So you spent the time to get out and shoot some photos. You found subjects that seemed interesting and tried some different techniques The photo files are uploaded to your computer and you are looking them over. Now what? How do you know if the photos are good or not?
The ability to judge the quality of your own photography is an important skill for all photographers.
How do you know you made a good photo?
What are the features of good-looking photos? What do you look for when you are critiquing your camera work?
These questions are just as important to for beginner photographers as they are for seasoned professional shooters. What are the features of great looking photos that you want to identify in your shots? An important skill to learn is the ability to find the elements that work, the visual features that distinguish great photos from mediocre. Here are some of the details to look for and evaluate when you review your photography.
COMPOSITION – Is the image arranged so the viewer immediately sees the idea of your photo? If the composition is well done the viewer’s eye naturally finds your intended center of attention. Poor composition pulls the viewer away from that intent. Do the details and visual elements take away from your meaning, or make a positive impression with the viewer?
Not everyone can identify a well composed photo but they all sure know what a bad one looks like. Humans process visual information rapidly, on a sub-conscious basis making visual details important. Composition can make or break your viewer attention and is fundamental to good photography.
IMPACT – Does your photo grab attention? Photos with impact create a response in the viewer as soon as they look at it. Images with the greatest impact evoke an emotion, inspire profound thought or even give motivation to act. We feel horrified by news photos of natural disasters. Great advertising photography motivates us to go out and buy something. When you present a Mother a beautiful portrait of their child and they squeal with delight, the photo has impact. Impact is intangible but is usually found in the photos people can’t take their eyes off.
CENTER OF INTEREST – Make sure you give the viewer something to look at, a subject or feature that you want to highlight in your shot. The use of focus, framing, lines, camera position all can lead the viewer to your intended point of attention. Photos with a single dominant element are more pleasing than cluttered scenes with ambiguous features. Any of the choices you make that take away from your point of interest produce a weaker image.
LIGHTING – Light is the basic building block of photography. Your use of light, the range and placement of highlights and shadows, is critical to the success of your photographs. Mastering exposure means you display colors and tones accurately, in a way that enhances the viewer experience. Light and shadow provide depth and interest in your photos. Evaluating and using the direction, intensity and qualities of light in your image will help you determine the quality of your photography.
Take the time to check your results, to scrutinize the details of your photography on your computer monitor. Identifying the features of your shots that are successful and the parts that don’t quite hit the mark, is part of the photographer learning process. These are the same items I consider in my professional photography work. They will help you understand why your photos appeal to your viewers. Look at photography that you find appealing. Identify these four features of good photos to understand why they look good to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Commercial Photographer and Photo Educator Dan Splaine has over thirty years experience producing photography for public relations, marketing and editorial clients. His company TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY based in Nashua, NH provides commercial photography services in studio and at client locations all over the world. He presents a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours for adults throughout New England.
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