What Makes a Great Photograph? // Photography Basics

Before we dive too far into photography tutorials, I think we should talk about what a good photograph even is. When is it "just an iPhone photo" vs something you'd print and frame? It depends on who you ask probably. But in my opinion, many things can "make" a photograph. Here's my list:

  1. Vision & Intention - A great photograph is usually taken with intention. You're walking through a park and see a moment you must make a photograph of. You usually squat or climb something for interesting perspective and while paying attention to the composition and depth of field, you expose properly for the mood you are after. This process doesn't happen at all when I'm just taking a quick snapshot of a plate of food I think is nice, for example.

  2. Story - Can someone who has never met you or your family look at the image and feel something? Does it remind them of their childhood? Does it make them feel anything? Exceptional photographs often (but not always of course) tell stories and evoke an emotion, even if you don't recognize the people in the image.

  3. Technicality & Aesthetics - In the absence of an obvious "story", beautiful editing, great equipment, and a soothing color palette can "make" an image for me. Some curators will say a photo that is simply "pretty" and doesn't tell a story, cannot be "great", but I disagree. I can really appreciate a pretty portrait &/or nature landscape. Images that show the beauty of life and the world around us are valuable to many people as works of art. For me, they lift my spirits and make me feel good and there is a lot of value in that.

Of course, like any art form, there are no strict rules. What do you think makes a "great photograph"?

{Also helpful: 5 Important Secrets for Success // Photographing Children & Families}