Sangres Art Guild

Westcliffe, CO

So What Makes a Good Photograph?

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.

Passion in Photography

So lets talk photography and what makes a “good” photograph, one which turns you on, makes you stop, and most of all makes your heart beat a little faster.

Take the  idea of passion.  I am not referring to the stuff which keeps the tabloid press in business, but that which we really get excited about.  For some people this may mean camping in wilderness, for others it may be the pulsing life of a city.  Some people have a passion for horses, other people for man’s best friend the dog.  It really does not make much difference, passion  as defined by the dictionary is “any emotion such as any intense emotional excitement.”  In other words passion is that thing, person, place or idea which really turns us on and gets the juices of life stirring.

So what does all this have to do with making photographs?  To me it means choosing a subject we really can get involved with. The important thing is that we can become excited about this subject.  We study, we learn, we watch, we comprehend.  We narrow our photography to explore this subject in many different ways.  With passion for a subject we can move out of bed in the morning to greet the dawn and sunset just to see how the light effects our subject.  We continue to photograph even when we are freezing or bathed in sweat. We photograph to explore and to be with our subject.  Sometimes this passion can become almost an obsession, one which drives us to make images hoping one will spark our emotions.
Perhaps one of the most demanding jobs in photography is working for National Geographic.  Talk with one of those outstanding people and you feel their zest for life and for their profession. They are involved in the deepest sense of the word.  Once in the field their days usually  mean getting up before dawn and not going to bed until well after dark.  They shoot hundreds of cards of images, all technically perfect, to be sure they have captured the one image or set of images which best communicate the sense of their subject.  They are expected to come back with images which show their subject in a new and interesting and informative way.  Only excellence is accepted, and a passion for photography and their assignment is assumed.
Now for  most of us this level of involvement is difficult to say the least. However, we all  do have emotional attachments. Often they are just buried by the demands of everyday life. What we need is to simply choose one of these buried passions and bring it to life by making it the focus for our work.  No need to travel to an exotic local, we can find images in our own town, even in our own block or even our own living room.  The images are there waiting to be seen.  A horse with foal running bathed in the light of a rising sun, or a photograph of a child reading by window light, or just a simple image of a puppy running free in a field.
A little passion will take us a long way toward the “seeing” and thus to wonderful, meaningful, and exciting photographs.  Only you can do this.  Cameras and lenses after all are just ways of capturing what you see.  They are but constructions of metal and glass.  What you feel, what you see, and what you have in your heart are the most important things.  The next time you see a photograph which stops you in your tracks and gives your heart a tug ask yourself why this is happening.  It just might be passion, the passion the photographer had in making the image and the passion you have in seeing and experiencing the image.  Bill Gillette.