ELEMENTS OF A GREAT PHOTOGRAPH:

abstract art artistic autumn

You want to take great photos, and you now have a camera or cell phone and you are ready to go take pictures. Snap– you have a photo. And it doesn’t look very good. It doesn’t look like what you saw. What do professionals do to make their photos look so good? Professional photographer Stephanie Gagnon wrote a great article about this on the website: http://www.picturecorrect.com.

As a photographer, it’s incredibly important to know what makes a great picture. Just having a nice camera and fancy tools isn’t enough to really make it in this industry anymore. Knowing what to look for and honing in on those specific things can help you capture truly unique, personal, and in the moment images that will hopefully help to set you apart from your peers. Here are just a few things that I look for during a session.

Captured by Richard Schneider, f/8, 1/200 second, 24mm, ISO 125

Composition

I had a little bit of trouble deciding what was the most important aspect of an image. But finally after much thought, I came to the conclusion that composition should be the first thing you consider when taking a picture. Composition can actually make or break an image. There are some images that seem boring and mundane until you recompose them. Sometimes all it takes is looking at your subject from a different angle. Try getting above them—like way above them and shooting down. Or maybe get below and shoot upwards. Sometimes changing up where the focus is in your image can make a difference, too. Like focusing on a ring in the foreground with the couple out of focus in the background.

Photo by Tormod Ulsberg; ISO 80 f/11, 1/50-second exposure.

Story Telling

This is a trait I personally find important, although not everyone does. I think the best pictures tell the story of the people in them. Now this may be some kind of artistic creation, which can be really cool, like creating a fairytale image with the people in costumes. But I’m usuallylooking for something more simple. Like a first time dad holding his son for the first time and that look of pure joy and elation on his face. Or the sweet little action of a little girl blowing flower petals out of her hands. Or maybe it’s a a close up of an elderly couple holding hands. Telling the story of the people in an image can add a whole new level to your picture’s overall depth and meaning.

what are the elements of a great photo
Photo by Christophe LEUNG; ISO 640, f/2.8, 1/500-second exposure

Emotion

We often take pictures of faces. Everyone’s face is totally unique, and so much emotion can be seen just in a person’s face. Many, many, many pictures are of faces. So capturing a picture that shows the pure joy between to friends laughing over an inside joke or the love on a woman’s face as her man literally sweeps her off her feet can create a much more dynamic image than just a photograph of their faces. Of course, happiness isn’t the only emotion you can convey. Sometimes sorrow, loneliness, thoughtfulness, calm, peace, or relief can create an interesting photo, too. It’s so rare to see images of people experiencing genuine emotion, and I find that people tend to crave this kind of imagery more because it’s rare.

Photo by Anwar Shamim; ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/160-second exposure.

Detail

I find detail images to be fascinating; they’re often my favorites. We focus on people’s faces so much that sometimes it’s fun to mix things up and throw in some pictures of other details to remind ourselves of the little things. Like a little baby’s feet held in his mother’s hands. Kids grow up so quickly; capturing these fleeting moments when they are so small can be some of the most cherished memories a parent could hope for. They often aren’t thinking about those kinds of images when they have you take pictures, but they almost always fall in love with these baby detail shots. These kinds of images are being more and more appreciated in all forms of photography, including engagement sessions. Many couples love pictures that don’t include their faces. It adds a whole new twist to traditional photography.

Photo by Mark Iocchelli; ISO 1600, f/10.0, 1/80-second exposure.

Lighting

Lighting is the last element—and probably one of the most important—because you need light just to create a picture or to set a mood. Silhouetted or backlit pictures are really popular these days, as they are different from standard portraiture. There’s a variety of different takes on the backlit pictures, and there are some pretty exciting and fun examples to look through. There’s also the fun dramatic, single light source lighting. This type of photography is fun for creating super moody dramatic shots with high contrast. You really need to know what you’re doing and what you want to achieve for this style of lighting to work well with your subject matter.

“Biker Portrait” captured by Zach Dischner

Well, there you have it. You now know the five elements that help in creating stunning imagery. Composition can help you take a standard pose and give it a new twist. Story telling can help you relay more about a person or couple in an image. Emotion is often one of the most important elements to a picture, especially when conveying joy or happiness. Detail shots can make for a great reminder of the little things we love in others. And, of course, lighting will always make or break a picture since light is what actually enables us to take a picture.

I hope you’ve found this at least a little insightful and perhaps have taken some things away from it that you may try in your next photo shoot!

About the Author:
Stephanie lives in Central, Illinois, is married to her best friend, Ryan, and enjoys the company of her rambunctious lab-beagle pup, Kit. She is the owner of Green Tree Media (greentreemediaonline.com) and is passionate about photography.

Here are a few photos with at least one of those characteristics from the article above:

COMPOSITION:

green leafed tree besides body of water during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

EMOTION IN A PHOTO:

girl wearing blue denim dress shirt
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

STORY TELLING:

road man people woman
Photo by sudip paul on Pexels.com

DETAIL:

abstract art artistic autumn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

LIGHTING:

asphalt dark dawn endless
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Published by 123photogo

I have been a photographer for many years. Worked in retail selling cameras and accessories for over 20 years. Taught many photo classes, and have even been a judge in several county fairs. Now, I want to share photo instructions and entertainment with all other photographers around the world.

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