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Thread: So, what makes for a good image???

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    Senior Member Lucille's Avatar
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    So, what makes for a good image???

    There is a recent thread here "What makes a memorable photo" and it got me thinking....

    Since I am a beginner and newbie that has much to learn, I want to hear from all of you....

    Teach me..... What makes a good image?

    This could be a interesting discussion, as we see and think so different.....
    the HepKitty
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    I was going to ask this uncle who was firing instructions to his nieces on where and how to stand/pose before taking a shot but ran out of patience and never did find out.

    Untitled by Vivek Iyer, on Flickr

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Yikes... there are millions of correct answers to this question. I think a more limited scope would help the discussion, like "What makes a good sports image?" or "How do you photograph a tree/infant/marathon race?"
    Or - show me two images and I'll tell you which one I like better.

    Self-learning is also good - personally for learning I looked at a lot of my own photos that I didn't like, and tried to figure out what exactly the problem(s) were with each image.
    Eventually I understood how to not shoot a bad image.

    So what you can do is post an image (your own or not) that you do not like, and we can discuss why it doesn't work (or maybe it does).
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Let's start with Vivek's image above for some subjective critique.

    Technically it is quite good - exposure is spot on, white balance seems right for the overcast condition and slightly chilly weather.
    The subject matter tells a story, and poses questions to the observer as well. There is of course something very meta about photographing a photographer - which makes it more interesting.
    Composition - ideally just a little more space above the man's head would be ideal, but it's obviously a snapshot so no real complaint.
    Huge negative space to the right, in this case likely an intentional unbalance to lead the observer to wonder what is going on outside the frame. Had the man been centered in the frame it would have been a much less interesting composition.
    Depth of field - with a moderate DOF there is a clear three-dimensionality to the image while still showing enough detail to show the entire scene. Smaller aperture would make the image flat, larger aperture would make it less interesting. The lens used seems to render the defocused areas quite pleasantly.

    EDIT: Another point that makes this image work: Little or no clutter. The eternal challenge for a photographer is to reduce the complexity and clutter of reality to a simpler, cleaner scene. In this case Vivek used a wide angle lens, smaller depth of field and close distance to the subject to make the cluttered background more distant. Composition was also chosen to provide ample of space around the major subject.

    EDIT: The tram rails also guide the observer's eyes to see depth.
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    Senior Member Lucille's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    I can say that one of the elements to me for a good image is to have a clearly defined subject. I also like to shoot in a way that draws the viewer into the subject and/or emphasizes the subject.
    Often I encounter images where the subject isn't very clear or defined, these type of images tend to have too many distracting elements. My style of shooting is to make that subject pop, I tend to shoot wide open quite a bit. In my minds eye I quickly know what my subject is and my thinking process shifts to looking for that angle, pose, view, to make that subject look flattering.


    I think this is basic but it starts here, what is your subject.
    the HepKitty

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    Super Moderator Cindy Flood's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars View Post
    Let's start with Vivek's image above for some subjective critique.

    Technically it is quite good - exposure is spot on, white balance seems right for the overcast condition and slightly chilly weather.
    The subject matter tells a story, and poses questions to the observer as well. There is of course something very meta about photographing a photographer - which makes it more interesting.
    Composition - ideally just a little more space above the man's head would be ideal, but it's obviously a snapshot so no real complaint.
    Huge negative space to the right, in this case likely an intentional unbalance to lead the observer to wonder what is going on outside the frame. Had the man been centered in the frame it would have been a much less interesting composition.
    Depth of field - with a moderate DOF there is a clear three-dimensionality to the image while still showing enough detail to show the entire scene. Smaller aperture would make the image flat, larger aperture would make it less interesting. The lens used seems to render the defocused areas quite pleasantly.

    EDIT: Another point that makes this image work: Little or no clutter. The eternal challenge for a photographer is to reduce the complexity and clutter of reality to a simpler, cleaner scene. In this case Vivek used a wide angle lens, smaller depth of field and close distance to the subject to make the cluttered background more distant. Composition was also chosen to provide ample of space around the major subject.

    EDIT: The tram rails also guide the observer's eyes to see depth.
    I agree with you Lars. I like that Vivek was down low, not at eye level. It gives the photo more interest. The only thing that I would say is that the skin tones are slightly blue on my monitor (and I calibrated it this week). I would have warmed the white balance a touch to improve those, but not too much, because it is overcast.
    -Cindy
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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Quote Originally Posted by Cindy Flood View Post
    I agree with you Lars. I like that Vivek was down low, not at eye level. It gives the photo more interest. The only thing that I would say is that the skin tones are slightly blue on my monitor (and I calibrated it this week). I would have warmed the white balance a touch to improve those, but not too much, because it is overcast.
    You know, I haven't met Vivek in person, can't make assumptions about where his eye level is. I fact, I don't even know if Vivek is a male name - another invalid assumption. Darn. I know that Viveka is a female name, thus the assumption.
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Lucille, you are a treasure.

