So what makes a good photograph? Ask ten people and you may get ten different answers as each of us views an image through different lenses of emotion, knowledge, background and of course attitudes when viewing an image.
However, there are some basics which help an image to communicate what you the photographer intends. Some of these seem almost too basic to mention, yet when neglected contribute to an image’s failure to communicate. Let me mention a few things which I have found more than once contributed to an image’s failure.
Let’s say you have come on an alluring scene, beautifully lit, composed and meaningful. You make the image and pop it up on your LCD screen . It just doesn’t look the same. Why? Now look again at the scene only this time close one eye. Different? Yep, by doing this you are looking at the scene as your camera does, with mono not stereo vision. You can take this even further. That is, cut a rectangular window from a piece of cardboard, say 4″ x 6” and view a scene through this window. Chances are your “alluring” scene suddenly becomes flat and less interesting.
What to do? Your problem is how to transform a three dimensional scene to a two dimensional image. Try moving to include something in the foreground such as a log, a branch, etc. Now look at the middle ground. Is there something there you can include which will help guide the eye through the image? Last look at your background and ask yourself is this what I want my viewer to see? Just the addition of this one exercise in vision can help you transform your photography. How, once you have made sure to have something of interest in the foreground, in the middle ground and last in the background you have helped transform a two dimensional image to a visual three dimensional image.
Last, but surely not least. Use a tripod wherever you can. Not only will your photographs become sharper, but the simple act of setting up your tripod, of taking your time viewing the scene through the camera, deciding what to put in the scene, and what to leave out will help make your images communicate what you intend to say. Bill Gillette.