Four Elements That Distinguish a Good Photograph from a Snapshot

February 21, 2013

in Art of Photography, Blog

This post sums it up nicely I think.

Here are some of the key elements that distinguish a good photo from a snapshot:

  1. Stopping power. The world is full of visuals vying for our attention. There are photos on products, TV, magazines, newspapers, the Web … everywhere pictures, pictures and more pictures! I believe the key is to show our audience something different. Most snapshots are shot from standing height and way too far away. Get down to the ground for a worm’s eye view or get up on something for a bird’s eye view. Get a lot closer. This will give our photo a little stopping power. It’s out of the ordinary. It’s a surprise.
  2. Communication of purpose. Getting the attention must be followed by good content. People want to be amused, entertained or learn something from a photograph. We need to think about why we are taking a picture. If we aren’t sure, no one else will be either and we’ve made another snapshot.
  3. Emotional impact or mood. Some folks can just tell stories better than others. The same is true with making photos, but we will make better photos if we consider how to bring more drama into them. The key to creating emotional impact is to first experience the emotions we wish to convey. We need to have a genuine interest in the subjects we photograph.
  4. Graphic interest. Our photos need to be technically correct, that’s understood, just as a musician is expected to at least play the right notes. But if the photo doesn’t draw the viewer in and move them in some way, it’s like listening to a machine perform Chopin. What we choose to include or exclude makes up the graphical elements that can catch the viewer’s attention. Remember, a technically competent photograph often is no more than a technically competent snapshot and quite boring. Of course we must be sure the camera’s settings are correct, but this is only the beginning. We need to look for a new perspective, look for another point of view so that people will want to see more of our pictures rather than looking for ways to get out of enduring more snapshots.

Source:  Four Elements That Separate a Good Photograph from a Snapshot, by Stanley Leary

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