Well? What is it? What makes a good picture?
So often I see post on Facebook, or Model Mayhem, or Instagram about certain photos being great, beautiful, amazing, or the other direction, being terrible, horrible, or just plain bad! And of course, everyone has to give their reasons; the lighting was incredible, the model was outstanding, the pose was perfect OR the pose was not right, horrible shadows, bad lighting. I once posted a photo of a model licking a candy sucker and someone in the group called it porn, and, of course, all the sheep jumped on the bandwagon, posting about how horrible and pornographic the image was. Literally, it was a model, fully clothed, licking a lollipop. WOW!
So, what’s the answer? What does make a good photo? Is it the lighting; natural sunlight, strobes, or LEDs? Does the genre make for a better picture; nature, architectural, macro, wedding, boudoir, event? What about the subject, model, product, or object? Or does the equipment determine a good or bad image; Nikon, Canon, Leica? And if that is the case, d-slr or mirrorless? What about the glass up front? Brand name or third party? Here’s an even better question, is a good image in Nashville, Tennessee different from a good image in Las Vegas, Nevada? Hmmm
My absolute first rule of photography…this is what I tell interns, students, second shooters, models, and anyone that ask. There is no good or bad photo!!! Photography is art, art is subjective. In other words, what you like, what you think is a good image, may not be what someone else likes. And what you think is bad lighting, a horrible pose, or bad composition – someone else may love. Just like most man-made rules – there are exceptions to most of em.
If you feel like you are an authority on photography and you want to critique someone’s work, you should ALWAYS add in the words “in my opinion”! Cause, guess what, that is all it is, your opinion. When it comes to art, a professional analysis means nothing to anyone except the person giving it. You can tell someone why YOU think an image is good or bad. That doesn’t make it so… One time I was working a booth at wedding expo and a lady came by and told me I needed to pay a $15 tax on the table space. I nodded. She said it was a city thing. I nodded. She said it was in-acted a year before and that everyone had to pay it. I nodded. She stood there and waited. And she waited… Finally she asked me if I was going to give her the money. I looked her square in the face and told her no. I didn’t know who she was. She never gave me her name, much less her credentials. She just came up to the table and said I needed to give her money. This is how I feel about some people who post their opinions on images, as if they were fact! They are not fact, they are opinion. And generally, the people who are giving you the opinion have no authority, experience, or credentials to back up their opinion.
This is honestly one of the reasons I don’t do contest. I don’t need two or three people judging my work and trying to speak for the masses on what is good or bad. Just because judge John Smith doesn’t like my image, does not make it a bad image. And if I win the contest, that doesn’t make it a good image. I tell models the same thing – they take things a lil more personal. I tell them just because a magazine didn’t publish their photos doesn’t mean that a dozen other periodicals wouldn’t love the images. And vise-versa, if a magazine does publish the model, there are a dozen periodicals out there that would not. It comes down to one thing – that editor’s opinion. Yes, they have guidelines they look at, rules they have to go by, but in the end…it’s someone’s opinion.
In all honesty, and in my opinion – what makes a good photo? Did you get the look you were going for? A good photo comes down to not luck, not a great model, not good equipment. It comes down to preparation, collaboration, and execution. The image you are seeing on the screen is exactly what you saw in your head when you pushed the button – that is a good photo. Did you see the details in your head? Did you see the rim lights, the amount of light on the subject, the amount of shadow? Is the background what you had envisioned? A good image comes down to the right settings on your camera to get the amount of light and shadow you wanted, the right pose or placement of your subject, the right execution of the concept.
The biggest thing you wanna take from this blog is simple, don’t let what some random person says or does affect your opinion of your work. I am a firm believer in listening to the masses to an extent (something I learned in a small groups dynamics course in college). However, I know sheep and people jumping on the band wagon with social media has gotten out of hand. Again, it’s simple, you know if the image is what you wanted.
And one more thing…this is all just my opinion!