Springtime has stimulated my brain. My mind’s inquisitiveness is growing like the crocuses in your back yard. I’ve been led to basic questions such as: Why does suffering often make good artists? What makes a good photograph? And: Why does coffee taste so much better in fresh air? While I’m still pondering the “why” questions (let me know if you have the answers to these!), I have some interesting insights to share on the “what” question. At least I hope you find them interesting 😀
So the question is, What makes a good photograph? We are bombarded by images every day to the point of exhaustion. Our brain analyses each image we see whether we want it or not. That’s a whole lot of brain gymnastics! When I go through and analyse images I can’t carry on for over 30 minutes or so in one go. After that everything starts to look the same.
Technically speaking, what makes a good photograph is lighting, composition and possibly a storyline. These are all the very basics of photography, and there’s plenty of material available if you’re interested in becoming a better shooter. But there’s another way to approach this question. There is a reason why that photo was taken. At least there should be for it to be any good. So we’re back to “why” questions – they are the most intriguing ones…
The goal of photography, like any art, is to make us feel something – anything. The only thing we as viewers don’t want to feel is frustration because we don’t know what it is we’re supposed to be looking at 😉 A good photograph is simple and complex at the same time. Simple in the way that it has a clear subject without any (or as few as possible) distracting elements. The viewer knows instantly where in the picture he/she should look first. And if the photo is a success, it’s complex or compelling enough to hold the viewer’s attention. At best, the keen viewer is rewarded with a clue or a riddle or a revelation that he/she didn’t notice at first glance.
Acclaimed photographer Joe McNally had a simple yet powerful piece of advice in his book The Moment It Clicks (highly recommended to all shooters and non-shooters alike!). “Shoot what you love.” That’s it. Makes sense, right? Not only is it vital in order to keep your love with photography alive but also because it shows in the image. Your excitement is communicated through your work, and your chances of getting a good photograph increase immediately. Don’t shoot landscapes just because you think that’s the thing to do when you have a high caliber camera in your hands. Shoot what you love.
Happy shooting! 🙂