How to create a great photograph

(Last Updated On: February 15, 2012)

Now that’s a blog title setting me up for failure.

Creating a successful image is as simple as being in the right place at the right time and clicking the shutter at the perfect fraction of a second.  Easy.

Actually, there is more you can do and we will explore a few ideas that you can take with you on your next expedition or assignment.

First, consider your composition.  Use the rule of thirds and think about everything that is in your frame.  Consider where you place the subject. Be conscious of the foreground and background.  Can you play one off the other? Should all the elements in your frame even be in the frame?

Light is the key ingredient in photography.  If you review your favorite photographs, chances are lighting plays a major role. Consider light direction, the quality of the light such as hard or soft, and the color.

Emotion is the next element you will find common in your favorite photographs.  If you are photographing people, look for happy, excited, sad, or mad (to name a few emotions).  The goal is to capture the decisive moment, the peak of the action.  This takes experience, timing, and a little luck.

One way to increase your luck for creating great images is to always have your camera with you and take a lot of frames.  Look away from the main subject.  Sometimes exciting or supporting photographs are found in the opposite direction; try new angles.

In most cases, your first idea has been done before.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t photograph it, but keep building on your concept.  As new ideas pop in your head, try them or write them down for later.  Trust me, you won’t remember.

I’m often asked  how to create the properly exposed photograph.

The quick method is to check your highlights and shadow detail.  Everything in your photograph should have texture, unless otherwise planned.  Your whites and light colors should show detail.  Your shadows should not be pure black unless by design.  Black cats, clothes, and surfaces all have detail.

Photoshop is not the answer.  Photoshop cannot fix everything.  It can enhance good photographs, but it can’t capture the decisive moment.  Every photograph doesn’t need extreme post processing.  Remember: Post processing can change the mood of the photograph to the positive or negative.

Obviously, we all have different tastes when it comes to photography and you can’t please everyone.  Different types of photography have different standards.  For example, capturing a great nature photograph takes a different skill set than creating a beautiful food image. In the world of art, opinions are off the chart.  Nonetheless, the concepts of composition, lighting, and clicking the shutter at the right time are common among all types of photography.

The best tip of all? Keep it simple.

How do you define a great photograph? Feel free to add a link to your favorite photograph.

Here are a few favorite photographs from my portfolio:


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