Can anyone take a good photograph?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Tom Hudson, Dec 7, 2004.

  1. Tom Hudson

    Tom Hudson Guest

    Following on from "What should the serious amateur concern himself with?"...

    A good photograph is one that most people can look at and say, "hey,
    that's a good photograph".
    The 'rules' of photography are based on what people like the look of.
    This means that everyone must have the rules of photography built-in.

    So, my questions are:

    Is the difference between a good photographer and a bad photographer how
    in touch they are with their in-built rules?
    Is it possible for anyone to learn this or can some people really not
    tell what looks good from what doesn't?
    If this is the case, how can they tell if a photo looks good? Can they
    just not apply it to the things they see around them?

    Tom Hudson, Dec 7, 2004
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  2. Even a four year-old. I have the proof.
    you know who maybe, Dec 7, 2004
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  3. Tom Hudson

    Marcel Guest

    Hi Tom!

    In my view, part of photography is science, part is art.
    Science - knowing the basic elements of photo composition, lighting, lenses,
    Art - such as capturing the moment, exceptionally transgressing the habitual
    photo composition...

    I guess it's a bit short and simple ;-)

    Marcel, Dec 7, 2004
  4. Tom Hudson

    Alan Browne Guest

    When you learn photography you learn a lot of technical things that are useful
    for the recording of an image. These can be bent to a good degree. You learn a
    lot of differnet ways of seeing, composing, perceiving, etc. This is the art
    and it is an individual journey. You do learn all sorts of 'rules' regarding
    the artistic side, and they are reasonable at getting you to nice images.
    Fantastic images come from individuals who have their own vision and can express
    it without relying on other people's success formulas. Some say it is best to
    learn and master the rules prior to breaking them, some say it is best to
    develop ones own style from the ground up without being tainted by the rules.
    To each his own... IMO, the "rules" never hurt anyone nor hindered them from
    developing their own unique vision. What you choose to do has to be what *you*
    choose to do.
    Just about anyone can learn a set of static rules and apply them. But to
    generate fantastic images demands 'seeing' in a way that is beyond all rules.
    At some point you realize that the subject is no longer the made up of the
    attributes of the subject, but the subject is part of a visual message that
    includes the surroundings and the light.
    Go through the galleries at of the most popular images. You don't
    need any rules to see what is good about the many great photos there. You might
    not like many of them, for reasons all your own, but many of them, without
    thought to a rule or a convention are automatically pleasing to your eye. When
    you see a photo that is particularly appealing, spend a lot of time studying it
    for form, relationship, light, perspective, movement, ...etc... and all this
    before you give a thought to the technical approach that the photographer took.

    You learn as much from studying other people's work as from practicing your own.

    Take risks. It's only film.

    Alan Browne, Dec 7, 2004
  5. Tom Hudson

    Tom Hudson Guest

    Sometimes that's best, I'm finding I ramble on too much in the name of
    clarity (and still don't achieve it <:)

    What I'm getting at is that the basic elements of composition are built
    in to everyone, and the ability to instinctively recognise them when you
    see them.

    Tom Hudson, Dec 7, 2004
  6. Tom Hudson

    me Guest

    Are your questions philosophical or are you hoping to learn how to improve
    your photography?

    Question: Can anyone take a good photograph?
    Answer: Depends on what you call *good*, but if we assume some level of
    elementary competency there is always the possibility that luck will play a
    part thus resulting in a favorable outcome.

    That post was fatally flawed by the words "should", "serious" and "amateur"
    Maybe, depending on what most people consider *good*.
    Rules and art make uneasy bed fellows so my answer is not necessarily.
    Unless of course you dismiss the concept that photography is an art form in
    which case you may apply as many rules as you like.
    Anyone can tell what they think is good just by looking.
    See above.
    No they just can't get it on film.
    Film, Ahhhh!
    me, Dec 7, 2004
  7. Tom Hudson

    Paul Bielec Guest

    I think that just anybody can take a good photograph. One lucky shot or from
    time to time.
    Of course, having better equipment and experience help. But they are no
    One can learn all the technical aspects of photography but there are other
    aspects that cannot be learned.
    Photogrpahy is an art and one has to have a talent for it. Being able to see
    things the way others don't.
    Paul Bielec, Dec 7, 2004
  8. Tom Hudson

