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What Makes a Good Photograph?

What makes a good photograph?

A simple question with so many ‘not so simple’ answers. Art has always been subjective.

Something you find amazing might seem average in someone else’s eyes. However, there are some elements that come together to make an image “good”. So then, what makes a good photograph?

The important elements include the rule of thirds, lines, shapes, textures, patterns, and colour. However, the most important element which makes a good photograph is lighting. A good photograph is different depending on the way the photographer expresses his emotion through the photograph. Without further ado, let’s dive into the elements of what makes a good photograph and how you can take a good photograph.

Table of Contents

What Makes a Good Photograph: 8 Composition Rules in Photography

Sharing your artistic vision through creativity is what makes a good photograph. Photography is all about inspiration and creativity. There are certain composition rules that you can follow to take good pictures. And composition rules give you the tool to experiment as you work on improving and establishing your style.

Let’s take a look at the 8 simple rules of composition in photography. 

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1. Rule of Thirds

You have to train yourself to split your camera into a grid with the rule of thirds. It is basically a rule of thumb guideline that photographers use for placing subjects in the image. This rule is also used to make the image look visually appealing. It makes your photograph more interesting and appealing to the viewer. 

rule of thirds photography

You have to keep in mind the key points of intersections. And then, you have to place the important objects along those lines to enhance the visual appeal. You can use this asymmetric composition in any genre of photography. For instance, still life photography, landscapes, portraits etc.

2. The Golden Ratio

The balance of the photograph is what makes the golden ratio different from the rule of thirds. The central focus in this composition is what makes a good photograph. This rule is rooted in the artwork of thousands of centuries-old. And it is the perfect balance with a ratio of 1 to 1.618. You can research this composition to understand the proportions in photography, art and architecture.

3. Lines

Lines can make your photographs look more appealing. This is because lines add a great deal of detail to the overall composition of your image. Moreover, lines serve the purpose of leading a viewer’s eye around the photo. 

Lines photography

And it also helps to retain the viewer’s attention. Try to take advantage of the structure and lines of your natural landscape. Additionally, centred and symmetrical photography is the most preferable one. 

4. Figure to Ground

Make your subjects stand out by focusing on narrowing in on the contrast between the subject and the background. The more narrowed down contrast, the more dramatic and prominent your shots will be. Making your subject isolated through the contrast solution is what makes a good photograph. 

figure to ground photography

5. Fill the Frame

You have to get up close and personal with the subject of your photograph. Try to have them fill in the frame so that they are your photograph’s focus and dominant feature. 

6. Light

Good light is crucial to what makes a good photograph. How you use lighting in a scene makes or break an image. In addition, mere presence, absence, quality and direction of light can have a significant impact on your photograph. For example, hard light creates dark and moody shadows, which adds a flair of dramatic effect. 

photography lighting

In contrast, soft light helps you create gorgeous and flattering portraits. Moreover, you can resort to both artificial and natural light for the added effect.

7. Perfect Timing

The perfect timing is the sweet spot in any photography. If you can plan and get the timing right, it can instantly improve your image’s quality. A photographer’s superpower is the ability to freeze time inside the frame. Because extraordinary moments only last for seconds sometimes. And to be able to capture that precise moment is what makes a good photograph. 

Practice and hone your observational skills to anticipate wonderful moments. The more you photograph, the better you will be at getting the timing right. Also, take the help of continuous shooting mode while trying to photograph certain moments. 

8. Focus

Several glasses are used in the camera lens to get the image to hit the sensor at the right point. Thus, it creates a sharp object. Some photographs have a very blurred background with crisp subjects, while other images are clear all around. 

focus photography

If your camera is autofocusing, you might miss the perfect moments sometimes. Hence, you should practice focusing before you shoot. In addition, check if the subject is at the centre of the viewfinder. And reframe your picture while holding down the shutter button to retain focus. 