    Basically, "What makes for a good image" is usually said to be in the eye of the beholder. That designation can yield as many opinions as there are photographers. "I know what I like." all to often actually means "I like what I know." So keep that in mind.

    IMO, there are a few things to consider at least, things I ask people to consider when teaching or giving seminars.

    It seems that people who have a deep interest in something other than photography eventually come to make their best photographs when expressing that interest. To quote Henri Cartier-Bresson, " Photography Is Nothing, It Is Life That Interests Me." His place in the history of photography, and life-long body of work certainly backs up that statement.

    I've also noted that most acclaimed photographers and established masters seem have a common understanding of the nature of still photography.

    I think the great French master Robert Doisneau said it best with his book titled "Three Seconds To Eternity" a reference to the fact that the sum total of his life's curated portfolio added up to about 3 seconds taken at 1/250 of a second here, 1/1000 of a second there. Pretty profound if you think about it, because it nails exactly what makes still photography unique amongst all the visual arts. How one avails themselves of that uniqueness is something to ponder.

    Another master photographer, Andre Kertesz, further zeroed in on it with this challenging statement: "The Moment Something Changes Into Something Else". That "Something Changes ", is a reference to the fact that everything around us is in constant flux be it the ephemeral nature of light itself, to a fleeting expression, to how a photographer may move a few inches and the composition suddenly becomes quite different. That idea can be applied to any type of photography be it photojournalistic approaches, street, sports, still life, portrait, or landscape, etc., etc.

    In general, there are a few components that help make for good photographs:

    Light. Can't make a photo without it. However it is an acute awareness of the quality, quantity, and direction of light that often determines the more successful use of it. I implore my students and assistants to study the ever changing nature of light, and think of how they would place themselves in relation to the subject to take advantage of it.

    What I call the "Geometry of Photography". A photograph is 2D. Where we place the compositional elements, the degree we use perspective, and how we apply optical properties like depth-of-field, is what leads the eye where we wish it to go, and/or tricks the brain into believing the illusion of 3D.

    When the shutter button is pressed. It is more than just anticipation and timing. Again, to paraphrase Bresson's often misunderstood "Decisive Moment" concept not just a reference to when we recognize a significant event has arrived at that "Decisive Moment" it also references the fraction-of-a-second when all of the elements have converged in an organization that gives that moment its proper expression. Note his use of the word "Significant" which suggest discrimination as to what you shoot or by extension what you keep but perhaps more importantly what you show something that is becoming somewhat a lost art.

    Hope this is of some help, or at least inspires some further thinking.

    - Marc
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Well, I've no idea what makes a good image BUT
    What I do know is that if an image is interesting nobody cares whether it's technically good
    . . . and if it isn't interesting nobody cares at all.

    Oh Yes, one of Marc's friends (Irakly Shanidzee) once said of one of my images . . .
    "All it needs is an alligator in the corner"

    These days every time I'm not sure about a picture I think . . . . . . does it need an alligator?

    Happy New Year!

    Just this guy you know
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    LOL!

    Jono, Irakly and I first met many years ago when he praised one of my photos, and mentioned that he liked that I had included a Turtle in the corner of a formal wedding photo

    He and I were just discussing Lucille's subject over coffee the other day. He is in process of having a book published that covers it from quite a different perspective as we'd expect from him.

    Your use of "interesting" is well interesting.

    Maybe that is the real crux of the question what makes an image interesting?

    I guess we can leave that for next year

    - Marc

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    Senior Member Lucille's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    I shot this image earlier today. I used my beloved Sony Cyber Shot.

    I am not saying this is a good image, but I am saying that it was a lot of fun for me. I climbed a high ladder to shoot it. I had fun with it and fun in post, as I always adore the look of the files from my Sony Cyber Shot RX1.

    Sometimes, for me, a successful shooting experience is if I had fun and enjoyed myself, you see when I get behind the lens, I escape into another world, I forget my troubles, and I have fun.


    So what I guess i'm trying to say, if no matter the skill level, even if the images aren't that great, have fun, that is key. Even on some paid jobs I have done, I always have fun, and I hope and pray the day never comes when photography isn't fun for me anymore.


    the HepKitty
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    What makes a good image?

    I think that 99% of the images taken are self-portraits in front of a tourist place. Go to any tourist place and you will see hordes of people taking pictures of themselves, selfie sticks are selling like hot cakes. Therefore, for 99% of people, a good image is an image of themselves.

    I don't photograph weddings or events often, but each time I did people were only interested in the pictures showing them. Same thing.
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    So when one takes a look at the image I displayed above, you will see what I have to work with. I couldn't control the scene, I couldn't move anything. So how do I find a image in this clutter? I have often said, there is a image in every scene, the question is, do you see it?


    I made do with what was, and my eyes and my minds eye starting seeing angles, started seeing how the light is falling and reflecting, and with that, I fired a few more shots with my Sony Cyber Shot point and shoot.








