Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Makes a Great Photograph

A great photograph normally doesn't just happen. Anyone with a camera can sometimes get lucky and everything just falls into place and we look at a photograph we've created and say "Wow, I wish I could do that every time". So what is it that must come together to create that "wow" factor in a photograph?

I recently attended a photography seminar titled Taking It To The Next Level by Bill Fortney. In his seminar Bill laid out four criteria that are required for a great photo. If a photograph is missing even one of these four elements it more than likely is not going to be a great photograph.
  1. Definable Subject
    You should be able to describe the subject of the photograph in one or two words or in a single short sentence.
  2. Appropriate Lighting Conditions
    The lighting must work to call attention to the subject.
  3. Workable Elements and Conditions
    The environmental elements must be concussive to allow you to make the photograph of the subject you envision.
  4. Control of the Foreground and Background
    You must be in control of the Depth of Field (DOF), sharpness, and brightness of the subject and avoid background or foreground items that detract attention from the subject.
The photographer is in control of most of the key elements that make up the photograph he sees in his mind and wishes to create. When creating a photograph you should have an idea of what you are trying to create and how you want the viewer to see it. It is the photographers job to guide the viewer through the image and direct attention to the subject. All of this is done by controlling the camera, lighting and other elements to produce the desired photograph. Sometimes that cannot be done due to conditions that are outside of your control. At those times you have two choices; either alter your plan and produce a different image or walk away and try again at a later time.

The human eye will seek out the sharpest (in focus), brightest and warmest part of the photography, so if the sharpest, brightest and warmest part of the photograph is not your subject them you may have a problem. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. For the most part these are rules I use when trying to create a photograph.

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