First, a disclaimer. The photo you are about to see was not shot by a professional photographer, but a friend of mine (Aaron, you can check out his flickr account here). He is a tech guy, and not a professional photographer, he managed to shoot a great photo of the latest addition to his pet family, a Baby Degus, one week old.
After some research, through flipping some photography books, photo blogs, and by asking a couple of my photography buddies the general consensus was around X major factors:
- Emotion – A good photo sparks interest, while a truly great photo evokes strong emotion. It does not matter what that emotion is. It can be as basic as cuteness of a newborn baby degus, an awe to a shockingly beautiful landscape, or disgust over a truly gross and provocative subject. It is important to remember. A great photo evokes strong emotion.
- Story – A second element of a great photo is a story. When given a first glimpse of the photo it has to be clear to a potential viewer what the photo is about. This photo does that by breaking one of the compositional rules – a rule of thirds, by placing baby degus in dead center of the image, so that viewer’s attention is immediately drawn to it.
- Context – Placing baby degus on a palm, gives a sense of scale, showing how fragile it really is. Also, a half open palm gives the sense of revealing something, or something new, in this case a newborn.
- Technical execution – Technical execution is also one of important aspects that can make or break a great photo. In this case a choice of shallow depth of field works well, isolating the subject and softening the background. The fingertips are the sharpest and draw viewer’s attention, while the fingers work as lead-in lines leading the eye of the viewer to the main subject. Also, the soft, pink colors reinforce the feeling of fragility which works great with degus.
- And a little extra… – This is the one thing that can easily separate a truly great photo. A basic rule of thumb says that the more you look at the photo, the more you see. Look behind the obvious to find a picture within a picture. Have you found it yet ? If you look the shape the palms are forming, you will notice it’s a heart, with the baby degus right in the middle.
The interesting thing is, when after looking for a while at this photo, and asking my friend how did he make that photo, he said:
this was an amazing shot out of pure luck.. no planning, nothing..
… which leads me to believe that sometimes you just need a ton of luck and to throw all the rules out of the window.