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5 + 1 elements of a truly great photo

| February 12, 2011 | 0 Comments
A little while ago, i have stumbled across a truly great photo on one of my friends’ flickr profile. It really made me wonder, what differentiates good photo from a truly great one ? Join us in search of those key ingredients that make all the difference in fine art photography.

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.

Baby Degus (week old)

Degus Baby (week old) by ardiri on flickr

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


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Category: Beginners Photography, Macro Photography, Photography Tips

About the Author (Author Profile)

Alan Graf is the editor and founder of Digital Photography Student. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is also editor of CRO-Wallpapers.com – a Croatian wallpaper archive, and his own photo gallery at http://www.alangraf.com.

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