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Thread: What defines a good photo?

  1. #1
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    What defines a good photo?

    For most part of my life, whatever photography I indulged in were to do with my work, i.e., taking images of our exhibition stall, samples, customers, conferences. During this period I mainly used the Point and Shoot and rarely ever processed images.

    Past two years however, I decided to up my hobby and bought a 550D and indulged in astrophotography. Thereafter, I got myself a 60D and several lenses and couple of processing software like PSE 9 and PSPX4.

    I do take Raw occasionally but most often Jpeg. My processing is limited and mostly centered round levels, curves, hue and saturation, brightness, contrast. Nothing heavy or complicated. I am not that processing savvy.

    Being a member here as well as on Flickr, I have come across some absolutely gorgeous and stunning images in almost every field, be it Macro, Portraiture, Products, Landscapes and it leaves me bewildered and at times distressed for want of achieving such results. Quite possibly I have one out of 100 images which may reach this level but do not have the eye or processing skills ( if critically important ? ) to replicate.

    Therefore, aside from the images displayed here by forum members, this question has been eating me for sometime now and I had to ask. What defines a good photo?

    Lots of details have been read by me which were posted by members who visited my threads or whose threads I visited. Some talk of structure, some of composition, angle, exposure, lighting, background etc., ending with processing. While I understand these may well form the basis of what could be defined as a good photo, is this the only solution? I am not asking for shortcuts but is there anyway a person could simply click an object and come out with a beautiful photo or is this an empty wish?

    I don't mind understanding in simple terms what defines a good photo, be it natural, human or material. More importantly, am I to believe to obtain a good photo of say a 'Product', lighting plays a key role and that I must possess a few lighting kits and umbrellas or can I get away with a good product photo with just a DSLR and ambient lighting? Ditto for other things. I do have a basic idea of the controls on my camera and what each setting does but maybe I haven't mastered them?

    Now for some if not most of you, the above may appear as some mundane murmurings of someone new to photography. I am yet to cross the 10000th, mark. Your comments and advice may well help solve this. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    When I was younger, photography wise , 6-8 years ago, taking the picture was the do all end all.
    I could not figure out why my pictures sucked...enter Photoshop and shooting RAW into my workflow.
    Gone were the days of merely taking pictures...replaced by creating images that were envisioned beforehand.

    Jpeg, letting the camera choose your post processing, is to restrictive for most of us. Spread your wings and fly.

  3. #3

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by chauncey View Post
    Jpeg, letting the camera choose your post processing, is to restrictive for most of us. Spread your wings and fly.
    That may be true but it doesn't address the real issue that Haseeb is asking about.

    I've got hundreds of RAW photos that no amount of pp will turn into a 'good photo' not because my editing skills are limited (which they are) or because the images are out of focus or incorrectly exposed (because they're not) but just because they are rubbish pictures. They lack the edge that makes you say, "That's a good photo." There just ordinary, everyday 'snaps'.

    Ken

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    One thing to also be discussed - getting the decisive moment, or at least a decisive moment. When you see images posted on forums, you are seeing the photographer's final cut, if you like. There may be other photographs which do not make the grade compositionally and are discarded. In film days you could see the workflow of getting the decisive image through contact sheets.

    For landscapes, the discarded images could have been different compositions, different viewpoints, different heights, different apertures etc. It is only on rare occasions that a photographer will hit the ball out of the park with the first swing of the bat.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Haseeb - There is that old saying "practice makes perfect", and that is true of photography as much as pretty well as anything else.

    Defining a good photo combines three main attributes; compelling subject matter (although some people may argue this point), good composition and good technical execution (in camera as well as in post-production). A good photographer will also recognize when conditions are right for a good photo; lighting conditions that give you a great wildlife shot are not necessarily the same as the ones for a great landscape.

    Your comment about a lighting setup needs a bit of an explanation as well. Studio and lighting equipment does not necessarily give you a great portrait or still-life image. What it does for the photographer is to provide a consistent shooting environment. A professional photographer (or advanced amateur) can come up with consistent results, without having to wait for "magic hour" for a shoot.

