How do you know if a picture is good? Of course there are rules and elements of photography to help decide, but at some point opinion creeps in. Like trying to determine good art, it is a matter of taste.
I don’t haphazardly choose The Picture for my picture run posts. I spend a lot of time reviewing them. There are some that are so close to being good pictures, but miss the mark for various reasons. When looking at my own pictures here are some of the things I look for:
1. Interest. I love pictures that draw you in. Your eyes are focused on a point or in a direction. There is a feeling like you want to see more. What’s down that trail? What’s beyond the trees? I like lines for your eyes to follow.
2. Color. One of my favorite ways to have interest is with a punch of color. Now that it is winter, I’m hoping for a great shot of a cardinal on a snowy day. Will it happen? Maybe. They seem even brighter in the winter when everything else is so dead. And conversely, I like Black and White because it changes the feel of an image. And for some pictures, I think it is more appropriate.
3. People. There are whole books on photographing people so I won’t say much here. Other than my favorite shots with people are when they are natural. A lot of times this means they aren’t looking at the camera, but I don’t think it matters. I like real expressions – good and bad.
4. Function. What is the picture for? Some pictures are just to serve a purpose. For example on the home page, there is a picture of my camera for the Gear Page. It’s not really exciting but it does its job.
5. Editing. As a photographer, this is sort of my measure on if I did a good job or not. If I have very little editing to do, then that is a good picture from a technical perspective. If I have little editing AND there is some interest in the picture then that’s a great picture. It’s just something I’ve noticed. If I had to do a lot of correcting to picture because of bad exposure or something like that, then it probably isn’t a great picture to begin with.
6. Emotion. I think with any art the idea is to evoke some kind of emotional response. I want my audience to be affected by my work; hopefully, in a positive way.
It is much easier to delete or eliminate pictures than it is to pick the best one. The top three ways pictures get eliminated:
1. Poor exposure or white balance. This happens more than I’d like to admit. Sometimes I can fix it in photoshop. Other times, I can’t.
2. Out of focus. I usually delete blurry pictures before they get to my computer but the camera screen is small and sometimes I need to see it before I realize a picture isn’t as crisp as I would like it to be.
3. Or just plain Blah. Some pictures are technically good, but they fall flat. They just don’t make you feel anything about them.
The last question I ask myself is could I imagine this picture hanging on someone’s wall? Or, would I want this hanging on my wall? If yes, Great! If no, then ….well, then I’ll reevaluate or I’ll call it good and hope for better the next time.