Please raise your hand if you’ve ever felt the need to understand what makes a good photo and how to take good photos?
As a beginner, when you look at your photos you’re hit with the realisation that these photos don’t feel good enough, killing any creative inkling you may have felt.
Well, there’s good news…
…taking a good photo with your DSLR doesn’t have to be that daunting.
With the right understanding of what makes a good photo at your disposal, you could easily create amazing and engaging photos – all without having to buy expensive equipment or an expensive course.
In this post, I will try to walk through what makes a good photo (maybe even a great one) and how one can ensure they take one. When we are done, I am sure you will know exactly what needs to be done and gives you the required confidence.
So let’s dive in-
Elements of a Good Photo –
So what is a Good photo?
You might say the answer to this is subjective –
- some would say a good photo is one which captures a wonderful memory or a moment in time for all eternity,
- for some, it would be something unique in the scene like a star trail or the milky way etc.
There could literally be dozens of reasons but as photographers, we tend to be a bit more technical 🙂
So as it goes, a seasoned photographer once explained to me the elements which make a good photo:
It should be well Exposed
When we talk about a well-exposed photo what we mean is that the photo has properly captured the available light in your scene.
There are no highs or lows with respect to the highlights and shadows. Nothing is too dark or too bright but just correct.
It should have proper Sharpness
When I talk about sharpness it means the elements in the scene are clear without any blurring or softness or any noise.
Now an image may usually not have sharpness due to any of the following reasons:
- The shifting of focus from the intended subject to something else
- The shutter speed is too slow causing camera shake, leading to a blurry photo
- This could also be as a result of your lens having some issues
To get the best sharpness ensure the following-
- Make sure to keep your ISO at your lowest possible value, higher ISO values add digital noise to the image. Also, check which is the highest ISO that your camera can handle without noticeable noise and set your Auto ISO max setting to that number.
- Set the metering mode to Matrix in Nikon cameras or Evaluative in Canon (I think) so that the whole scene is used by the camera to calculate the available light. This should work in most cases.
It should have been shot in RAW format
Here’s the thing:
The modern digital camera, unlike the film based camera, uses a memory card to save the photos.
As a result of this, a modern day photographer has the freedom to choose between 2 file formats in which one can capture the photos onto the memory cards: Jpeg and RAW.
For definitive image quality, exposure control, and shadow/highlight detail, Raw is the best choice.
For speed and maximum storage space, use Jpeg.
So why should you shoot in RAW?
The biggest advantage of capturing images in Raw is the advantage you get in post–processing the image. So here’s the technicality:
Any image in RAW format is in an uncompressed format much like an undeveloped film negative and gives the photographer the option to process and enhance or tweak the photo if needed using a software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Listing all the advantages of shooting in RAW is beyond the scope of this post but I do intend to write another post specific to the same.
It should tell some story
An important element of a good photo is that it should reveal a story or intrigue within it.
Not every photo taken would have this element but the ones which do will add an extra bit of dimension and make the viewer even more interested to know –
what is the story behind the subject?
what are they thinking about?
It should have good composition
Composition is a way of guiding someone viewing the photo towards the most important elements in your scene, sometimes in a very specific order.
Composition is the placement of subjects and background in your photo. A good composition can help make a masterpiece even out of the dullest objects in the scene.
On the other hand, a bad composition can totally ruin a photograph, despite however interesting the subject may be. Having an expensive lens or camera will not guarantee you getting a good composition
So what does?
Well, it requires a lot of practice and believe me I am still getting the hang of it. So whenever you shoot, take a few seconds to choose a good composition taking into account the following things:
- Instead of placing your subject in the centre of the frame as we tend to as beginners, place the subject one-third of the way through the frame. This is the Rule of Thirds. In this case, you imagine that there are invisible lines – two horizontal and two vertical – dividing your picture into nine sections. Placing your subject on any of the points where the lines intersect, makes for a good composition.
- Ensure that the lines in the scene are straight and not crooked, so in the case of the horizon, it should be horizontally straight and in the case of buildings it should be vertically straight.
- When capturing any subject moving or looking in a particular direction, leaving room in front of the subject makes for a better composition.
- Avoid things in the background which might spoil the composition such as a tree branch appearing behind someone’s head.
- You can use lines which in photography terms are called as Leading lines, to draw the viewer’s attention to elements in the photo and it also adds a sense of depth to the photo.
- Using frames can add depth to the picture. Frames can windows, doors, trees or anything which surrounds the concerned subject.
- Trying to shoot from different angles can also give interesting viewpoints.
These are just some of the tips and suggestions I have learned to take good photos and in no ways is this an exhaustive list.
The best thing to do as always is to keep on practising and experimenting for yourself and have fun.
As a beginner, you also tend to make some mistakes and if you want to correct a few common ones you can go ahead and read this article on beginner photography mistakes.