What Makes A Great Image?

A lot has been said about what makes a perfect image. As a photographer, the challenge lies in trying to create the image that hasn't been seen before. The image that will make heads turn and that will stand out in the ocean of images that surrounds us everyday. But what makes this so hard to accomplish is that taste is very subjective and what is memorable for some is uneventful for others. How then can we create this perfect image? Is it even possible to plan for a great photo or does it happen on its own?

There is some really good photography out there. Photographers from all walks of life and from any level of expertise are creating amazing imagery. If you are like me and you are curious about what photographers from all over the world are creating you might already know this. And you might have already noticed that even if some images are exquisite some of them just look like what everyone else is doing. Even when I look at my own work I feel like I am just repeating the same pattern and that my work is not standing out.

Since I became a photographer some 5 years ago I have read an infinite amount of books and articles on how to create a great image and even when I went to photography school this was one of the first things that they tried to teach us. And let me tell you, there are a lot of schools of thought. Also, photography is such an extensive field that the formula that might apply to one type of photography might not work for another.

So while I am writing this post I am trying to think of the greatest images that I can remember to then put in writing why I feel that they are memorable to me. They all have one or a combination of the following aspects:

  • They follow all the rules.
  • They break all the rules.
  • They were taken with perfect timing.
  • They have great use of Colour Theory.
  • They depict a historical moment.
  • They depict current affairs.
  • They have an interesting or famous subject.
  • They evoke a feeling.
  • They tell a clear story.
  • Location, location, location.
  • They have beautiful light.

As you can see, there are so many different reasons why a photograph can be a memorable image. And some of these reasons depend on so many factors that they seem impossible to plan for. Which makes me wonder: should we as photographers even bother? Maybe the clue is to keep on working in our art and let the chips fall where they may. Someone, someday, might think that our work is the best thing that anyone has ever created... what are your thoughts?

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