What is a Good Photo?

The eternal question for photographers.

In the beginning  (and far beyond for many of us), it’s often enough to make an image that is technically good and pleasing to the viewer. Indeed Googling this question will produce many answers that do little more than list the “technical’ aspects of a photograph, including “good composition”.

So I was interested to read this article which takes a more aesthetic view and includes the following perspectives:

“A good photo is a visual sentiment which has the ability to touch the mind of others.”

“…a good photo is one that speaks to me, that tell me a story …”

“Images that restore our own memories, cultural references and the sense of being human – those are the ones which moves us.”

Since this appears on a website dedicated to “the link between fine art and mobile photography”, perhaps it’s to be expected that these comments play down the technical quality of images in favour of their emotional content.

And similarly not surprising that camera clubs tend to emphasise the more technical quality of images produced with the expensive cameras and sophisticated editing software  that we have invested in – although if asked the question we would claim we are striving for both dimensions.

But the image above is very different to the winner of the 2012 Landscape Photographer of the Year with this image “Winter Field, Stirlingshire, Scotland” by Robert Fulton, Cumbernauld.

Can both of these be “good photos”? The second is more like a photo club competition winner, the first is certainly not.

Of course it’s a very personal thing. For example, I’ve always liked this image taken in a Hong Kong Subway.

But by any “technical” standards it’s weak – imbalanced to the left with little in the right hand side of the image, with poor colour balance caused by the lighting and not that sharp. Yet for me it’s evocative of our stay in Hong Kong and I like the strong  converging lines of the image.

A good photo? Who is to say. And isn’t that the real point of our photography?



2 responses to “What is a Good Photo?

  1. What I think is a good photo, and what a judge thinks is a good photo, are often two different things.

    • Totally agree, but I take photos of what I think will look good. I certainly don’t base my photography on what I want other people to like, just me! I think photography is such a personal thing and if you don’t like it, what’s the point in taking the photo?

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