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What makes a photo great?

This is a discussion on What makes a photo great? within the General photography forums, part of the Photography & Fine art photography category; From another thread ... Originally Posted by mindforge Art is in the perception of the viewer. That's very true ... ...

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    Default What makes a photo great?

    From another thread ...

    Quote Originally Posted by mindforge View Post
    Art is in the perception of the viewer.
    That's very true ... I don't how many times I've seen what I think is a great photo get absolutely no attention at all and awards given to photos that to me are not worthly of being looked by sighted people!

    Also, I often show my photos in my online galleries to a selection of people and family (some are photographers, some are not) and it's amazing how often they all love different photos in the selection.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

    For the purposes of this discussion ... a 'Great' photo will be separated and defined in the following two categories ....

    PROFESSIONAL 'GREAT' - Photos 'Great' by Professional Definitions and therefore technically and visually great
    (Must have all or some of the qualities listed as a great photo is likely to need several to make it 'Great')

    A Professional 'Great' photo has ...
    • great content
    • good photographic techniques applied
    • no bad quality elements such as overexposure etc
    • shows the photographer captured the image he was intending to create
    • a suggested story or strong focal point
    • great printing qualities meaning a full selection of tones from black to white
    • no distractions
    • good exposure, composition and lighting
    • transcends the traditional boundries of the craft and takes it to a new and exciting direction



    PERSONAL 'GREAT' - Photos 'Great' by Personal, Emotional, Sentimental Definitions that simply are great regardless of technical aspects
    (Must have all or some of the qualities listed as a great photo is likely to need several to make it 'Great')

    A Personal 'Great' photo has ...
    • great content
    • good photographic techniques applied
    • appeals to you personally with less emphasis on quality
    • shows the photographer went well out their way to capture the image regardless of the quality attained
    • sentimental value
    • artistic intent and content
    • content not usually photographed


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

    I'm sure there would be more to add to that ... ideas?

    I'll update the list as we go.
    Last edited by Mad Aussie; 01-24-2009 at 01:54 AM.

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    tomorrowstreasures is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mad Aussie View Post
    From another thread ...
    with these adorable little guys, you are going to create stalkers of them!

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    mindforge is offline Senior Member
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    As with music I think that photography is perceived differently from different viewers. I might see a photograph of an old man in b/w and think, "It's a black and white of an old man." The other guy/gal might notice something I didn't or it might reach them in a different manner based on their life experiences.

    Great photos appeal to lots of people. They hit home and people find something in them they like and usually the people find something a little different that appeases to them.

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    No one else have any views of what they feel makes a photo great?

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    Actually I have LOADS to say on this topic but I will try and keep it short and I must say i respectfully disagree with your 3rd and 4th points Mad Aussie. (a photo that appeals to you personally regardless of quality and a photo that shows the photographer went well out their way to capture the image regardless of the quality attained). For me quality is a key point - No quality = no greatness. Just cuz you tried hard doesn't cut it except in nursery school.

    And just because it appeals to you personally...I don't buy that either. Greatness in anything further needs to be subdivided IMO. There's GREATNESS that the majority of people can agree on (Like the Grand Canyon, Mona Lisa, Catcher in The Rye, etc.) and personal opinion greatness (My 2 year old made this incredible abstract art with crayons and it's great because...it's just great... and if you think otherwise too bad.

    For me - it makes sense to divide the answers into 2 groups of perceivers; photographers and everyone else.

    Just like a good musician, car aficionado, or wine connoisseur knows a fine piece of music, car and wine respectively, a photographer also has better insight into what makes a great photograph. Of course all humans can look at a photo and say what makes it great, but their answers are not based on 'the rules or customs of the craft'.

    For me a great photograph contains ALL of the following;
    -A suggested story or strong focal point
    -Great printing meaning a full selection of tones from black to white
    - No distractions
    - good exposure, composition and lighting

    Obviously there will be some disagreement here - but that's part of the fun.

    anyone else?
    Last edited by Marko; 01-22-2009 at 10:55 AM.
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    Travis is offline Senior Member
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    The line of what makes a photo great really depends on the purpose of the photo. If it's abstract or fine art I would argue the greatness is measured by the satisfaction of the creator. The rules of the craft (of photography) are not as heavily measured.

    Look at music.... Louis Armstongs vocals certainly didn't meet the rules of the craft.... Jimi Hendrix smashed the rules of the craft and most people thought his style was lunacy at the time.... Miles Davis..... Lenard Cohen doesn't belong in any choir... All of these people were able to transcend the traditional boundries of the craft and take it to a new and exciting direction.

    I don't see this being and different in fine art photography. However, all other styles of photography must follow a fairly tight standard in order to achieve a successful image. All of which have been mentioned above.
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    mindforge is offline Senior Member
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    In some cases, I would have to say the thing that really makes a photo great.. is the viewer. Some people love some of my worst pictures because it has some sort of sentimental value. When a person looks at a photo, they bring their life time of experience with them and all that experience has subconscious impact. They might pick the picture with the old hound on the porch even though everything about it is inferior to the next guy. Maybe they grew up with a hound just like that and it had emotional connection.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mindforge View Post
    In some cases, I would have to say the thing that really makes a photo great.. is the viewer. Some people love some of my worst pictures because it has some sort of sentimental value. When a person looks at a photo, they bring their life time of experience with them and all that experience has subconscious impact. They might pick the picture with the old hound on the porch even though everything about it is inferior to the next guy. Maybe they grew up with a hound just like that and it had emotional connection.
    So true...
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    I also think 'Quality' with a capital Q has a somewhat universal appeal it is NOT personal as is 'personal quality' with a lower case q.

    We all know what Quality is (Greatness) but have a hard time defining it.
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    I think that if the question were what makes a photo fine art - the debate would be different than what you are doing here. What makes a photo great? Define great. Are you referring to emotionally great? technically great?

    I do want to say that this discussion provides pause for considering points of view separate from one's own. Good work here.

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