Get an advanced diploma in photography today and learn more about photography elements! The course will equip you with high-quality photography skills and make a career out of it. The curriculum includes in-depth knowledge about digital camera modes, aperture shutter speed, ISO and so on.

Advanced Diploma in Photography
Learn the skills and expertise to identify and capture the best shot and equip yourself with high-quality photography skills.
Advanced Diploma in Photography
Learn the skills and expertise to identify and capture the best shot and equip yourself with high-quality photography skills.

How to Take a Good Photograph?

Every good image emerges from the common root. Although, the elements of the photography might be different. The photographer should have some goals to fulfil through their photography. And that is what makes a good photograph. So, let’s look at some effective goals a photographer should have for taking good photographs.

Formulate a Vision

What makes a good photograph is having a vision. There should be a reason behind every photo you take to make it more meaningful. Because that existing reason is your vision behind the photograph. Having the clearest possible vision in mind will help you create the greatest work of art. Imagining the final photograph in your mind’s eye can be a helpful technique. 

vision formulation photograph

At first, look at the scene in front of you and figure out the bad points and good points. Next, imagine the best possible version of that photo, highlighting all the good points. Remember, the key is to pinpoint the emotion you are trying to capture. However, matching your captured photo with the ideal image you had in mind can be a real challenge sometimes. 

Practice Your Vision 

You should approach every aspect of the photography thoughtfully and consciously. That is one of the keys to figuring out what makes a good photograph. In addition, it helps to put your vision into practice. Taking some quick snapshots whenever something catches your eye is not good photography. Rather, every bit of the captured photo has to be intentional. While putting your vision into practice, be considerate of the following:

Choose a Suitable Subject

It is natural and possible that not every subject will simultaneously emulate the emotion you have in mind. For instance, evoking a sense of terror from a photograph of a waterfall on a bright sunny day will be very challenging.  And it would be equally difficult to capture a lightning bolt over a massive volcano in a fun, light-hearted way.

how to choose a subject for photography

So, the point is to choose your subject with care and precision. Every photograph captures a unique emotion and brings something different to the table. And many scenes might not be suitable for the vision you have. So, make sure to choose your subject with care.

Take Deliberate and Purposeful Shots 

Capturing successful photographs has to be deliberate and purposeful. Every single detail of your photo should exist for a reason. You have to consciously evaluate the lighting of the scene, compose your subject. And you have to even pay attention to the detail at the bottom of the frame. Minimising the elements that can dull your photo is what makes a good photograph.

You can try refining your photos by moving your camera to different positions or using different angles. However, avoid using extreme post-processing to prop up a photo that has major issues. Regardless, you can always spot heal an annoying patch of grass or squeeze a distant mountain to look more impressive. 


All in all, the quality of your completed image is owed to the quality of your raw camera photography. Hence, every object present in your photo should serve a purpose. The photo should seamlessly convey your vision and expression to a viewer.

Figure out the Right Audience 

Many stock photos on the internet are meticulously designed with a purpose to serve. The photo might not necessarily be the greatest piece of art. But the photographer’s vision, in this case, is to create a piece of work that matches someone’s keyword search. So, evaluating whether a photo is good or bad depends upon the viewer. And what kind of purpose your photo is serving for the viewer. 

For instance, you might find the most beautiful mountain picture’s are taken after the sunset with very little light. And when much of the details are lost in the shadow. However, some viewers might gravitate toward the landscape captured in strong lighting with rich colours. 

In essence, how other people will view your images is down to luck more than anything else. So, capture and display photo that matches your own preferences. Because believing in your work is what makes a good photograph.


When you incorporate several elements and composition together, that is what makes a good photograph. Having a clear vision is a must before you get into the zone of clicking a picture. And your photography must serve the purpose of a viewer. However, make sure to pick the emotions that you want to express. Light, perfect timing and focus are some key composing elements of mind blowing photography.

February 9, 2022

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