What makes for a good image? | portrait photography

February 22, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

A few months ago I signed up to be a contributor on Quora. The funny thing is that I had never heard of Quora until I saw a post on Facebook about an answer to a question that a Facebook friend of mine had provided. I checked out the question and his answer and was floored. Let's just say the question was of a sensitive nature and he answered it quite expertly. By the way, he was quite embarrassed that I had read his response, but I digress.

From what I've seen, you can ask any kind of question you want or Quora, as long as you stay within their guidelines. I've seen political questions, pop culture questions and fantastical questions. The reason I signed up was to answer photography questions. Initially it started out well. People asked well thought out questions, which I happily answered. Then, the inane questions came. Some people asked questions that they could have either Googled and found out the answer or asked the actual source. I answered what I could, whereas others I just ignored or clicked "Pass". Later I came across the question "What makes for a good image?" I didn't answer this question on Quora because I saw that others did and they pretty much echoed what I would have said. So I figured my two cents really wouldn't have made a difference. With that said, I will tell you what I think makes for a good image.

1. Composition. Composition is a very important part of creating a beautiful image. The angle I photograph it in. How tight or loose I crop it all makes a major difference. What I choose to show and what I choose to hide can make or break an image. Click here if you'd like to see my post on composition and some examples.

2.  Emotion. When I capture an image, I am emoting how I feel about my subjects. Truth be told, I am photographing what I see and my perspective on it. Yes, I do photograph for my clients, but I can't do that without having a whole lot of me in that image. My style of photographing is basically what I like aesthetically. There are times when my aesthetic doesn't take precedence, but that's okay because it's still pretty much my vision. My clients tend to like what I like, so it works out well. You know you have captured emotion when someone can look at the portrait and feel a certain type of way about it without even knowing the person in the portrait. How do you feel when you see these portraits? What do they make you think of? Is there a story behind the image? I have my story, but what story do you have?

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3.  Lighting. This one can be difficult for nonprofessionals. Knowing what is and is not good light is not easy for everyone. Depending on the subject, the lighting can be dark and moody or bright and cheery. This too will be dependent upon what type of story you are trying to tell.

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4.  Creativity. To me, creativity doesn't have to be anything wild and crazy. It can simply be bringing an idea to life, a concept, a feeling. Creativity can be something as simple as this:

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PPA (Professional Photographers of America) actually has a list of 12 elements that make a merit-worthy (read award winning) image. Most of the elements on the list wouldn't even register with nonprofessionals so I won't even go into them. I believe I've captured the main ones or at least the main ones to me. Technical proficiency is one of the ways we as professional photographers differentiate ourselves from nonprofessionals, so to me that's a given. There are things like color-balance I could have mentioned, but to be honest most people don't even recognize whether an image is color-balanced or not.

Basically my job is to tell a story while capturing the essence of my subjects with an artistic twist. How do I know if I've achieved my goal? My clients love it and purchase it. I love to hand deliver my clients' orders because I want to see their reactions when they have what they purchased in their hands. I usually get hugs and many thank yous with huge smiles. I just love that! What you see on a screen is different when it is printed out. It just means so much more to have something you can hold and my clients' reactions are proof of that.


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