What Makes a Good Photograph?

A couple days ago I asked a question on Twitter that got a lot of different and refreshing responses. I asked “If you had one word, what would you say makes a good photograph?”. Here are some of the answers I got: inspiration, passion, persistence, timing, perception, captivating, feeling, emotion, impact, story, and composition. Tweeple – well said!

Now, in more than one word, we have for you 10 Elements that Make a Great Photograph. This article is brought to you by Jana Morgan, a talented photographer located in Hawaii.


1. Depth.

Creating depth is simple when you are in full control of your camera in manual mode. Using depth in your images bring a dynamic element to your images, bringing a sense of reality to the viewer.

janamorgan_lines022. Lines.

Lines are everywhere from trees, walkways, streets, poles, etc. Find some lines in your area to incorporate into your images to frame your subjects. You can use these lines to help guide your viewers’ eyes right to where you want them to focus, making an effective image.

3. Movement and Motion.

Capturing movement helps to emphasize the action that is taking place at that moment. You can use a fast shutter speed to freeze a moment, or a slower shutter speed to show a motion blur.

4. Perspective.

It’s easy to pick up the camera and just shoot straight towards your subject matter. Take the environment into consideration and think about a different way you can photograph the subject in it’s environment. For instance, if you are in a church, is there a balcony that you can go up to take pictures down into the church to get an overview? Or if you are in a courtyard with beautiful trees, think about getting low to the ground and shooting up at your couple.

5. Composition.

Take the rule of thirds into consideration when composing. The theory is that if you divide the photo into thirds both vertically and horizontally and place points of interest either at the intersecting points or along the lines, the picture becomes more balanced and pleasing to the eyes.


6. Lighting.


Do something unexpected with your lighting other than only using straight, direct lighting. Try backlighting for silhouettes, side lighting by a window with natural light, or bouncing your external flash off of a wall to light your subject.

7. Capture the Unexpected.

When you are not busy posing or directing people, they can be themselves. The real stuff can never be redone, so it is key to keep an eye out for those special moments and learn how to anticipate them so that you are prepared for them. You can search for candid moments to capture that real smile or laughter, tears of joy, or element of shock that they experience when being surprised. Sometimes as a photographer, we have to learn how to step back and let the real magic happen so that we can capture the true nature of those we are taking pictures of.

8. Emotions.

Just like capturing the unexpected as far as the approach, look for true moments that are timeless. With emotions, look for sentimental emotions of joy, fear and love.


9. Sandwiching Effect.

Place your subject between a foreground and background, and create depth. You can also switch it up by focusing in on only the foreground, subject, or background.


10. Location. Location. Location.

Chances are that you are at a location because your clients love that spot, or you recommended it to reflect how the couple wants to be photographed. Capture the essence of that location in your images.

About Jana:

Jana Morgan was born in Thailand and grew up in Bangladesh before moving to America in 1992. With her international travel experiences, her interest in photography began with a documentary style of influence. Jana currently resides in Hawai’i with her husband and two dogs and shoots weddings internationally.


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