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Thread: Question! What makes a good photograph?

  1. #1

    Question! What makes a good photograph?

    I have a loaded and BIG question that I think would be really, really helpful to put out there to see what people think and how they respond.

    Drumroll, please!

    What makes a good photograph??? Deep, huh?!!

  2. #2
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    To be simplistic in an answer to your complicated question... I believe a good photograph is one that evokes a reaction in the viewer... The reaction may be pleasure, serentity, excitement or even anger and disgust.

    Good photographs do not have to be "nice". They can often be terrible! I might not even want to look at some good photographs because of their horrible content. The photographs made of the WW-II concentration camps come to mind. I certainly don't enjoy looking at these documents of man's inhumanity to man, but many of them, never-the-less, are good photographs because they can serve to remind humanity of its intrinsic inhumanity. Hopefully, never to be repeated but, unfortunately often repeated.

    However there is one certain reaction within me that tells me that what I am looking at is a good photograph. When an image brings a smile to my heart or brings me back along memory lane to spots once visited and people once friends...

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    Now that is a BIG question.

    We could be in this thread for months and I suspect there could be some interesting discussion.

    What is 'good'?

    An image that informs me.

  4. #4

    Re: Question!

    I was asked a similar question once... "What makes a good woman?"

    My answer? "One that is both capable and willing to put up with me!"

    Sorry not to answer your question, but I honestly don't think there's an answer.

  5. #5

    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by carregwen View Post
    Sorry not to answer your question, but I honestly don't think there's an answer.
    Well, I don't think that there is one wholly complete and right answer, anyway. Aren't there about one kajillion billion books on how to make a "better" photo??? Maybe, the answer is in what the photo is for and, therefore, is different for each individual. However, I'm still interested in the "bits" that anyone else would be willing to share. I'm really interested to know what's in your minds about this. That's why I'm here, anyway - chasing that elusive goal.

  6. #6

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    Re: Question!

    Along the same lines as Richard put so well, "one that invokes an emotion".

  7. #7

    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Katy Noelle View Post
    Well, I don't think that there is one wholly complete and right answer, anyway. Aren't there about one kajillion billion books on how to make a "better" photo??? Maybe, the answer is in what the photo is for and, therefore, is different for each individual. However, I'm still interested in the "bits" that anyone else would be willing to share. I'm really interested to know what's in your minds about this. That's why I'm here, anyway - chasing that elusive goal.
    I heard a good example last night at a meeting, of what makes a good photo, and it goes with what I've been thinking recently. He said that a good shot is like a chain, where the strength of each link is important in contributing to the strength of the overall chain. Get all the links right, and you have a good end result. It applies to so many things in life.

  8. #8

    Re: Question!

    Absolutely with Richard and Colin. It must prompt a human response.

    I do have another theory but after tilting at the comfy classes in the mining thread I am too tired to expound...so in simple terms

    "A good photograph is a photograph that transcends the significance of technical imperfection"

    I made that up whilst contemplating the Pirelli calendar on the back of the bathroom door. I told you I would be brief. Which must be a first for me in philosophical discussion

  9. #9
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    whilst contemplating the Pirelli calendar
    Is that still produced? Patrick (Lord) Lichfield did the photography on (was it a few?) them way back in the ??? (1970s)

  10. #10
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    Surely one person's 'good' photograph is another person's (at best) boring photograph - what I mean is that unless the subject causes an emotional reaction in many/all viewers, it can't be good, can it?

    But my logic may be off as I am just winding up a 13 hour day at work - not left yet - while someone finishes what I kept them late for

  11. #11

    Re: Question!

    Is that still produced? Patrick (Lord) Lichfield did the photography on (was it a few?) them way back in the ??? (1970s)
    They do indeed However mine has been there since 1970...but only in my head. I must admit I thought Lord Lichfield did a few but apparently not. Brian Duffy did a couple. The chronology is here

    Surely one person's 'good' photograph is another person's (at best) boring photograph - what I mean is that unless the subject causes an emotional reaction in many/all viewers, it can't be good, can it?
    errr....runs back to the Pirelli Calendar for inspiration....no sorry. There is nothing for it I will have to bring out the big guns. Now where did I put those vintage issues of Bounce?

    I am just winding up a 13 hour day at work
    If it cannot be achieved in the first 7 hours (including a 2 hour lunch) you are probably working for an Anglo American Consortium. Get home...this minute...kiss the dog...tell your partner you love her...and give the offspring 100 quid each and dont you dare think about logging on to CiC.

  12. #12

    Re: Question!

    Katy, you see what happens when you ask a simple question. The UK and its various colonial outlets will come bounding to your aid. We will gallantly lay our philosophical cloaks over your muddy puddle of uncertainty...then we will totally confuse ourselves and start talking about girly calendars and work.

