Monday, March 1, 2010

What Makes A Good Photograph?

During my seminars, I am often asked, "What makes a good picture?"

I reply by saying, "That is relative."

Here is an example.

I think the top picture, of a short-ear owl in Galapagos, is a good picture. It captures the owl and its prey - seconds after the dove was caught late one sunny afternoon. We can see the entire body of the owl and its prey. The owl's eyes are well lit and in sharp focus. And, the picture tells a story. All good stuff.

So, it's a good picture for a wildlife or nature magazine, but probably not a good photograph if you want to hang a print in your kitchen or dining room, especially if you like to eat poultry.

About the pair of pictures (same owl): The picture on the left, I think, is a good picture. It's a nice portrait. The picture on the right, I think, is also a good picture - if you are an art director at a nature magazine looking for a picture that shows how well the short ear owl is camouflaged by its favorite hiding place. But as a bird ID picture, it's kinda confusing.

So when thinking about what makes a good picture, always consider the end use.

Here is something else about what makes a good picture: One out-of-focus picture is a mistake, 20 out-of-focus pictures is a style. :-)

Comments here are welcome.

Explore the Light,


Ken Toney said...

Rick, I hope your "sayings" don't have copyrights! I use them all the time with friends that I tutor. They just love them and it makes me look so good. "Get the damn flash off the camera" is my favorite.

Igor said...

That's so true, that's the first thing my photography professor tought me.

Siddharth Jain said...

Very Informative Mr Sammon As This Is The Million Dollar Queation That Boggles A Newbie. Thank You