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What are the Elements that make a Great Photograph

What are the elements that constitute a great photograph? This is one important question that comes to the mind of most beginners to photography. Or is a question any photographer who wishes to create works of art and make a name for him / her in the photography industry should first ask himself/herself.

perfect photography
Photo By Keith

While there is no magic recipe to create great photographs, there are certain elements that are always present in great shots. Having an understanding of the elements that constitute a great photograph and working on them so as to improve your own photographic skill is a great way to progress in this field. So in this article let us look at some of the components that are invariably seen in masterpiece works of great artists.

1. A Strong Subject

A strong and appealing subject is at the heart of every good photograph. Ask yourselves what it is about the subject that made you think of taking a shot. Or what is it that appealed to you and how best could you present it to others. Are you trying to photograph an extraordinary subject or are you photographing an ordinary subject but in an extraordinary way. What is your angle of the story and what perspective is best to covey it. Looking at your photograph, the viewers should immediately understand what you are trying to say through the image. If you could successfully connect them and evoke the same feelings (that you had when you first saw the subject) in your viewers then you have succeeded in your task.

photography subject
Photo By Fadzly Mubin

2. Composition

Having a strong composition is a must to produce pictures which stand out from the rest of the crowd. Composition determines how you arrange the different elements in your frame and how they relate to each other. While there are no definite rules to great composition, there are principles that could be used as guide lines for composition like framing your subject, moving in close, the Rule of Thirds etc. Another good way to learn composition is to go through the works of established photographers and painters and learn how they have arranged the shot and how it makes the work special.

photography composition
Photo By John and Fish

3. Lighting

Photography is nothing but capturing light, so without great lighting there can’t be great photographs. Light and shade is what defines shapes, form, texture, mood and feel to your images. Lighting not only includes the ambient light present on the scene but also light that you introduce to the scene by way of reflected light, strobes, flashes, etc. Learning how to manipulate light to suit your specific needs could improve the quality of your photographs more than any other element.

great photography
Photo By Jim Brekke

4. Exposure

One characteristic that is common for all great photographs is that they are all correctly exposed. A wrongly exposed photograph is like a recipe gone wrong. Even though you will be able to make up (to an extent) in post processing, it will never come up to the standards of a perfectly exposed photograph. Invest some time learning about the various metering modes in your camera and learn how to set exposure compensations, how to bracket shots and also how to take full control and do everything in complete manual mode. This will help you nail your exposure right where you want – in camera.

photography exposure
Photo By Riccardo Cuppini

5. Colours

Colour is one major ingredient that constitutes great photographs, the presence or the absence of colours both create great picture taking opportunities. It could be used as the primary element to attract the viewer’s attention to the photograph. Once the viewer notices the picture and his mind begins to comprehend it, his attention may shift to other compositional elements. Some colours like Red, Orange, Yellow attracts the immediate attention of the viewers by pushing forward, while some other like Green, Blue, Purple etc. pulls the attention to the back. A good understanding of colours and their characteristics and how to arrange them in a shot could be very helpful.

colour photography
Photo By Andrea Rinaldi

6. Story Telling

A good photograph is one which has a story to tell. Looking at it the viewer’s can’t help thinking about the person, the place, the environment, other elements in the picture and their interaction with each other. The viewer should feel like he’s actually seeing and feeling the scene in front of him. If for a second the picture could captivate the viewers mind and transport him/her to the scene and make them feel it in their heart then you know you have created a great photograph.

Photo By Chaval Brasil

7. Movement

Shutter speed is one of the most creative controls in a digital camera. With the help of shutter speed you have the ability to either capture motion in your pictures or freeze it. Capturing movement in a scene could be a very effective method to add an element of interest to your picture. Adding movement would also make your picture feel live. Do experiment with shutter speed and explore its vast creative potential.

photography movement
Photo By Joe Penniston

8. Emotion

Think for a quick second what your emotion was when you saw the potential scene. What do you feel now that you are going to press the shutter? Was it joy, happiness, hope, sadness, kindness, relief, calm, peace etc. Identify that exact feeling you had and think how best you could frame your subject and put it in perspective with other elements in your scene so as to convey the exact emotion to your viewer. A good photograph should be able to stir up emotions in the viewers mind.

photography emotions
Photo By Beardnan

The list given here is by no means comprehensive. And one other thing to remember is that you need not get all the elements right to have a great photograph. There are pictures which have only got one of the elements discussed here right and they are still great pictures, so work on them and try to get as many elements right as possible and you will see the difference in your results soon.

In the next article we will discuss about Photography - Tips For Beginners - Automatic Exposure Bracketing - A.E.B

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