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Orchid flower dewdrop refraction #2, originally uploaded by Lord V.

I think its a fitting start to the blog to define what makes a great photo. One way to think about it is something that makes the majority of people looking at it say “wow.” Or is it caring look from a random grandmother in an overexposed photo? Is it the graduate’s smile on a cellphone camera?

I think you see where I’m going with this…A great photo can be a lot of things…but before i yield to the eye of the beholder analogy, is there more?

Lets try to break down the qualities of a photo that make it good. Logically, there should be three aspects to a picture.

1)The Photographer
2)The Subject
3)The Equipment used to create a  photo and the medium which it is seen by…
4)..The Observer

Photographer
Experience – lets just say that it usually counts. A bad camera in experienced hands can still produce magic
Ability to Work with subjects – whether human or inanimate, a good photographer brings the best out in his subjects
Sense of Composition – related to the quality directly above. This sense can be developed by looking at other great photos. Hopefully, the reason that you are reading this is because you want to be a better photographer.

Subject
Intrinsic Beauty(Model, Scenic Landscape, etc) versus Created Beauty. I think intrinsic beauty doesn’t need to be explained, but created beauty is the hallmark of a good picture. Its when an “Ordinary” Subject is given a Supernatural presence by the picture.

Technical/Equipment
Focus – in focus or out of focus, or selective focus. Even the best photographers have shots that are out of focus-the thing is that they’ll never display them to you
Exposure – Defined by the amount of light hitting the sensor(or film) or combination of iso, shutter speed, aperture. For a beginner photographer, these may seem like daunting terms, but if you understand this single concept, you’re on your way
Sensor/Film quality -Simply put, Bigger is usually better, but not alway. To clarify, more megapixels don’t get a better quality image, but a bigger sensor usually will.
Post-Processing – Once  you have the physcial picture captured, its just the beginning. Turning an ordinary photo into extraordinary is what post processing is all about. I can’t tell you the amount of shots that taken directly from the camera ended up looking like garbage, but were rescued into lauded photos with a bit of post-processing.
Print/Display Media – believe it or not, after all the work you do with photos, if it isn’t displayed on the proper media, it just won’t look good. Have you ever noticed the difference in a picture from one monitor to the other. Or printing on Canvas versus plain white paper. These things matter…a lot.

Observer
The ultimate judge – the picture has to make the observer feel something.

I think if you look at and take pictures using the above as your criteria, its a good start at taking a great photo. Just to elaborate the example, lets break down the picture above….yes scroll up if you have to.  Excellent sharpness and bokeh. Very little noise can be seen at this magnification. The photographer a combination of the rule of thirds and the golden ratio as far as composition. Great choice of color. Even though this object holds no personal connection to the observer, there is a sense of surrealism in the capture making it univerally accepted….

Now do I go through each photo with the above criteria every time i look at the photo…not consciously…but in a few milliseconds, thats what gets processed…If you look at enough great photos, you’ll be able to hone that sense as well. You may have run into a lot of unfamiliar terms, or find that I’ve left things unexplained…well stick around this blog…and hopefully with time, all your questions will be answered

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