    Tony Guest

    If the ability to come up with a good composition is built in, an awful
    lot of people are doing their best to avoid it. Anyone can take a good
    photograph. Very few can take a lot of good photographs. An art class or two
    would help a lot of photographers but most of them are so hung up on
    technical bull (the stuff the camera can do for you anyway) they never think
    about composition.
    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    A sample chapter from "Haight-Ashbury" is at
    Tony, Dec 7, 2004
  9. Tom Hudson

    Owamanga Guest

    People also get stuck in a genre, and need to occasionally review
    those areas of photography that they might enjoy but haven't tried.

    The other big one is lost opportunity. Many people are too shy to use
    a camera when certain situations arise:

    Two people are yelling at each other through their open car windows,
    do you grab the camera?

    At an air show, do you turn around and photograph the crowd's

    It's getting dark outside; turn on the TV or grab a tripod?

    It's raining outside; hit the internet, or grab a coat?

    Sitting outside a Starbucks, are you just getting fat or doing some
    slow-shutter shots across the street?

    A group of bikers invade your local IHOP dressed as Santa. Do you ask
    if your daughter can borrow a chopper seat for some photos, or quietly
    eat your breakfast? *

    * Now why the hell would I take my camera to IHOP? This is why.

    You are going out for a walk - anywhere. Is your camera going with

    BTW, there are some dangers involved in taking candid shots in cities.
    A pal of mine who lives in London nearly lost his camera and nose
    because a nearby drug dealer thought he was the subject of the photos.
    Owamanga, Dec 7, 2004
  10. Tom Hudson

    Tom Hudson Guest

    I was actually hoping to improve my photography through practice <:)
    "What the concern himself with?", why that's just silly (that's a joke
    btw, for the humour impaired).

    I'm assuming a broad range and a lot of generalisation for the sake of
    keeping the question simple.

    See, I ramble on for clarity's sake and still can't get the point
    across. Ignore photography completely for a moment.
    People can look at an _image_ and see that it is pleasing (or not) to
    their eye. In order to decide that it is pleasing or otherwise requires
    some kind of processing internally, which suggests rules are involved -
    not explicitly learnt rules, but either socially picked up without
    realising or something we're born with.
    It's not that people like photos because they comply with the 'rules' of
    photography, it's that the 'rules' exist because they produce photos
    that people like.
    Does that make more sense? It's all got a bit more
    technical/philosophical than I was aiming for. Meta-photography.

    But can they? Are some people less 'stimulated', for want of a better
    word, by visuals? Sorry - it's starting to sound like a psychology exam.

    Well that would be a yes for anyone can take a good photo and it's just
    a matter of learning.

    Tom Hudson, Dec 7, 2004
  11. Tom Hudson

    Bob Williams Guest

    IMHO: Good or Bad pictures (like beauty) is totally in the eye of the
    I seen many photo competitions where the viewers get to pick "Viewers
    Choice". Many, if not most of the times, the VC did not even earn an
    honorable mention from the judges.
    Different judges like different things and "never the twain shall meet".
    If the image makes you say, WOW, it is by definition a great photo to
    you. And who are you trying to please anyway?
    Bob Williams
    Bob Williams, Dec 7, 2004
  12. Tom Hudson

    Tom Hudson Guest

    I think that just anybody can take a good photograph. One lucky shot or from
    It's the seeing things part I'm looking at, the choosing what to take
    photographs of and how to compose them. I've always thought that anyone
    can do anything if they're just interested enough to spend the time on
    it. I suppose if you don't have a good sense of taste you'll be useless
    as a chef, if you don't have a good visual awareness you won't make a
    good photographer.

    Tom Hudson, Dec 7, 2004
  13. Tom Hudson

    me Guest

    OK. Lets skip all that other BS and get started. The first step is to
    familiarize yourself with the masters of photography. Look here: You should also check
    your library or book store to find out more about these people and any other
    photographers whose work you admire. You don't have to copy their work (you
    could at first until you develop a style of your own) but you do have to
    know what you like before you can create it.

