Back in my early days of photography, I was told by an experienced photographer that photography is the most “complicated but uncomplicated skill”. You can’t get much more of a contradiction than that. At the time I wasn’t too sure what this meant and even after being told the meaning I didn’t fully grasp the concept. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand what he meant. In theory, capturing a great photo is easy. All you need is an interesting subject framed well with good lighting and the correct settings. But the reality is that it’s a little more complicated than that. In this article, we will delve into the anatomy of a great photo. So here are 6 elements that if you can get right will give you a great photo.
A great photo needs a great subject
The first part of any great photo is something interesting to actually photograph. Your subject or your story is an integral part of any great photo. You might be able to capture a great photo if it isn’t technically perfect. But you would rarely be able to capture a great photo without an interesting subject. This is the part of the photo that will capture the viewer’s attention. So you need to train yourself to be able to see those photographic opportunities. Sometimes they will be fleeting moments that will disappear quickly. At other times you may have to set up a scenario like in a studio. The more you get out there to take photos the better and more efficient you will become at seeing interesting subjects.
Good lighting is key
Usually, the biggest feedback that I give to amateur photographers when asked to view their images, is on lighting. If they simply took the same photo at a different time of the day they would see a vast improvement. For example, even the most stunning landscape scene will look dull and uninteresting in poor light. If you could improve just this area of your skillset, you will see a huge improvement in your work. This also extends to indoor lighting as well. A poorly lit subject in a studio will not have the same impact as one that is lit well. To utilise light effectivly you should dedicate some time learning about it. For example, natural light will look completely different throughout the day. You need to understand how to use this and the direction of the light to your advantage. Or in a studio, you need to learn how to use a flash or things like reflectors to manipulate the photo.
Consider the composition carefully
How you compose or frame your photo can have a huge impact on your final result. For example, leave too much dead space and your subject might be lost. Alternatively, don’t leave enough space and the image will look too busy and unbalanced. The key to capturing a great photo is to take your time when possible to compose your image. Of course, sometimes you will not have the time. But in a studio or for example for landscape photography, take a few minutes to work out the best composition before shooting. Once you have captured the shot ask yourself if it is the best it can be. If not try again with a different composition. Don’t forget that you can also crop your images in post-production. So for example, if there are distracting elements around your main subject, crop them out.
If you have a great subject that is beautifully lit and composed, the last thing you want is to find that your photo isn’t sharp. So there is no way around it, you will have to at some point in your photography journey learn how to use the correct settings in different scenarios. This is arguably the hardest part for amateur photographers to master. Whatever your genre of photography is, you need to know what shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance and so on to use at what times. The more you know your settings and your camera inside out, the more control you will have over the final outcome. For example, using slower shutter speeds to capture some motion blur. Or a shallower depth of field to blur the background when taking a portrait. These can help give you more creativity for your photos. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut. You need to spend time learning and practising until it becomes second nature to you.
Can you capture something unique?
How many times have you seen a photo of a famous landmark and just moved on without a second look? With photography so mainstream these days, that is one of the biggest challenges photographers face. to really ‘wow’ people with photos you need to show them something unique and different from what they have already seen. This could be everything from lighting or composition to actually showing a different perspective of something people have seen before. So don’t be afraid to take risks with your photos, because that is the only way that you may end up with that unique shot that is different from what already exists.
How to use editing software
There is no denying it. Every photo will benefit from some level of editing in post-production. Sometimes these will be as simple as just straightening and adjusting the white balance. At other times the editing might need to be more extensive with boosting of contrasts, brightness or even saturation. This is the final step in ensuring your photos are the best that they can be. If your camera allows it, always shoot in RAW format as it will give you the most options when it comes to editing not to mention photo quality. But whatever format you do shoot in, make sure you spend the time that is required to make your photos the best that they can be.
So there you have it. Easy, right? As mentioned at the start a great photo, in theory, is easy to achieve but in reality, it takes time and practice. The more you take photos the better you will become. Until eventually all of these points above become second nature to you. So use the tips above and you’ll be capturing amazing photos in no time.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.