Skip to main content

The three key elements of good photographs

Photography is about three things: light, colour and action. Think of it as the tripod that supports all good images. As you know though it is still possible to take a great image on a monopod so at the risk of straining the metaphor, you need at least one of the following elements to make an interesting image.

Light is the essence of photography. It tells the story in your image by connecting directly with the emotions of the viewer. Harsh light and soft light, shadow that hides and sparks the imagination, bright light that shows every detail – all have their characteristics. To be a good photographer you need to learn how to speak the language of light and use it to tell the story you want to communicate to the viewer.

Colour, and in black and white the tonal range and values, also connect with the viewer's emotions. Colour provides the inner energy of the image. Vibrant and bright colours have a profoundly different mood to soft muted colours. Warm colours come forward while cool colours retreat, creating depth and emphasis in your images. Dark and light tones in black and white images create a pattern and fill the frame with energy when used in high contrast or soften the mood when you use subtle greys.

Action is the word I use to describe what is happening in the image. This may be a decisive moment ala Cartier Bresson or it could be tension created in a still life composition between different elements for example an egg balanced precariously on the edge of a table. The action in an image is what gets the viewer to pose the all important questions, “What happened next and what happened a fraction of a second before?” Action is a slice of frozen time the split second the shutter opened. As photographers we have to both pose the question to the viewer, “Why was this particular split second important?” And in the image we have to provide an answer as well so that the viewer can discover something in your image which makes them say, “Oh I see why!” It could take a split second for the viewer to ‘get it’ or a minute but that discovery has to be there to make the image truly interesting.

Right. There we have the three legs of the tripod that good photography rests on. Now you need to think about how to use all three to make your images connect with the viewer’s emotions and intellect. You have to surprise, amaze and enthrall them to get your images to communicate. Each step of the way you’ve got to think; how can I use light, colour and action/interaction/reaction within the image to make it more powerful, creative and meaningful. Simple really…

Till soon…

Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk
Follow me on twitter
My flickr stream

Comments

Malik said…
Thank you Paul for this finest description of Photography!

However, there is a some question for you. First,
Does Action is always exist in the Landscape Photography?Does its mean that action in this case are a Wind, Noise and etc... by another words "Frozen Action"?

Second question is,

Does a WB photography are still alive in 21th Century?

I can see that Action is play a main role in your works. At least, Action has a bigger part in this article description :)
I love your works Paul, and you are a my Big PhotoTeacher my friend!

P.S. Can't talk with you in Skype right now, because I'm full in Macintosh now and i'm still waiting for the drivers for my web cam from here - http://webcam-osx.sourceforge.net/ It will be ready soon!
Paul Indigo said…
Hi Malik,

Thanks for the comment. Action does more easily apply to people as a concept but in essence I mean that there is some event worth photographing that is happening when you make the image.

But like I said above you do not need all three elements at the same time. The reason for the image could be purely for colour or to capture the beautiful light in a landscape.

If at the same time as you've got an eagle about to land in the tree in your landscape you've got action. Add a lovely sunset and you've got colour too.

Cheers,
Paul
Sherri Meyer said…
Great post Paul. Keep them coming!
Neville said…
Great post, worth reading for its simplicity and its direct impact.
These are very helpful elements for me, I just got interested in photography.
Anonymous said…
Light, color, and action.. I like that. I love pictures than have some action in them.

I have written a similar post in my blog. Will appreciate you all to check it out.
http://lens-bh.blogspot.com

Popular posts from this blog

The art of writing a caption

A caption in its simplest form is the the title of an image but usually we mean a bit more. A full caption takes the form of descriptive text, usually a few sentences.

A good caption informs us about the things we cannot see and encourages us to look at an image more closely. There is a relationship of mutual benefit and dependence between a well written caption and an image. The caption can bring an image to life by providing context and meaning. It is also the link between the article/story/text and the image.

Magda Indigo has written a good description of a caption here. I agree with her dislike of "untitled". It does show a certain lack of imagination and is not particularly helpful to the viewer. Creating an image is all about trying to communicate something and the caption is vital to help the audience understand an image. It can hugely enhance the viewers experience.

A good caption is a piece of writing that should be concise, accurate, informative and as carefully craft…

All the different types of photography

Welcome to my blog. While you're here why not browse through my extensive library of articles covering everything from tips on how to do things photographic to help with the mental approach you need to become a successful photographer. You'll also find articles with some of my unconventional views. Yes, I've rattled a view cages in my time. Hope you have as much fun reading them as I did writing them.

You can view my more serious work on www.indigo2photography.co.uk

All the different types of photography

With the help of acquaintances on a photographic site I've tried to compile a list of all the different types of photography out there. I'm sure there are many still missing but the list is pretty impressive so far. We have identified around 80 descriptions.

For fun I've highlighted in bold the different types I've done so far...

3D photography
Action photography
Advertising photography
Aerial photography
Amateur photography
Animal photography
Architecture photography

Art of the decisive moment

Capturing the decisive moment requires patience and timing. Good timing depends on your ability to anticipate the right moment.


Welcome to my relaunched blog. You'll notice a new design to mark the moment. What do you think?

The plan is to write far more regularly. Short posts. Easy to read. Focused on a single subject.

This time it's about that vital element. The anticipation of the decisive moment.

As a scene unfolds you're thinking about what is going to happen next. Where are people moving to? What are they doing? What's happening in the background? Do you have the right point of view or do you need to move?

To be ready for the moment you need a prepared mind and a prepared camera. I almost never use burst mode. It's too inaccurate. While the shutter is clattering away you're not seeing what is about to happen. You run the risk that the exact split second you should have snapped is between frames. I prefer the approach of taking a single shot, relying on t…