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|Q:When looking at a photo,what
should I be looking for, so I can say this is a good
A: The question you have asked some people never learn the answer to in their entire life.
There are so many things which go into what makes a picture good. I'll attempt to just break the surface by listing some of the criteria I use when judging a photograph.
(1) The very first thing I ask myself about a photo is whether it is in focus or not. Any picture which is not in focus, doesn't get much additional consideration from me. Yes, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes, but not often, an out of focus picture works - usually it involves motion, sports, or action of some kind; movement causes the blur.
Always remember an out-of-focus print, whether color or black and white, may not represent the sharpness found in the original negative. If in doubt, look at the negative with a loupe or magnifying glass. An out-of-focus slide is out of focus.
(2) The second thing I ask is whether the photo has been properly exposed, is it too light, too dark, or just right? Again with prints, the negative can be reprinted and sometimes a better print can be made from it. With an overexposed or underexposed slide, you are pretty much stuck with what you have.
(3) I ask myself whether it's clear what the subject is in the picture? Of course, in the case of some landscapes, the entire scene can be the subject, but even in such broad expansive scenes, a skilled photographer will usually have some object which first catches your attention. Something your eye is drawn to.
(4) I ask whether the photographer made the best use of the frame. This has several parts to it (a) did the photographer get close enough? More photographs are ruined because of a failure to get close enough than for any other reason. (b) did the photographer take advantage of the best choice for holding the camera. Many people forget that 35mm cameras can be held vertically to produce portrait format shots; many casual photographers take all their 35mm shots with the camera held horizontally. This is great for many landscape scenes, but mostly a terrible choice when shooting a person. Too much of the film frame has been wasted.
(5) I ask myself whether the photo can be improved by judicious cropping. "Cropping" as you probably know, means cutting off some extraneous horizontal and/or vertical parts of the image to make the subject more compelling.
(6) Did the photographer notice and take advantage of (a) leading lines (b) shapes (c) textures and other elements of art to make the picture more interesting. In short, do I get a sense the photographer made a picture rather than just took a picture.
(7) In the case of many photographs, choosing the right moment to snap the shutter is of paramount importance - a second too soon or a second too late and the image wouldn't have been the same. So I ask myself was the picture taken at the right moment.
I'll be adding more thoughts on what makes a good photograph and I'm sure others may want to share their views too.
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