“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Stop me if you’ve heard these before …
(of a baby photo) “OMG!! Love!!”
(of a bridal photo) “You’re beautiful!”
(of a beauty photo) “She’s hawt!”
On any given day, thousands of images are uploaded to sharing sites like Flickr, Instagram and 500px, not to mention Facebook. In any given minute, those photos receive thousands upon thousands of comments. Most of those comments are simple words of praise, sometimes little candy-esque hearts (flashback to Valentine’s Day in Grade 4 …). For the image makers, those comments are feedback, validation and recognition. For the commentators, it’s their way of saying “I saw your photo and I reacted to it”.
But, what are they reacting to, exactly? If the comments I posted above are any indication, it’s impact (your first impression, often emotional) and the subject matter (the ‘object’ of the image). They’re two of the elements that are important to any visual art and are found in every image from good snapshots to great masterpieces. Without a more educated understanding of what makes a good, great or fantastic picture good, great or fantastic, impact and subject matter are all that most people can react to. A good example of this is with pictures of babies, brides and “babes” (whether they’re baring little or “baring it all”).
However, like a pool at the bottom of a waterfall, there’s more to it than that, much more. After all, a person wouldn’t say “it’s a great place to go swimming” just because it looks pretty, you’d have to explore a little further: is it warm or cold? is it clean or polluted? broken glass? snakes? how deep is it? what the hell is that thing floating over there!!?
You’d have to look beyond that pretty surface for the essentials and the same is true with imagery.
Technical Excellence and Technique
How’s the quality of the image when it comes to exposure, sharpness, timing, details and finishing?
Creativity and Style
Is the image original and fresh? Is the styling creative? How well did the photographer communicate the external expression of their imagination?
How well have all the elements of the image been brought together? Is your eye held in the image and directed to where the maker wants it to go?
Colour balance brings harmony to an image. Do the tones work together and support the image, or are they disharmonious and distracting?
Centre of Interest
Where does your eye go when you look at the picture? Can you clearly understand the primary centre of interest (keeping in mind that sometimes it’s the entire scene).
How has light been used to create shape and form? Has the photographer controlled the lighting well? Whether with artificial or natural light, it should enhance the image.
How well does this image evoke imagination? (This one is often subjective to each person who views the image)
So, the next time you look at an image, pause before you hit the “<” and “3” keys. Think about what you’re seeing after the initial impact. Appreciate the elements, the essentials, of the image.
The person who’s sharing it with you will appreciate your doing so.