I believe good photos are strong both in content (what you’re photographing) and form (composition).
First of all, the content of what you are photographing is essential. You must photograph that which has strong emotions, heart, and soul.
Of course, your photos also need strong composition. To be balanced, dynamic, and interesting to look at.
1. Better content
Generally if you want to make more interesting photos, make sure you photograph what is personally meaningful to you. Just ask yourself,
If nobody else would see my photos, would I still shoot them?
2. Better form
For form, I recommend studying composition. To me, the more simple and dynamic the photo is, the better.
- Simple: No distractions in the background. This is why black and white is good to help simplify your photos.
- Dynamic: Movement, energy, opposing forces, dynamic angles (very low or high). Photos with force and life!
Image selection (editing) is where it is at.
As a photographer, it is rare you get a photo that has both strong content and form. Often, you don’t know which photos are your best, until you go home and select your best photos.
As a practical tip, let your photos marinate; which means, let your photos sit for a a long time before you decide if they’re strong or weak. For example, it often takes me 1-4 years before I really know how I feel about a photo. I still upload a lot of photos in my “photo diaries”, but photos for my portfolio (erickimphotography.com) are the creme of the crop (the best).
Shoot 25% more photos than you think you should.
Also, don’t be afraid to shoot a lot. In digital, your first million photos are your worst.
If you see a good scene, shoot 50-100, or even more photos of it. Aim to make the perfect composition of the scene, with the best content and form. Generally I think it’s better to overshoot a scene than undershoot a scene.
Why? You can always delete bad photos afterwards, but you can never turn back the wheel of time to reshoot something that has already happened. There is no “rewind” button for the decisive moment.
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Masters to study
A. Masters of composition
To improve your composition, study the work of the old school masters. I recommend:
B. Masters of content (subject matter)
For soulful photos, I recommend:
- “Gypsies” by Josef Koudelka
- “In the American West” by Richard Avedon
- “The Americans” by Robert Frank
- “Workers” by Sebastiao Salgado
- The child labor photos of Lewis Hine
Never stop learning
And of course for more inspiration, study all the masters of photography, and become your own master.
For more inspiration, get the STREET PHOTOGRAPHY STARTER KIT.
And of course whenever in doubt,
JUST SHOOT IT.