    I got into photography many years ago, because I was not satisfied with what the photo labs were doing with my shots. I got into darkroom work; both in black & white and colour so that I could control the final product, and that is where I first realized that "out of the camera" will usually only get one so far, and even simple post-processing work; cropping, burning and dodging and working with contrast adjustments and exposure turnd a well composed and technically good image into something special.

    I feel using the digital darkroom is important and the camera (whether you shoot jpeg or RAW), give you a starting point, and one can has to spend time in post to bring out the best in an image. I spend at least a couple of minutes using Photoshop on any image that I shoot; the ones I really like get a lot more tender loving care. I rarely spend more than 15 or 20 minutes on an image, but then I've been using Photoshop since CS was released, so I have developed a fairly efficient workflow and can do things that used to take me a long time in seconds or minutes.

    All of these contribute to a good photo...

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Haseeb,

    What defines a good photo?

    I would simply say it's one that yourself or others are impressed by

    The problem in defining a common answer is that everyone will have their own view as to what 'good' is, be it subject or quality.

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    What defines a good photo?
    only your own parameters

    only your own composition, exposure, lighting, technique and style...

    Everything else is someone else's opinion

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Haseeb, processing is very important as others have already noted, but I also agree with Grahame and Boab: only you can decide if your photo is 'good'. The photographer is always the first judge of the photo because s/he is the first one to see it when it comes out of the camera and then decide whether it is worth further work ie processing.

    So, perhaps you need to think about composition, in the broadest sense, first. That is the stage I am at now. I think about the maxim 'what is it that attracts me to this scene' and then try to focus as close as possible on that. I try to capture the essence of what I am seeing. JMHO.

  9. #9
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Practice doesn't always make perfect. It often does but unless the photographer is learning, one years experience could equate to one day's experience repeated 365 times. However, I expect that there are few persons who can start shooting excellent images without practice...

    With digital photography, we have the advantage of being able to shoot as many images as we desire without worrying about the cost involved. We also have the advantage of some pretty darn sophisticated post processing capabilities without the need for a wet darkroom. Additionally, we have the capability of sharing our images with and viewing images from other photographers.

    Finally, we have had the advantage of a great photographic education before we ever touch a camera. A person growing up these days has viewed hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of images on television, in magazines and on the internet. While most folks only look at these images, some actually see the images.

    I would recommend the following:

    1. Shoot in RAW... This allows you far more control over your imagery than shooting in JPEG.

    2. Obtain a decent post processing program and learn how to use it. There are free programs such as GIMP as well as fairly low cost post processing programs like Photoshop Elements available.

    I try to get the best image possible straight out of the camera. However, there are virtually no images which I don't post process to one degree or another...

    I also would suggest that a person learn some of the basic concepts of photographic composition such as the "Rule of Thirds"

    This site has some great tutorials and you can find a lot of information on the Internet. YouTube has some excellent basic photography videos.

    Shooting a lot and post processing those images is only part of the formula. Posting your images and asking for critique is another part of the formula...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 20th July 2013 at 09:18 PM.

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by tao2 View Post
    only your own parameters

    only your own composition, exposure, lighting, technique and style...

    Everything else is someone else's opinion
    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
    A good photo is what the viewer perceives to be "good/beautiful" according to his definition as influenced by his environment/experience/knowledge.

  11. #11
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
    Beauty, like supreme dominion
    Is but supported by opinion

  12. #12

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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by tao2 View Post
    an image the viewer finds pleasant.

    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 20th July 2013 at 02:31 AM.

  13. #13
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Haseeb - There is that old saying "practice makes perfect", and that is true of photography as much as pretty well as anything else.

    Defining a good photo combines three main attributes; compelling subject matter (although some people may argue this point), good composition and good technical execution (in camera as well as in post-production). A good photographer will also recognize when conditions are right for a good photo; lighting conditions that give you a great wildlife shot are not necessarily the same as the ones for a great landscape.

    Your comment about a lighting setup needs a bit of an explanation as well. Studio and lighting equipment does not necessarily give you a great portrait or still-life image. What it does for the photographer is to provide a consistent shooting environment. A professional photographer (or advanced amateur) can come up with consistent results, without having to wait for "magic hour" for a shoot.

