5 Things to look for to determine whether your photos are good.

1- Composition

In photography, composition is the language you use to tell your story which is why paying attention to composition is so important. There are many ways to compose, some more complex than others, however there are almost always some basic rules that you can look for to know if you’re on the right track (See Composition is easy if you know how to do it).

To put it simply, open your photo in Photoshop and draw the grid of thirds and then look for geometries, guidelines etc.

2- Light.

The term photography comes from the Greek φωτ-, phōs, «light» γράφ-, graf, «draw, write» “Draw with light”. So, as you can imagine, one of the basic aspects of good photography is the quality of the light you work with. Again, there are many ways to use light, it can be diffused and soft or very hard, generating strong contrasts and shadows.

The best thing you can do to know whether your photo has good lighting is to ask yourself: Does this lighting add or distract from your photograph? Does it represent the emotion of the place or is it not doing it justice?

3- The background.

It is usually something that applies more to portraits, however, choosing a good background in any type of photography is key. A good background will help you to enhance your composition and lighting by giving protagonism to the subject(s) and elegantly and subtly placing them into context.

4- Emotion.

Documentary/street photography is about telling stories, either with a series or with a unique photo, your purpose as an author is to explain a situation, an emotion, the feeling that you have when you are in a place, etc. So, when you are selecting the photos of a trip or of your work in general think about whether, in addition to all of the above, they transmit what you felt in the place or if they represent what your subjects were feeling.

5- Sharpness.

Cartier-Bresson used to say: “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” and I couldn’t agree more. In fact, it is something that I repeat to my students constantly.

Often, and in large part thanks to marketing, we focus on things like noise, ISO and image quality, but the truth is that when we choose our photos for a magazine editor, a gallery owner or to publish on our Instagram, these criteria do us no favours.

All it takes is a quick google search to realise that many photos of the great masters are not perfect when it comes to sharpness or image quality, however, most of them will be well composed, have good lighting and backgrounds and transmit emotion.

Therefore, if you have a photo that has all of the above, do not discard it simply because it is lacking in sharpness!

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1 reply
  1. Jörg
    Jörg says:

    Interesting article. The other day I also watched the video on your YT channel. I’m a beginner and I definitely struggle most with point #4: emotion or story telling. When does one know in street photography that a photo is really telling a story and is not just a snapshot of some random people on the street? What converts a photo into a story? When I try street photography I always have the impression that my photos don’t say anything and are totally meaningless. Thank you! (Also for the great content on your YT channel.)


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