    My minds eye, helps me see a image and compose a image, before the camera even comes out of my bag. I see it, then I shoot it.
    the HepKitty

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    Senior Member Tim's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    I think Marc has it right, the viewer chooses if its good. - This can include the person who made the image.
    Jono's ideas are also on the mark.

    I have many technically poor images that other adore, reason: content
    We are all madly chasing that ultimate IQ and ultimate usability, arguing over mirrorless or the nuance of this $10,000 lens.
    To most of the audience I have experienced its mostly about content with a little of composition thrown in that make a good image.
    My fav image I have made has content, composition, technically ok, and made with a camera/film that I like.
    But its the content that is the cornerstone.

    Your car images Lucille interest me, I like performance cars, so the content is there.

    Now define what is good content.
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    Senior Member Lucille's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    When I say I like my images to have some pop, here is a example. I also like darkness and shadows. I tend to underexpose when I shoot (except portraits of people) and selectively brighten areas of the image, local instead of global.

    This was shot 1hr ago, my 2011 617rwhp Camaro, Chantilly Lace.


    Sony A7S, 55mm Zeiss f/1.8, ISO800, 1/200sec




    I don't know that I can define good content, I can say that good images speak to me, in the case of say landscape, I see many that I just keep scrolling, then I come across some that cause me to stop and take a 2nd look, and the really good ones speak to my inner soul, and have me wishing I was there. When a image makes me wish I was there, it is a good strong image to me atleast.
    the HepKitty

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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    For me, a good image makes me care in some way. It could be the subject matter, or it could be almost totally ambiguous.

    I liken the latter to a walk in the woods where you can almost, but-not-quite-yet see what lies beyond that line of trees up ahead. Or maybe it's like the opening to a William Gibson novel where you aren't sure what's happening, yet you are intrigued even if you can't tell which way is up or even what "up" means.

    I bought a Holga the other week, can you tell?
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Chantilly Lace is YOUR car Lucille? 617 hp at the wheels? Now that's Gear Head Be-Bop!

    I'm a Detroit born and bred boy. Grew up "cruising and bruising" on Woodward in grossly overpowered cars. My Nephew is the owner/builder of the "Frankenstein" outlaw drag car.

    If you already haven't done so, you HAVE to come to the Big D for the "Woodward Dream Cruise" held every August. Biggest cruise there is.

    I adore car stuff and the people involved with it.

    Here's a recent shot … "In Memory" … at first glance it's just a shot of an aging guy enjoying past glories, until you read the license plate. There is a poignant story lurking there.

    "In Memory", 2015 - GetDPI Image Gallery

    - Marc
    Last edited by fotografz; 2nd January 2016 at 19:13.
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    A "good image" should enlist an emotional feeling or attachment to the viewer. Street photography, portrait photography, glam, landscape etc.

    Take the viewer on an emotional trip, make them want to get into the image. The image should tell some type of story without being blantent about it. Let the viewer make up his or her own story as it's being looked at. Make the person wish they were there or glad they weren't depending on the subject matter. The image should be able to stand alone without the observer asking why it was taken (goes to the story telling aspect).

    Don't be afraid of strong emotions as they may run the gamut. I once had a woman break down and cry at seeing an image; she had lost her husband recently and for whatever the reason she hadn't begun to fully grieve until she saw my image ( I had taken it shortly after I had lost a close friend and was grieving myself. It was of a burnt tree with a stormy cloudy sky done in B&W). This was so touching I ended up giving the print to her.

    Finding a good image is like the old saying about porn, "I don't know what it is but know it when I see it".


    just a couple thoughts...
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    It depends on the final destination of the photo, the purpose of the image, if you like, e.g. if I would want to hang it on my wall. In all cases, there needs to be some composition. Many images I have seen need cropping, for example, to remove items that have no relationship to the subject matter, or tidying up in photoshop/whatever.

    Anyway, this is a good image to me, but I wouldn't have it hanging in the front room, but some folk would, I guess. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-35214873
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    Senior Member Lucille's Avatar
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    Re: So, what makes for a good image???

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Chantilly Lace is YOUR car Lucille? 617 hp at the wheels? Now that's Gear Head Be-Bop!

    I'm a Detroit born and bred boy. Grew up "cruising and bruising" on Woodward in grossly overpowered cars. My Nephew is the owner/builder of the "Frankenstein" outlaw drag car.

    If you already haven't done so, you HAVE to come to the Big D for the "Woodward Dream Cruise" held every August. Biggest cruise there is.

    I adore car stuff and the people involved with it.

    Here's a recent shot "In Memory" at first glance it's just a shot of an aging guy enjoying past glories, until you read the license plate. There is a poignant story lurking there.

    "In Memory", 2015 - GetDPI Image Gallery

    - Marc
    That is a fantastic shot!
    the HepKitty
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