Elements of a good photograph


There are thousands of articles about photography which discuss the three basic elements of exposure – ISO, Shutterspeed and Aperture (if you don’t know what I’m taking about, go back to “Go”) but perfect exposure does not create a compelling image.

The three elements a good photograph needs is: Subject, Composition and Lighting

It all starts with a strong, interesting subject. Something that compels you to stop and photograph it. Something with meaning or beauty or uniqueness or strong shapes or strong color or just amazing texture.

Still life in the studio give one the chance to work with all of the elements discussed.

Subject – choose an interesting subject with lots of rich texture. Below we have some fresh picked apples from a local orchard.

The Supporting Cast – bowls, plates, garnishes can support the main subject and add interest to the scene.

Arrangement – Even in a still life you have to think about foreground, middle ground and background. You also have to consider where you will put your focus and what areas you will allow to blur.

Lighting – in the studio lighting is at your command. Hard or soft. You are in control of the highlights and shadows. You choose what to show or hide.

Art Prints

Then the subject needs to be arranged into a compelling composition. Easier to do with a still life or portrait, more difficult with a landscape. With a landscape one much move around the scene, or “work the scene” as well as choose the right lens for the effect envisioned.

I was reading the book “Drawing on the right side of the brain” by Betty Edwards and she talks about the importance of background even in simple drawings. “By noticing the negative space and drawing the edge that defines that negative space, we shift into right-brain mode and can much more accurately draw the image.”

With photography one always needs to be aware of the foreground, middle ground and background and their relationship to the subject to create a compelling image.

Art Prints

Next bathed in beautiful light. Lighting is essential as a photograph is a painting of light. Hard or soft, harsh noon light with strong contrast or muted light of daybreak, these are elements of the photographer’s choosing.

Photography Prints

It not enough to have just one of these elements. A beach shot shot on a cloudless day at noon with out any thought of foreground, middle ground and background elements just does not create a compelling image. Its not good enough to simply bring your camera up to your eye and shoot because your happy to be out of the office and on vacation. That’s a snapshot, a record of yourself standing in a moment of time but not necessarily a good photograph.

Art Prints

The good photograph comes from taking the time to walk around the scene and find a compelling composition. It requires knowing the subject and knowing when to return for better lighting. The result is selling the scene to the viewer with the same passion that you had when you first came upon it.