How to Make Great Photos

Our goal and task as photographers: to make great photos.

But how do we actually do this? Some thoughts:

1. Time

Great things take great time. That is, the longer you let your photo sit and marinate, and if as time goes on you like your photos more, that is a good sign. Use the cruel jaws of time to your benefit. This is the best way to distill an edit on your work.

There are certain photos that you might have really liked in the past, but photos you no longer like today. Let time help you to distill down your best photos.

2. Mystery

The more unclear your photos, the better. Photos which are too obvious or too clear is no good, because there is no need for the viewer to use your mind power to try to interpret your photos.

The best photos require some level of attention and focus from the viewer, rather than being able to quickly digest your photos too quickly.

The best way to invoke more mystery in your photos is to make your photos darker, preferably black and white. Because black and white always be more mysterious than color.

3. Use the light in interesting ways

For example, you could use natural light and under expose your photos, or you could use a flash to control your own light. remember that photography means painting with light, and the cameras your paintbrush.

4. Photograph your loved ones artfully

Photograph those whom you love in artful and elegant ways. The combination of photographing your loved ones plus great composition makes for a great photos.

5. Embrace minimalism

Shooting a really beautiful minimalist photo takes great skill. Why is this? Because to subtract from the frame is more difficult than adding to the frame.

6. Eye contact

Eyes are the windows to the soul.

Why is eye contact so effective in photography? This is because when the subject in your photos make eye contact with you, the photographer—when the viewers look at your photos, it almost feels like the subject or photos is staring straight into the eyes of the viewer.

Evolutionarily speaking, we’ve been conditioned that when others make eye contact with us, we pay attention. Thus my theory is that a great photo tends to be more memorable, and photos with strong eye contact tend to be more memorable as well.

7. Travel, living abroad, and movement

Some of my best photos are shot when I was living abroad, or traveling. Why is that? My theory is that when you’re traveling or living abroad, you spend more time outdoors and on the streets, which lends itself to more photo opportunities.

Certainly you can make great photos at home, or in your own city or neighborhood, but perhaps the issue is that when we are living locally, we tend not to leave our homes or work places very often. Then it seems the optimal course of action is just to spend as much time outdoors or in public as possible.

8. Surrealism

What makes a surrealistic photo? That is photographing reality and making it look like something else.

For example in the photo above, I was photographing a water buffalo. And after the fact, it looks like a devil with horns coming at you.

My theory about surrealism in photography is that you often don’t see it while you’re doing it, but you’ll see it later during the editing an image selection phase. Does one of the skills of becoming a great photographer is being able to also spot your great photos during the image selection and editing phase.

9. Blur and disclarity

Photos with blur are great because they imply or suggest movement. Photos which make us move either literally or metaphorically are good. This is what we are trying to do with her emotions and photos. The more emotional photo is, the more likely it will be memorable. Often a more blurry photo means a more emotional photo.

10. Silhouette

I also think that strong figure to ground in photo composition, or strong silhouette photos are great because they are mysterious and suggest a strong figure and composition.

To shoot silhouette photos, use either minus exposure compensation or shoot directly against the sun. Or in the post processing phase, increase contrast or increase the blacks. Or shoot with a high contrast black-and-white filter while you’re shooting pictures.

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