We’ve all seen great photography. You usually know it right away: you see a photo that makes you say “Holy crap, that’s good.” But can you explain WHY it’s good? Have you ever tried?
This post is the first in a series where I’ll try to do just that: choose great photos and outline in detail exactly what I believe drew me to the photo in the first place. The hope is that it will help you think more deeply about what moves you in a photograph, and maybe appreciate them more when you see them.
It’s also an exercise for me though; I’ve never really tried to articulate why I like a photo, and I think that doing so will help me improve my own photography 🙂
Now it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: photography, like any art, is subjective. What’s great for me may not work for you, and that’s ok. You can learn almost as much from exploring what you don’t like as with what you do.
Today’s photo is an absolute stunner of a shot, in my opinion. Let’s take a look at what I believe makes it great.
Use of Colour
Good photographs give you something to focus on within them. It’s important to have this focal point because without it, your shots will just look like a jumbled mess. Have you ever tried to shoot a forest from above where nothing stands out? Then you know what I mean.
This photo, titled Boat in Skye, created by a user named Light&Dark and taken from this page, does a great job of creating a clear focal point. The boat in the foreground is essentially the only thing is the shot with vibrant colours. That, combined with the scale of the boat, tells you clearly that this is what the photographer wanted you to focus on in this shot.
Creating Emotion through Contrast
Another thing that this photo does a great job of is running with the natural look of the boat. It’s beached, rusted and weathered, and generally looks like it’s been through some stuff. That vibe would be lost somewhat if this same photo were taken on a sunny day. Can you imagine the same weathered boat with a clear blue sky and birds chirping all over the place? No. I’m sorry, but no.
Here, the photographer has purposefully shot on a cloudy day and muted the colours of the sky and background, creating the impression of a Mother Nature that is about to unleash her fury on anyone in range. It gives you an ominous feeling that fits perfectly with the look and feel of the boat itself.
I wrote a bit about the importance of proper exposure in an earlier post on the basics of photography, and this photo has definitely been properly exposed. It uses a technique called High Dyanmic Range (HDR) photography to do so (a topic for a later post), and everything feels just right as a result. It’s neither too bright (which again, would kill the moody feel of the shot) nor too dark (which would obliterate the details).
Wrapping it Up
The best photos are the ones that make you feel something. It may be joy, anger, sadness, awe, content, or any other emotion. This one evokes a sense of apprehension and curiosity in me, personally. It makes me want to know more about the boat. Where did it come from? What was it used for?
Stay tuned for more in this series. I’ll do my best to look at distinctly different photos every time – there are so many unique ways to take an amazing shot. I just wanted to start here because I’m personally trying to develop my skills in taking this type of shot! If you want to check out my work, you can visit my Instagram feed on the right, or at https://www.instagram.com/jasonrepovs/.
What type of photos do you like best? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to feature a shot like that in a future post!