and becoming a master in this art requires that you are able to read and comprehend light in the same manner that you comprehend and read the language- metaphorically speaking, as it is one of the fundamental linguistic components of photography. When taking pictures, the best photographers consider the direction and the quality of lighting. Are the side of the subject lit, or is it backlit? Does the light source appear to be hard or soft? How do I arrange the photo in a way that it appears low-key or high-key? Based on the answer to these questions, the emotional feeling and appearance of the picture will shift drastically, which will alter the significance. For example, take a look at some of the classic photographs of jazz clubs with low lighting. They are usually low-key in nature and create an extremely distinct ‘noir’ aesthetic. Explore light in a way that is in line with the message you’re trying to convey in your photograph.
2. Great composition
Like great art, the most beautiful photos generally exhibit the sense of compositional structure and balance that pleases the eye. For a start, it is a good idea to learn the fundamental principles of composition. This includes applying the rule of thirds. After you’ve learned them but do not be reluctant to experiment with them and play around with the rules, this is a way to establish your own personal style, and who would want to be confined by rules?
3. A Sense of Timing
Check out the work of Henri-Cartier-Bresson, known as the master street photographer, and you’ll see that in addition to having total mastery of composition as well, he was also an expert in timing. He was able to identify what he termed ‘The decisive Moment The Decisive Moment,’ that moment at which all the elements of the photo come together and the emotional “pitch” of your story reaches its highest. Timing is critical when it comes to photography. Be patient and attempt to anticipate the ideal moment to press your shutter.
4. An Clearly Definable Subject
Excellent photographs usually have a precise idea of the main object of the photo. If you frame your image and the subject is not clear, then you should eliminate the unnecessary elements. Sometimes, simplifying the image is the best method to enhance it.
Test out these different components to find out what you like best. Keep in mind that you can are only able to improve with lots of practice. Best of luck!