    ...
    This makes sense. I didn't think of lighting in this way, i.e., consistency. Okay so lighting can be both natural as well as artificial provided its adequate for the purpose.

    Now "Compelling matter" is perhaps what I need to thoroughly understand. My compelling matter may not appeal to another and so on. Food for thought and thanks.

  14. #14
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by chauncey View Post
    When I was younger, photography wise , 6-8 years ago, taking the picture was the do all end all.
    I could not figure out why my pictures sucked...enter Photoshop and shooting RAW into my workflow.
    Gone were the days of merely taking pictures...replaced by creating images that were envisioned beforehand.

    Jpeg, letting the camera choose your post processing, is to restrictive for most of us. Spread your wings and fly.

    Hi Chauncey, I do take occasional Raw and maybe I should try and shoot more Raw and see how much of a difference this really makes. Thanks.

  15. #15
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by stuck View Post
    That may be true but it doesn't address the real issue that Haseeb is asking about.

    I've got hundreds of RAW photos that no amount of pp will turn into a 'good photo' not because my editing skills are limited (which they are) or because the images are out of focus or incorrectly exposed (because they're not) but just because they are rubbish pictures. They lack the edge that makes you say, "That's a good photo." There just ordinary, everyday 'snaps'.

    Ken

    This has been the issue. Most of my pictures either lack that 'wow' factor or my processing is inadequate.

  16. #16
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    One thing to also be discussed - getting the decisive moment, or at least a decisive moment. When you see images posted on forums, you are seeing the photographer's final cut, if you like. There may be other photographs which do not make the grade compositionally and are discarded. In film days you could see the workflow of getting the decisive image through contact sheets.

    For landscapes, the discarded images could have been different compositions, different viewpoints, different heights, different apertures etc. It is only on rare occasions that a photographer will hit the ball out of the park with the first swing of the bat.
    Thanks, the last part is reassuring. I need to read and practice more on the decisive moment. May be this is what is missing from most of my images.

  17. #17
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post

    I would recommend the following:

    1. Shoot in RAW... This allows you far more control over your imagery than shooting in JPEG.

    2. Obtain a decent post processing program and learn how to use it. There are free programs such as GIMP as well as fairly low cost post processing programs like Photoshop Elements available.

    I try to get the best image possible straight out of the camera. However, there are virtually no images which I don't post process to one degree or another...

    I also would suggest that a person learn some of the basic concepts of photographic composition such as the "Rule of Thirds"

    This site has some great tutorials and you can find a lot of information on the Internet. YouTube has some excellent basic photography videos.

    Shooting a lot and post processing those images is only part of the formula. Posting your images and asking for critique is another part of the formula...
    Thank you Richard. I must try and follow the rule of thirds. I read the tutorials on CiC and find them helpful. As stated earlier, I will try to shoot more Raw and utilize Photoshop Elements 9 and PSPX4 to process them.

  18. #18
    HaseebM's Avatar
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Graham, Boab, Greg, Nimitz...thank you. I agree beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Hopefully I follow what is being said here and come out wiser.

  19. #19
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by HaseebM View Post
    Thanks, the last part is reassuring. I need to read and practice more on the decisive moment. May be this is what is missing from most of my images.
    Haseeb - my point is that you should try to shoot everything from lots of angles, with varying apertures, differing focal lengths, different compositions. Then on review, you can see what has worked and what hasn't. There's nothing worse that a moment when you review your images and you think "I wish I had done this" instead. You'll then pick up an understanding of what works compositionally for you, as well as what may be more or less flattering for the subject.

  20. #20
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    Re: What defines a good photo?

    Quote Originally Posted by HaseebM View Post
    Thanks, the last part is reassuring. I need to read and practice more on the decisive moment. May be this is what is missing from most of my images.
    Haseeb - my point is that you should try to shoot everything from lots of angles, with varying apertures, differing focal lengths, different compositions. Then on review, you can see what has worked and what hasn't. There's nothing worse that a moment when you review your images and you think "I wish I had done this" instead. You'll then pick up an understanding of what works compositionally for you, as well as what may be more or less flattering for the subject.

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