Taking a photograph for the sake of taking a photograph rarely leads to producing something worthwhile. It can by luck, but more times than not, it’s just an image of nothing.
As you scroll through the barrage of photos that come to us by way of social media, you will notice a great many that seem like they were taken just for the sake of taking some kind of image to post. And although they may be visually appealing, I’ve come to realize something very important: really good images are rare even for seasoned photographers.
Photography history has taught us that compelling images are indeed something that may only come along a few times in a lifetime. And many of the great photographers have said you’re doing well if you get ten good images in a year.
So this brings us to then ask, “Just what constitutes a good image?”
There are many images that are well done. There are many images that may appeal to us one way or another. And after all, this is art. It’s subjective. What one person likes another dislikes. But a compelling image has to possess a quality that the others don’t: that is, it has to be significant.
Significance at least in my mind, means that the image must have something to say.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is the image poetic in some way? Does it represent a commonality of a shared experience?
Does the image contain irony or humour or something that makes us actually want to stop and consider what’s going on?
Does the image describe a place and a time? And if so, does it do so without error or false representation?
Does the image say something about human nature?
Is the image something more than technically proficient, or visually appealing?
Understanding that it is the very nature of still photography to leave you with questions when you look at a photograph, it would help then to try to take photographs that have something to say, and that can describe a time and place, but not quite explain everything that may be happening.
A photograph is only a very brief moment of time that is still, has been frozen, or has been extruded from our life lines. And this is why it is so hard to make a photograph that is not only visually appealing, but also has something to say that is worth saying.
Make your images significant.