    Mine is the right answer by the way

  13. #13
    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    I think it is a good photo if you achieve something you set yourself; it is nice for others to like your photo but you can't do photography like that or you will just be like the people your trying to please.

  14. #14
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    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    Katy, you see what happens when you ask a simple question. The UK and its various colonial outlets will come bounding to your aid.
    Mine is the right answer by the way
    ...in this outpost, when asked a question such as yours, we doff our baggy green cap, look up to the mother ship and reply.....
    "How long is a piece of string ? "

  15. #15
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    To be simplistic in an answer to your complicated question... I believe a good photograph is one that evokes a reaction in the viewer... The reaction may be pleasure, serenity, excitement or even anger and disgust.

    Good photographs do not have to be "nice". They can often be terrible! I might not even want to look at some good photographs because of their horrible content. The photographs made of the WW-II concentration camps come to mind. I certainly don't enjoy looking at these documents of man's inhumanity to man, but many of them, never-the-less, are good photographs because they can serve to remind humanity of its intrinsic inhumanity. Hopefully, never to be repeated but, unfortunately often repeated.

    However there is one certain reaction within me that tells me that what I am looking at is a good photograph. When an image brings a smile to my heart or brings me back along memory lane to spots once visited and people once friends...
    In addition to Richard's comments, some of the great photographs receive merit more for material content more than the quality of the photographer's skills. Part of this may be due to the equipment, the light quality, etc., but the images, such as the soup lines of the Great Depression, WWII atrocities, and even some formal portraits endure the test of time primarily from the viewer's emotional connection with the image.

  16. #16
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    I think it is a good photo if you achieve something you set yourself; it is nice for others to like your photo but you can't do photography like that or you will just be like the people your trying to please.
    You are absolutely right Steve; when I implied it 'couldn't be good' unless everyone liked it, it was to prove it is an unattainable goal. I had to cut short my initial reply as I was suddenly told I could go home

    I think my point is that a shot of most subjects won't illicit much of a response in most people unless the subject is human, animal or plant. Inanimate or manmade things are far less likely to get a response unless the viewer has a personal connection to the subject.

    Quote Originally Posted by wirefox
    If it cannot be achieved in the first 7 hours (including a 2 hour lunch) you are probably working for an Anglo American Consortium. Get home...this minute...kiss the dog...tell your partner you love her...and give the offspring 100 quid each and dont you dare think about logging on to CiC.
    Well, I have sent one offspring 60 quid tonight and my wife put 50 quid in another's fuel tank - well it's a start!

    Dogs and wife in bed, cat got some milk though

    Cheers,

  17. #17
    Antonio Correia's Avatar
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    Re: Question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    ...
    "A good photograph is a photograph that transcends the significance of technical imperfection"
    ...
    Absolutely ! ...
    Perhaps I would change imperfection by execution ...

  18. #18

    Re: Question!

    A very good friend of my Moms (mine too), who is a professional photographer (National Geographic hires her, sometimes, and she's had some serious shows - she has some experience - you get the idea?), said this to me, once:

    Cynthia Cable said...

    What makes a good photo? What makes a compelling picture? Seeing something the way it hasn't been seen before, capturing a moment, or two, that is fleeting, The ability to shock someone into a second glance. A pretty picture is easy, it's an illustration, it's a story. But to make a lasting impression is a rare skill, and something that you go out and shoot, and shoot, and get back and throw out all but one or two images and maybe you sequence them into something poetic.


    I think that I'll just throw this into the pot that's simmering here.

    Keep talking if you'd like. I'm listening!!!

  19. #19
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    Re: Question!

    Hi Katy,

    I think there are many, many answers, but the one that is foremost for me (as aspiring maker rather than viewer) is an image that isolates the thing that you saw with your mind's eye that you thought was worth saving in a photograph. This takes knowing your mind on the one hand (not always easy for me) and technique on the other (for me, a whole lot of learning). This isn't to say that there can't be happy accidents, but I think the image that achieves what you intended has to be a whole lot more satisfying.

    No doubt my answer will evolve in the fullness of time, but this pretty much expresses my feeling tonight, as I sift through my library of photos and see nothing but snaps.

    Best,
    Janis

  20. #20

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    Re: Question!

    Hi Katy,

    I don't know if you like or not Oscar Wilde or not, but here are two of his quotes:

    "Art is not to be taught in Academies. It is what one looks at, not what one listens to, that makes the artist. The real schools should be the streets."

    "I dislike modern memoirs. They are generally written by people who have either entirely lost their memories, or have never done anything worth remembering."

    I'm taking pictures because I'm affraid of loosing my memories

    Leo

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