Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What makes a great photograph?

I am often asked the question "What makes a great photograph?" Whenever I'm asked that question I think of the old joke that goes "ask 3 lawyers their opinion and you'll get 5 answers." Well, ask 3 photographers this question and you'll get 5 answers. So, here's my contribution to the collective wisdom on what makes a great photograph.

I believe that everything "boils" down to composition. It's not the lighting (although the lighting is crucial), special Photoshop effects, film, camera, lens or ISO. As one of my mentors taught me "photography is simple, don't make it complicated." Instead of focusing on the gear and all of the dynamics involved in creating a great or "winning" image, I encourage you to focus on the purpose of the image. Why are you taking a picture of that subject? Never forget that the strength of an image is the emotional content it contains. Does the image "move" you? Does it make you smile? Does it bring back memories of a special moment? In the end what matters most is how the image makes you feel. And all of those questions can be answered by simply making sure you have a great composition.

Now, I understand that "great" means different things to different people. But, if you've captured the emotion of the moment, exposed the shot correctly, and held the camera still you've done most of the work. I am always working on my compositional skills. In fact, I believe it is the one area in modern photography where we can continue to grow throughout our life. Some of the most respected and loved images throughout the world are not technically perfect. But, they captured a moment in time that continues to touch the hearts of everyone that views them.

Look for those special moments of expression and you will find that your images will have an emotional impact that will cause people to call them great. Since this is such a controversial topic in photography I'd love to hear your thoughts on what makes a great image. So, hit me up and let's continue the conversation. Be blessed and keep shooting!


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