Sunday, January 10, 2010


What makes a good image, be it a photograph or a painting or something you see at the movies?  In the case of photographs, what is it that makes you wish you'd taken the shot?  What is it in the image that makes you wonder what was going on in the photographer's mind for them to think of the shot and then, configure their equipment in order to take the shot you see?

I've read numerous articles on the subject of composition, as, I dare say, have most other photography enthusiasts.  Golden ratio, rule of thirds, diagonal and triangle rules give ideas for the positioning of subjects within the frame.  How to expose for contrasty scenes and what can colour do to enhance ... or spoil ... your photograph.  Often you find the shot is missed as you process all this information in an attempt to get the perfect shot!  Perhaps you could correct poor composition with clever cropping and poor lighting with bracketing, and then a bit of HDR?  This may then allow you time to look for special image without being bogged down with all these "rules".

One gentleman, Johann Itten, suggested that it was contrast that made a good image.  Here's his list,

  • Point/Line
  • Area/Line
  • Plane/Volume
  • Area/Body
  • Large/Small
  • Line/Body
  • High/Low
  • Smooth/Rough
  • Long/Short
  • Hard/Soft
  • Broad/Narrow
  • Still/Moving
  • Thick/Thin
  • Light/Heavy
  • Light/Dark
  • Transparent/Opaque
  • Black/White
  • Continuous/Intermittent
  • Much/Little
  • Liquid/Solid
  • Straight/Curved
  • Sweet/Sour
  • Pointed/Blunt
  • Strong/Weak
  • Horizontal/Vertical
  • Loud/Soft
  • Diagonal/Circular
You might like to do an exercise working though the contrasts as did Ingrid Taylar.

Here's an image I took earlier today  - inspired really by the contrast between the hard, grey, man-made concrete and the soft, colourful natural plant growing in the cracks.  Does it work? Perhaps not :-(  However, if you think it does, is it because the brightest leaf is on an intersection of golden means?  Is it the diagonal lines from the right that lead you to the main subject, the plant?  Is it, perhaps, the contrasts in the image?

I'm in no way claiming to be expert here.  Just reflecting on the situation and jotting down a few thoughts.  You may have something to add and I'd encourage you to add these as comments to this post.

Here's some changes in response to comments ...

First a desaturate of the blue background

Second, a tighter crop on the plant.


  1. This is a good post mate :)

    As for the image... Perhaps not, no. The Blue in the background pulls too much away from the flower.

    See what you were going for though and really like it :)

    - Paul

  2. I agree with you Paul. I've desaturated the blue to give the second image. This is more pleasing to me now as the only colour is in the plant. Whether compositionally it works is debatable, but I'm happier with the colour contrasts.

  3. I like the strong diagonals. For me, the desaturated image gives the impression that everything else is dull around, something which doesn't happen in the first one (which I prefer).

    Perhaps a tighter crop, so that the flower is more dominant in the image?