    Below in order of importance is a list of attributes of great photograph:
    Compelling subject, at least to you.
    Good composition.
    Good lighting.

    Good Luck!
    me, Dec 7, 2004
  14. Ahhh ... but there are lots of rules in art.
    Just saying that you are making art en a genre
    is setting lost of rules.

    Most artists are following more rules than they
    are breaking.

    Roland Karlsson, Dec 7, 2004
  15. I know some good musicians. They can take the cheapest instrument
    and make wonderful music. I need much better instruments, and I
    still make rather ordinary music.

    Roland Karlsson, Dec 7, 2004
  16. Tom Hudson

    Mark² Guest

    While it may be true that we tend to be drawn to particular patterns of
    composition as a *viewer* of a well-composed shot, this does NOT necessarily
    translate to people instinctively creating photographs with good
    composition. Quite the reverse. I think it is most instinctive for people
    to do with their camera viewfinder--exactly what they/we do with our
    eyes...that being centering our eyes (and unfortunately, our viewfinders) on
    the most interesting spot.

    Where do we naturally look when we look at people??
    -The eyes.
    So where does the typical snap-shooter place the eyes of a person in their
    -Smack dab in the middle of the viewfinder! (ugh).

    This is easy to illustrate from most people's experience:

    How many times have you asked a stranger or family member to snap your
    pictures for you? What do they do??? -They cut off your feet, and include
    a big grey sky...all because they instinctively stuck your eyes right in the
    middle of the frame, without any thought whatsoever to the placement of
    other scene elements.

    THIS is instinctive.
    For the most part, I think we have to overcome this instinct in order to
    consistently create compelling shots.

    This is why if I ever hand someone my camera to snap my picture with
    someone, I always say something like, "Try to get our feet a bit above the
    bottom of the picture." -I think many people silently wonder to themselves:
    "Why does he want a picture of his feet???"
    Mark², Dec 7, 2004
  17. Tom Hudson

    Paul Bielec Guest

    I agree. You have to learn to look all around your viewfinder to verify that
    everything you want is in and whatever you don't is not.
    Also, while shooting people from short distance, you have to bend your knees
    if you want the whole person without the dropping perspective. This is
    unnatural as well.
    Paul Bielec, Dec 7, 2004
  18. Tom Hudson

    Frank ess Guest

    Do you know, or can you imagine, why that is?
    Frank ess, Dec 7, 2004
  19. Tom Hudson

    Paul H. Guest

    Your reasoning is flawed. People may have the "rules of what they like"
    built-in, but they don't innately possess the rules of "*how* to get what
    they like"; those are the rules that must be learned or developed. While
    the non-photographer can come a across a photo he likes and say "That's a
    good photo!", a photographer might look at the same picture and say
    something like "That's a good photo! Hmmm... I never thought of using that
    shallow a depth-of-field in this context, but it works-- think I'll try
    something similar on my next shoot."

    Also, I think being a good photographer, at least in a technical sense, is
    as much a matter of learning how to keep what don't like out of your photos
    as it is in knowing how to include what you do like; much of that kind of
    knowledge has to be learned or worked out by experience over time. Of
    course, a person can snap off a card full of shots and there'll sometimes be
    one or two good photos among them, but that doesn't make the picture-taker a
    photographer. Even a blind hog can find an acorn now and again, as the
    saying goes.

    Though some might deny it, expertise exists and can be acquired through
    reason and study. I'm pretty disdainful of "passion in photography",
    whatever that phrase means. I think a photographer should *know*
    photography and occasionally have passion for his subject-matter. A
    "passionate photographer" is often just a picture-taker with an attitude
    problem-- I guess that's why we have the two adjectives, "artistic" and
    Paul H., Dec 7, 2004
  20. I disagree. There is some useful instinctual prowess in all of us; perhaps
    common sense. However, the best photographers study composition and study
    the works of masters to improve and they do improve! So can amateurs, by
    the way.
    Charles Schuler, Dec 7, 2004
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