What Makes a Good Photograph?

Dear friend,

A simple question: What makes a good photograph?


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Introduction: Follow your own taste

broken glass vietnam

Of course we all know that what makes a good photograph is subjective. We all have our different tastes. What we consider a good photograph isn’t necessarily what others will consider a good photograph.

Because I cannot speak for you, I will share with you my personal thoughts on what makes a good photograph.

1. Visual impact

Cindy silhouette Hanoi

First of all, I think a good photograph has visual impact. Which means, when you first look at the photograph, the graphical forms captivate you. There is a strong ‘visual punch’ to the photograph, which hits you straight in the cornea, and goes to your gut.

This is why high-contrast black and white photographs work well (ERIC KIM MONOCHROME 1600 preset). With black and white, you immediately create a visual impact, because we aren’t used to seeing the real world in black and white. Black and white instantly abstracts the world, and by increasing contrast, we create stronger separation/”figure to ground” in the photographs, which quickly interests your viewer.

How to increase your visual impact

When you are sharing photos with others, most people have a short attention span, so you want to immediately grab their attention.

Ideas on how to make stronger visual impact in your photos:

  1. High contrast
  2. Flash
  3. Clearer ‘figure to ground‘ between subject/background
  4. Simplify your photographs (cleaner/simple background)

2. Dynamic composition

Leaves eric kim plant nature photograph

Also to make a good photograph, make more DYNAMIC compositions.

What makes a dynamic photograph?

Cindy eyes looking up

A dynamic photograph has diagonals, curves, is off-center, asymmetric (not symmetrical), has hand-gestures, intense eye contact, and excites you!

Dynamic photography assignments

Hanoi Street photography eric kim

Some dynamic photography assignments:

  1. Practice shooting the ‘dutch angle‘ in photography (tilt your camera, to NOT have a straight horizon)
  2. Shoot from unique perspectives in photography (super high perspective looking down, or low perspective looking up). Street photography perspective composition lesson >
  3. Shoot head-on in street photography (aggressive composition).

3. Make it personal

Cindy mom Hanoi

Ultimately for me, I want to see the soul of the photographer in the photograph.

So ask yourself:

Why are you the only one who can photograph the photographs you make?

What kind of emotions, soul, and feelings do you want to evoke in the heart of your viewer?

Assignment: How to shoot more personal photos

cindy minimalist angle photograph black and white apartment hanoi

Some ideas:

  1. Shoot personal photography (document your everyday life). Shoot your loved ones, selfies of yourself, and your family.
  2. Only make photographs of what interests you. Make social critique/commentary through your photos. Be a subjective, not an objective photographer.
  3. Ask yourself, “What is my unique angle as a photographer?

Conclusion: Make photographs that are meaningful to you

My Mom / Hanoi, 2017
My Mom / Hanoi, 2017

Ultimately, shoot for yourself. Make photos that excite you, make photos that are meaningful to you, and photographs which record the joy in your life.

Don’t care whether your photographs are “good” to others or not; make them good for yourself.



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