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What makes a great photograph great?


What makes a great photograph great? Now there's a big question. I bet if you asked 20 curators and 20 photographers that question you'd get a different answer from all of them.

I will try to distil the answer. You tell me if it resonates with what you feel and think too.

The usual text book answers to what makes a good photograph revolve around the composition, the lighting, colour, the action in the photograph, the content, story and emotion, but we all know that technically perfect photos, even of great subjects, can be uninspiring and uninteresting.

I think a great photograph goes beyond the individual elements. The sum is greater than the components.

All the elements work together, and as you look, something deeply personal unlocks in your brain. You have this moment when everything connects and makes sense. You go 'aha' I see it. You identify with the subject.

If you don't get that feeling from a photograph then it is just another snapshot.

Creating great images starts with the photographer setting out with a purpose and ends with audience understanding and sharing that purpose. When we recognise ourselves in the image we experience a powerful visceral effect.

For me that feeling comes from seeing how all the elements connect with each other, have a reason for being there, and help to tell the story. Beauty is indeed within the eye of the beholder.

As a photographer you have to ask yourself why am I taking this image. What am I seeing that is exciting my brain? And then you have to distil those answers down to their absolute essence within the frame, discarding anything that is not strictly relevant, anything that does not add to the image, and does not contribute to connecting all the elements together.

What do you think?

Thanks,
Paul Indigo
www.indigo2photography.com


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