What makes a good photograph?

Alternatively, what makes a bad photograph? During one session we were asked to go and find one image we thought was good, and one bad. The good image I chose, in my opinion, was simple but composed well whilst being humorous. In contrast to this, the image I thought was bad was composed by breaking the rule of thirds, with little background interest and no such emotion or thought provoking aspects.

There are 3 people in a photograph – the photographer, the subject and the viewer. Who is the most important?

  • The photographer – because they are the ones who decide what goes in the image and what does not. They have the power to portray the subject in a certain way, and create the message or emotion they want to share.
  • The viewer – they have the power to interpret what they see, their own way. Essentially, they can decide whether it is a good or bad photo.
  • The subject? Do they have power in how they are photographed or how they are portrayed? Their emotion can be captured, their reality a secret or exploited.

Why do we differentiate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ images, more importantly how? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and people will interpret different photographs in different ways. Essentially, there is no definition as to what is a good and bad image – each photographer develops their styles and ideas in their own way. In a sense, photography does not have rules therefore there is no way to distinguish what is right and wrong. However, can poor lighting result in a bad photograph? Or a happy face denote a good one? If we were to say why something was good or bad, the reason must be explained fully – it is not enough just to say whether we like it or not. An important aspect of ‘judging’ an image is whether we know the context. The context is extremely important as it gives us ‘hidden’ information ¬†into why the image is how it is, or explains it further. Something that we may necessarily categorise as a bad photo, could potentially become a good one with knowledge of its context.

Do we ever have the right as a viewer to decide what a photographer has produced is good or bad?


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on October 12, 2012.

One Response to “What makes a good photograph?”

  1. What were the photos? (link?) Of course we have the right to share our beliefs on what is good or bad, but that’s not to say it is either good/bad (which is what I believe you are alluding to) ;o)

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