What makes a good Photograph?
by Don Camp

The most important quality of a good photograph is that it is interesting, interesting to you and to the person who views the picture. 

A good photo will be interesting on a number of different levels:
  • A good photo will have an interesting subject.  That means any particular photo may be interesting to one person but not to another. A person who is MOdel Planesinterested in model planes will find almost any photo of model planes interesting. But even a person who is not interested in model planes may find the photo because it is interesting on other levels.

  • This photo is interesting because it has good composition. It is interesting because it tells a story. It is intersting because it is technically good.

  • A good photo will be interesting because it has good composition.  In some cases composition becomes the primary Nature pattersninterest, as in  photographs of patterns or abstract photos.

  • This photo is interesting to a nature lover, but it is also interesting because of the pattern of the fern frond and the repeating of that pattern in the frond in the background. That is good composition. Notice that there is no competition from a distracting background.


    In this photo on the left the interest is in the pattern of the shadows.

  • A good photo will be interesting because of lighting.  Sometimes the lighting is dramatic. Sometimes it is moody. Moody lightingSometimes it creates interesting shadows that are the interest in the picture. The picture Moody Landscapeof the shadows above is an example. Sometimes light creates a feeling of the dramatic as in the photo to the left.
  • Sometimes the lighting is soft and creates a feeling of serenity, as in the photo to the right.

    This photo is interesting also because of a composition that includes reflections and a balanced between the light spot and the darker trees. Reflection photos can break the rule of horizon line not being in the center because the relection creates two images joined together.

    See this website for more examples and how to make your landscape pictures moody. Moody Landscapes

  •   A good photograph will be interesting because of the story. Sometimes the story is so compelling that it is enough Story
                        tellingto make the picture interesting. But usually a good story telling picture will also be good because of other things like compostion, lighting, color, etc.

  • This photo is in black and white to avoid the distraction of color. Otherwise it doesn'thave many other points of interest to the viewer. But the story of a culture obsessed with media is enough to make it a telling picture.


  • Agood photograph will be interesting because it is technically good. A technically good photo is well exposed and sharp where sharpnesss matter. Or it is uses the controls to focus, shutter speed, depth of field to enhance the picture rather than distract. The photo to the right uses a fast shutter speed to stop the action at a critical moment.

  • It also has good composition with a triangle formed by the legs and the ball and back to the eyes that are on the ball.  The color adds to the excitement.

  • A good photograph will be interesting because of color. Usually there is more going on in a photograph than  just Colorfulcolor, but there are times when color is the subject.
  • The photo to the left is interesting because of composition. It is technically good. It even tells a story of a culture.  But the color is what makes it attractive. 

  • The photo to the right is interesting because of "color contrast" and because it is an interesting subject.  Color contrast is when two colors are very opposite each other. The flower is magenta and the background is green. Those colors are opposite on the color wheel and so are immediately the attraction of the photo.

  • A good photograph will be interesting because of point of view. A new or unusual point of view is intriguing to the Point of viewviewer. It reveals something about the world he hasn't noticed before.  Of course, there has to be other features of a good photo present.

  • The photo to the left is from the point of view of someone sitting on park bench looking down at pigeons.

    The cat picture is taken from the point of view of the Catscat. It is cat level. Usually the least interesting picture of an animal is the picture taken from the level of the photographer standing over the animal. That is a killer as far as interest is concerned.

    Few pictures we consider good have all these characteristics. Sometimes there is only one, but one that is powerful enough to grad the viewer's interest.

    TIP:  Begin to evaluate your own pictures by these standards of "good."